“Those banners,” Ray Aldama was saying back on Friday, Nov. 6, “are up there for a reason.”
Aldama, the newly named baseball coach at San Gorgonio High School, will replace longtime coach Bill Eatinger, who retired this fall after a quarter century in the Spartans’ dugout.
Referring to banners that decorate the outfield fences on San G’s varsity field, Aldama says about any coaching changes he might consider, “Why change anything? Why not keep the things that have worked?”
In other words, don’t expect a lot of difference from the new coach who’s taking over from the old coach.
For openers, he’s brought back assistant coaches Jose Caro and Brett Sandate, plus longtime campus counselor Steve Barkley.
“Those are pretty loyal guys,” said Aldama. “There’s no reason to change.”
There are, he said, 21 players on the Spartans’ roster, a mixture of Varsity and JV players.
It’s a typical sight at San G that they go with short rosters, anywhere between 12 to 15 players on Varsity alone.
“Right now, we’re working on just keeping the guys we have.”
Getting together for practice, at least these days, is a real challenge for any high school team, especially in purple-colored San Bernardino County -- which keeps schools on Phase I of COVID-19 precautions.
Aldama, who teaches P.E. at San G, views his players’ swings on video. Maybe he can help.
“I want them to send me their videos of them swinging the bats,” he said, chuckling. “I’m trying to do what I can to stay in touch.”
If those players have a little brother, why not have them toss a few ground balls “just to get a little glove work,” says San G’s new coach.
Aldama’s been at baseball for years. He played at Colton High, graduating in 1988 when Bob Ramirez was coaching. It was Ramirez, eventually landing at Redlands High, who coached the Yellow Jackets in the 1983 CIF championship.
After Colton High, Aldama showed up to play at San Bernardino Valley College and moved over to Cal State San Bernardino, playing the first two seasons under Don Parnell’s time as Coyotes’ coach, 1992 and 1993.
Aldama was part of Cal State when it improved from a 13-34 mark in Parnell’s first season to 28-23 by 1993. That came in Cal State’s transition from NCAA Division III to the higher Division II level.
“Ray has been a mainstay at San G,” said Matt Maeda, the school’s athletic director who tabbed Aldama to take over for Eatinger.
“He coached football back during the Randy Stevens years and has been a baseball assistant for 18 years for us.”
Maeda noted two years Aldama coached at Cal State San Bernardino, four more seasons at nearby Aquinas High School and he’s still keeping in contact with the Nighthawks travel ball club that he’s coached “for many years.”
Said Aldama: “I’m still their [Nighthawks] hitting coach. I still help out when I can.”
The Nighthawks are one of this area’s top producers of baseball talent for both the collegiate and professional ranks.
“It’s big,” said Aldama. “The key is playing baseball year-round. It’s good for getting guys into college … and the pros.”
If there’s been any success at San G under Eatinger, consider that Aldama’s been right alongside for the past 18 seasons.
Adam Quintana might come to mind. Aldama was around in 2010 when the pitcher-shortstop was CIF Division III Player of the Year.
The Spartans have lived through some big seasons under Eatinger; Aldama was part of that ride.
“I’ve been there a long time,” he said.
Maeda added, “He’s earned his chance.”
There are league championship banners, plus some CIF banners in years when the Spartans reached into the semifinals.
Eatinger’s footprints are still at San G, a factor Aldama refuses to forget.
“You’re following a great coach,” said Aldama. “I didn’t put all those banners up there. So why change what’s worked?”