After a 21-year absence, West Los Angeles College will field a baseball team beginning Saturday, January 26 with a doubleheader at Saddleback College, which is ranked No. 7 in Southern California.
The Oilers’ home opener on a campus field refurbished at a cost of $400,000 will be Wednesday, February 6 against Cerro Coso College.
Numerous graduates of Westside high schools are part of the West LA program, and assistant coach Kevin Brockway was the Santa Monica High head coach the last three years.
Mike Walsh, who had a 7-0 record at Samohi two years ago and was at Pierce College last season, is expected to be one of West LA’s starting pitchers. Others from Samohi are infielder Jose Compos, outfielder Milan DePillars, and pitchers Brian Little and Stuart Boardman.
Johnny Huerta, Samohi’s second baseman last season, was previously announced to play for West LA but has decided to attend art school.
Two St. Monica graduates are on the squad, second baseman Vince Valdez and pitcher David White, along with outfielders David Viviano and Shotaro Yamada from New Roads, and pitcher Jumadial Oxley from Venice High.
Valdez was also a football star at St. Monica, and White is the son of Mariner baseball coach Jack White.
Dylan Cohen, formerly of Palisades High, will be the Oilers’ third baseman after leading all community college hitters last season at Mesa College.
West LA’s head coach is Bob Grant, a one-time Westchester High star who played five years of professional baseball and most recently has pitched batting practice for the Dodgers and coached the organization’s local youth teams.
“We’ve been able to practice on our field the last two weeks and we have some talented players,” said Grant.
West LA will play in the Western State Conference Southern Division, one of the strongest in California.
West LA dropped baseball in 1986 due to budget cuts and Santa Monica College did the same eight years later, leaving the Westside without community college baseball.
The drive to restore baseball at West LA was led by Dr. Mark Rocha, the school president who said he envisions athletics as bringing notoriety to the school, which will help increase enrollment.
The West LA field remained in place for 20 years, albeit in need of major repairs. Meanwhile, SMC’s campus field was replaced by a library, leaving little chance baseball would be brought back there.
West LA has several players from Culver City and Westchester Highs, and Grant hopes the team will draw players from throughout the Westside as well as some from other areas.
“We want to be the Westside’s team” he said. “We have players from elsewhere, including one from Seattle, but Westside players no longer have to leave the area to receive an education and play.”
A second opportunity to see West LA play will be Saturday, February 16 in a doubleheader against Saddleback starting at 11 a.m.
There will be seating for 900 spectators initially, and plans have been announced for a 3,000-seat Jackie Robinson Stadium on the same site.