Coach Didn't Miss a Single (Heart) Beat

The call came in on extension 6171 at the Doheny State Beach parking lot guard station. It was Saturday, 3:58 p.m. Bob Zamora, his heart pumping like a jackhammer, picked up the phone.

The next sound heard was a shriek so loud as to stop traffic in both directions. Two guards, perhaps mistaking Zamora for Anthony Perkins, cowered in fear as Zamora set down the phone and screamed some more before squeezing the living ethics out of a reporter, who hugged Zamora back. Two grown men then danced in a parking lot.

For Zamora, head baseball coach at Capistrano Valley High School, his longest day was over. His team had just defeated La Serna, 6-2, at Dodger Stadium, to win the Southern Section 2-A title. It was Zamora's second CIF title. It was my first.

Capo Valley had done it all without its coach, who was suspended before the quarterfinals when it was learned that three of his players had played on a Sunday semi-pro team with Zamora. That, of course, violates CIF rule 2412. You can look it up.

Zamora was not allowed to attend Capo Valley's final three playoff games and couldn't so much as set foot in Dodger Stadium for the championship game.

So while the Cougars played, Zamora counted the knots in his stomach. He squirmed and paced like an expectant father. OK, we'll say it. It was hell.

Zamora attended morning Mass and then met with his team at 9:30 a.m. Then he watched as everyone went off to the game without him. Everyone included his wife, Cindy, and sons Peter and Danny.

From 11 a.m. until about 2:30, Zamora and his dog, Gabriel, sulked at their home in Mission Viejo. It was a man alone with a man's best friend.

"Oh yeah," Zamora said, "We talked a lot."

Zamora had decided it would be best to get out the house and attend the 40th birthday party of friend Dennis Nespor. The party was at Doheny Beach.

The following is a partial account of a day in the life of Bob Zamora. Join us for an episode of "As The Coach's Stomach Turns."

2:25: Cindy calls Zamora from Dodger Stadium with a report that Capo Valley is trailing, 2-1, in the fourth inning. A sharp object pierces Zamora's stomach. At least it feels that way.

"What's hard is I'm not there one way or another to share the emotion," he said. "I'm not there to comfort them if they lose or celebrate if they win."

2:30: Zamora discusses his suspension. For the past 23 years, he has played semi-pro baseball on Sundays. For the past 14, he has invited his players to fill in on occasion. Other coaches do it, he says. In short, he didn't know he had broken any rules.

"I feel no guilt," he said. "And I still think the rule is ambiguous." The rule forbids coaches from organizing a team in a league outside the baseball season. Zamora, who plays second base for the Lamppost Stars, says he organized nothing, that he was just a participant on the team, which is coached by Terry Tewell.

Still, Zamora is relieved that his team was allowed to remain in the playoffs. He can make the sacrifice. Barely.

Zamora had arranged for his wife to call the guard station at Doheny at 4 p.m. Zamora, in fact, had driven down to the beach on Friday night to get clearance from a guard, Roger Brown.

3:05: Zamora arrives at Doheny Beach. "Being down 2-1 doesn't bother me," he says of his team trailing La Serna. (Starting pitcher Brett) Snyder gets tougher as he goes. I don't think he'll give up any more runs."

Zamora would receive no more updates.

3:30: Zamora's friend arrives for his surprise party. Zamora's glad he came. "I was going crazy by myself at the house," he says.

3:40: Zamora and his friends discuss aborted plans to sneak the coach into Dodger Stadium. One idea had Zamora dressing up as the San Diego Chicken. Others had the coach posing as an organ grinder or a peanut vendor.

3:45: The conversation turns to who might have turned Zamora in to the CIF. Zamora says he was told that it was a disgruntled Tustin High parent, but he isn't sure who, adding: "And I really don't care."

Zamora knows that the game, which was scheduled for 1 p.m. but started about 45 minutes late, is over. And it's killing him.

"How can you take it?" Dennis asks.

"I can't," Zamora says.

3:50: Zamora and a reporter leave the party and head for the guard shack. Zamora, noticeably nervous, talks along the way.

"This has been a hard day," he says. "But I hold no malice, not even for the person that called up and turned us in. The CIF and our principal (Tom Anthony) were merciful in their ruling. I have been very up-front with them from the beginning."

3:55: Zamora arrives at the guard station. "Oh, my heart's pounding," he says. The guard, Roger, recognizes him. He says Zamora's wife has already called once.

"I know it's over now," Zamora says. The coach stares at the phone, waiting for an extension to light up.

It finally does.

"That's for me," Zamora says.

Then it was time for histrionics. After Zamora hugged anything that would hug back, he got back on the line and talked to his wife. Then he spoke with assistant coach Craig Anderson. Then, one by one, his players came to the phone; Tommy Adams, Mike Pierce, Brett Snyder, Bill Bardens, Chris Ashbach, Brian Walker.

"Brian said that they won it for me," Zamora said. "That's nice. But hey, they won it for themselves."

Emotion had taken over. The Doheny Beach guards, save Roger Brown, didn't know what to make of Zamora. He then walked back to the beach party and tried to act as if his team had lost. But his friends weren't buying it. Zamora cracked easily. Then, it was time for more bear hugs.

"This is great," Zamora said. "But I hope it never happens again."

Saturday night, Zamora would be reunited with his players in celebration.

Today, as he does every Sunday, he'll take his position at second base for the Lamppost Stars.

Something, though, will be missing.

"I won't have any of my players with me," Zamora said, smiling.

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