Collegian: October 22, 2013
by Gabrielle Des Georges
Team practices have begun for the Saint Mary’s baseball players, as the program ushers in a new coaching staff for the 2014 season.
Former head coach Jed Soto left the Gael’s baseball program last spring after an extended medical leave. Eric Valenzuela, who started his coaching career at Saint Mary’s, has returned to fill the head coaching position for the Gaels.
“The opportunity to be a head coach at a Division I school in California is first and foremost an honor. To be able to do it at an institution like Saint Mary’s College is a dream. This school emphasizes the importance of the total student athlete,” commented Valenzuela regarding the friendly community of Saint Mary’s and the importance of education. The coach has adjusted quickly and credits his successful transition to the support of the administrators, alumni, and community.
Although NCAA rules prevented team practice from being held prior to Oct. 12, the new coaching staff did not let the time preceding that go unutilized. Off the field three guest speakers, selected by the coaches, were brought in to motivate and inspire the players to work hard and show true dedication to their program. Seven hours of strictly enforced study hall are required per week to ensure players maintain their grades. Players who sustain a 3.2 GPA will be relieved of the study hall requirements later in the fall.
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. the team is being pushed to become better in the weight room with a fitness program, which is being managed by the coaches until a full-time strength and conditioning coach is hired. On the days that the team doesn’t lift, they are participating in intensive conditioning.
For the first time in a while, two players were picked up in open try-outs held for players who hoped to walk on to the team. The players are being pushed to more difficult limits under the new enforcement and hopefully the hard work translates into a successful season.
“My players will be pushed and driven harder than they ever have before, which will create a level of toughness that will get them through all the challenges ahead in the spring,” said Valenzuela.
The head coach has been able to create this new organization and persistence with the help of the assistants he selected. “I have been able to assemble one of the best coaching staffs in the country with more than 30 years of college coaching experience.”
Valenzuela is confident that the new coaching staff, which is comprised of Mark Viramontes, Matt Fonteno, Nate Leaser, and Danny Costanza, will bring a new enthusiasm to the players and positive changes to the Gaels this season.
Viramontes has over 19 years of coaching experience and has been a part of numerous championship programs that have helped him establish a great talent. According to Valenzuela, Fonteno has a reputation as one of the hardest workers and best recruiters in the west, and his extreme energy and passion for the game rubs off on the players.
Leaser followed Valenzuela from San Diego where they recently won the Mountain West Conference Championship and participated in the West Regional at UCLA. Costanza, who is the Director of Baseball Operations, comes from Cal State East Bay where he was a coach and recruiter for two years. He is from the Bay Area and has lots of connections in the area.
“My coaching staff and I are implementing a plan to succeed on and off the field. Great development comes from structure, organization, knowledge and attention to detail. We will have that!” Valenzuela stated enthusiastically. Team practice and intersquad games will be held throughout the fall. The Gaels debut under the new leadership will be on Feb. 14, 2014 in their first regulation game against New Mexico.