Louisville’s McDonnell In Sun 45,000 Hours

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Dan McDonnell is one of the elite college head baseball coaches at the University of Louisville. He has posted a 688-287-1 record in 16 years as an NCAA Div. I coach and led five Louisville teams to the College World Series.

At every step along his coaching career, the sun has been his constant nemesis.

“Through the 1980s, I was a golf caddy, lifeguard and played baseball outside up until 1992,” said McDonnell.

“I never wore sunblock because I had to get a tan and look good.

“I didn’t know anything about skin cancer back in the 1980s.

“I start coaching at the age of 22 in 1993. I went to see a dermatologist. She looked at me and told me that I had a lot of skin damage on my face.

“I told her that can’t be true, but I do have freckles. She explained that I had pre-cancerous cells on my lower lip and some moles that she needed to cut out.

“She wanted to know my profession. I told her I was a college baseball coach. She then realized I am outside in the sun a lot.”

McDonnell estimates that he has spent 45,000 hours in the sun during his 30-year coaching career.

Collegiate Baseball estimates that the typical college coach has played baseball from the age of 8-21 and has spent an additional 8,100 hours in the sun. 

“She then said if I plan on coaching for a long time, I will have to make important life changes.

“I would have to start wearing Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) 50 protective clothing and hats. She told me that I would have to wear better sunblock and recommended zinc on my nose and lips. She added that surgery was necessary on my lower lip to get rid of pre-cancerous cells. Then she wanted to cut out a bunch of moles on my face.

“I had been coaching for about a year, and I loved everything about it. But this doctor scared the crap out of me.

“I got laser surgery on my lip, and you could see the skin burning off. I was absolutely miserable. I had to do this during a winter month when I wasn’t going to be outside for a period of time.”

McDonnell had another reality check when his uncle died of skin cancer.

“He died before he turned 40 in Colorado. He was a big outdoorsman who did white water rafting. He was such a vibrant person. But skin cancer took his life.

“The next summer, I start wearing an old fishing hat and rubbed zinc on my lips and nose. Back in the 1990s, nobody was doing this stuff in baseball. If you talk to any scout or college coach who was involved in the game in the 1990s, I was one of the first guys to wear a hat like this and protect my lips and nose with zinc.

“The look I had was comical to many. I had the white stuff (zinc) on my lips and nose like a lifeguard wears.

“I was at the East Cobb complex in Atlanta scouting players and was literally the only person with a bucket hat on and this white stuff on my lips and nose. You could see people snickering a little bit as they looked at me.

“I told people I was protecting myself from skin cancer and was about to get married. I wanted to coach for a long time. If this was what it took so I didn’t get skin cancer, then so be it. Nobody was protecting themselves from the damaging effects of the sun like I was at the time.”

To read more of this story, purchase the Sept. 2, 2022 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. The Sept. 2 edition includes three stories on the subject of Skin Cancer & Coaching. It includes the main report, a special feature about the University of Louisville’s Dan McDonnell and his skin protection advice after spending 45,000 hours in the sun over 30 years of coaching. In addition, we include a special question and answer session with one of the top dermatologists in the nation in Dr. Susan Chon of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Tex. who explains how to battle the sun with important tips, including clothing, protective sleeves and hats.