Baseball is returning to West Los Angeles College next season after a 21-year absence, according to multiple Mirror sources.
An announcement is expected soon, along with the introduction of Bob Grant as head coach.
Grant was a star catcher at Westchester High in the 1970s, and hit a home run at Dodger Stadium in a 1975 LA City Schools championship game. He was drafted by the New York Mets and played in the minor leagues.
Grant has community college experience as an assistant coach at El Camino College and was also head coach at Brentwood School for three years. For the last seven years, he’s been a batting practice pitcher for the Dodgers.
The position is not full-time, which eliminated some candidates. However, there was talent among prospective candidates, mostly community college assistants.
“I think it’s an outstanding choice,” said Culver City High coach Rick Prieto.
According to sources, the playing field will receive a much-needed renovation that will cost at least $400,000.
It is the same field West LA used 21 years ago when it fielded teams coached by Art Harris. The field has been used by New Roads High of Santa Monica and Pacifica High in recent years.
The driving force behind the decision to being baseball back is West LA College President Dr. Mark Rocha.
“There’s been talk on and off through the years about restoring baseball but not until now has someone in a leadership position gone past the talking,” said one source.
Grant’s initial task will be to convince star Westside players to choose his program over established ones at El Camino, Pasadena and Santa Barbara, among others. Getting a late start in recruiting, Grant will have to sell his program to players who’ve made preliminary plans to go elsewhere. But nothing becomes official until students enroll in late August.
Among those he’ll try to convince will be players from the Santa Monica High team that went 24-10 and reached the CIF Division 4 championship game.
It is believed first baseman Diego Valdez is strongly considering El Camino and two-time all-CIF pitcher Joe McGrew has a strong interest in Santa Barbara.
The best teams on the Ocean League the last two years have been Santa Monica, Culver City and Beverly Hills, all possessing players who might consider a Westside community college rather than going elsewhere.
There hasn’t been a Westside community college alternative since West LA gave up baseball in 1986 and Santa Monica College followed 13 years ago.
In recent years, discussions were held for West LA and Santa Monica to field a team jointly. However, one reason nothing materialized is the fact SMC doesn’t have a playing field. The one used in the past was replaced by a library. West LA plays football and basketball in the Western State Conference Southern Division and it is presumed baseball will land there too, with such conference opponents as LA Valley, Pierce, Mission and Bakersfield, among others.