New baseball coach brings 40 years of experience


WIN: Coach Gunches smiles for the camera following Shalhe- vet’s 10-0 win over Environmental Charter Feb. 28. It was the Firehawk’s first victory this season after starting off 0-2. Photo by Alex Rubel

By Tobey Lee, Features Editor

Shalhevet’s new baseball coach’s philosophy is quite simple: do your best, have a good time, and win.

“I’ve only had one losing season and I don’t plan on having one at Shalhevet,” said Coach Brad Gunches, who took over as head coach in late January. “I’ve been coaching baseball for over 40 years, so I’m not a young chicken.”

His coaching career spans more than four decades, during which he led the San Fernando Rockies to win the California state championships and his T-ball team to win the Babe Ruth Little League World Series in 1984.

Now coming to Shalhevet, Coach Gunches hopes to finally bring some stability to the Shalhevet baseball program, which has seen three different coaches in the past three seasons. He’ll bring along with him his long-time assistant coach, Phil Fields.

But he knows how much work it will take to make Shalhevet a “baseball” school.

He brings our team spirit up. He teaches a lot of mechanics and teaches us how to be good teammates.

— Brad Gunches, Shalhevet Baseball Coach

“It takes a lot to win a league championship,” Coach Gunches said.

Last year’s Firehawk baseball team finished 5-10, and the year before that they finished 7-8-1, but Coach Gunches hopes to use his expertise to turn things around.

He says what he wants to see most is players giving it their all.

“I will never yell at a player for making an error,” he said. “But for mental mistakes and not hustling, absolutely.

“I get more out of the kids building them up, teaching them, and coaching them.”

Growing up, Coach Gunches used to watch the Brooklyn Dodgers on his black-and-white TV set when Walter Alston was the manager. Alston would sit back and let the players play until he had something to say, and that’s how Gunches wants to coach this season.

“It’s a kid’s game,” he said.

He came to Shalhevet partly because of the school’s basketball coach: Ryan Coleman. Mr. Gunches said he was intrigued by Coach Coleman’s leadership of the basketball team, which he saw when the Firehawks played against Grant High School, where Gunches was working at the time.

He noticed that Coach Coleman’s players could win despite having a height disadvantage.

“His coaching style, you know, you just gotta love,” he said. “Just something that got me intrigued. He gets everything out of all of his ball players.”

“The tallest kid was 6’2,” he said, shorter than the other team’s average. “These guys are jumping all around, playing defense, and they know what they run on offense.”

On a separate occasion, he saw Shalhevet baseball play De Toledo in baseball last April.

“It just seemed like there was no excitement on the field,” Coach Gunches said. “It just seemed like they gave up.”

Now he has the chance to change that. The players seem to like him so far. As of Feb. 28 the team is 1-2, but they have only been practicing since late January.

The team has developed a routine and typically practices Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Their first game was Feb. 12, and there are more than 20 games scheduled this season — five more than last season.

“He tries, he’s committed, so that’s good,” said junior Jesse Harrison, who pitches and plays shortstop. “He’s a bit more easy-going, so people like him more.”

Jesse already sees an impact on its practices, which are now at Valley College on a brand-new turf field, on Sunday mornings, with equipment ready for them to use. Last year the team practiced at Rancho Park and no equipment was provided.

“We have our jerseys, we have everything we want,” Jesse said. “It’s just about how much we want to win.”

Freshman outfielder David Stein called him a player’s coach.

“He brings our team spirit up,” said David. “He teaches a lot of mechanics and teaches us how to be good teammates.”

Coach Gunches hopes fans will come cheer on the team, which in past years they have not,  even in contested rivalry games against schools such as YULA.

“I would love just to be half of what the basketball team does,” said Coach Gunches. “If I could get these kids to the playoffs, great.”

And it’s not too late to join. Coach Gunches wants to get as many players on the team as possible.

“If anybody wants to come out, they’re more than welcome to come out and just see if they want to play,” he said.

Coach Gunches first started coaching baseball as an assistant coach in September 1977 at Francis Polytechnic Senior High School in Sun Valley, going 18-2 in his first season. They lost both games to Granada Hills — whose right-fielder and pitcher was John Elway, the former NFL quarterback. The second season the team went 15-5.

He also worked at Grant and Chatsworth high schools in the Valley, and coached Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks Little League T-ball, where he led his team to win the national Babe Ruth League World Series in 1984.

He also coached the San Fernando Rockies at Pierce College for seven years and won the district and state tournaments, losing in the regional playoffs.

He’s also coached travel teams, and taken four of his teams to play in tournaments at Cooperstown, where the Baseball Hall of Fame is located.

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