Following the chaos that accompanied the 2009 Santa Monica High baseball season, two important questions need to be answered.
Can someone with no coaching experience succeed, particularly working against a couple of highly experiemced Ocean League rivals?
Sheldon Philip-Guide, who’s been hired to replace Rob Duron, played at Samohi before graduating in 1992 and played five minor league seasons after being a 50th round draft choice of the Angels. But he’s never coached at any level and will be matching wits with Culver City’s Rick Prieto and Hawthorne’s Jeff Hines, both with 15 years at their schools.
Second, Philip-Guide will be a walk-on coach rather than a Samohi teacher. How successful can a coach be who isn’t on campus all day to handle problems? There’s precedent at Samohi because previous coach Kevin Brockway did well as a walk-on, but it’s more difficult.
Philip-Guide is optimistic to the point of being naive. He believes the 2010 Vikings can be one of the best high school teams in Southern California and he doesn’t think parental interference that did much to mar Duron’s two years will be much of a problem.
Without question, Samohi would have preferred an experienced coach and sought Crossroads co-coach Pat Armstrong, who wasn’t interested. Samohi also wanted Luther Henderson, Duron’s assistant and the Vikings’ head junior varsity head coach, to take over. But Henderson, who was familiar with the obstacles faced by Duron and Brockway, also wasn’t interested.
The perception of difficulty was so strong throughout the baseball community that no experienced head coach from another school applied.
And the Samohi administration should be concerned that Armstrong. who has coached several of the Viking players in youth leagues, preferred Crossroads to Santa Monica at this point. even though he shares the head coaching position with Matt Amido.
According to sources the pay is roughly equal, meaning the Crossroads situation is favored for two primary reasons — the absence of a revolt among parents such as what has occurred at Samohi and the presence of a baseball man as athletic director — Chuck Ice, who was a longtime Westside prep became coach before he became an administrator.
Finally, Philip-Guide says he’s counting on Alonzo Gonzalez to be his ace pitcher, a bold move considering that Gonzalez was troubled by wildness in his junior season. The 6-foot-3 lefty with vast possibilities didn’t even do well enough to become Duron’s much-needed second starting pitcher for league games behind Tyler Skaggs, the 40th pick in the recent baseball draft.
But although he faces obstacles, Philip-Guide brings a new approach to the job. He plans to work hard on fundraising and include parents in that quest. That will be directly opposite to Duron’s thinking. The outgoing coach felt that parents who were contributing would seek even more control of who was in the lineup.
Philip-Guide recognizes that parents want their sons to play but thinks he can manage the situation. However, many of the aggressive parents who gave Duron problems will be back next season along with a few whose sons were on the Viking lower level teams.
The Vikings do have experienced pitchers. Philip-Guide can begin with Gonzalez, Andrew Montinari, Adam Padilla, Noah Tillipman and Ethan Corn If he doesn’t find two reliable starters by the time league play begins he can choose from some younger pitchers who’ve been promising at the lower levels.
Padilla is also a fine outfielder who became a starter as a freshman and appears to have a bright future. He’s been selected for summer competition where he’ll be able to sharpen his skills.
The Vikings will miss the seniors who graduated, especially Logan Whitchurch, Ocean League batting champion Walker Dove, Ricky Gomez, Vince Lawrence, Colter Johnson, Drew Hammond and Josh Huerta.
Beverly Hills was the league champion in 2009 and Culver City was a strong contender with a young team.