Musick Has Santa Ana Valley Playing His Song : Baseball: Founder of Falcons' program in 1960 returns this season, his third stint as coach, to rescue a team that had hit bottom.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Excuse Herschel Musick if he can't recall every game, every fact and every name. But 32 years of coaching baseball--most of them at Santa Ana Valley High School--is a lot to remember.

There have been many faces, many games and many memories. But through it all, Musick's love for the game has not diminished one bit.

"I just enjoy coaching--working with the kids, teaching the game, seeing a team improve," Musick said. "And I've had some great teams. In 1982, we put it all together at Santa Ana Valley. We won the (Century) league championship, but Santa Ana won the Southern Section championship.

"They had a great team, too. They had Billy Bean and Yale Riley and . . .

Pause.

" . . . gosh, I can't remember the kid's name. I coached the kid too. What was his name? Geez, I can't remember anything anymore."

Musick does remember a lot. The names might escape him, but the game is still in his grasp.

Mostly Musick recalls how good the Santa Ana Valley program used to be. For that reason, he returned to the Falcons this season, his third stint as coach.

"I just hated to see the program go down the tubes," said Musick, 57. "I'm not blaming the coaches, but something was wrong. I decided I had to come back one more time."

Musick founded the program when the school opened in 1960 and won seven league titles in his two previous stints.

After Musick resigned for a second time in 1983, the Falcons fell on hard times, finally hitting bottom the past two seasons. Santa Ana Valley was 3-20 in 1988 and 1-24 in 1989. During those two years, the Falcons won only two Century League games.

Musick had a front-row seat. Besides being a teacher at the school, he was an assistant coach at rival Santa Ana for the past five years.

"Kids were throwing to the wrong base, throwing the ball away, running themselves out of innings," Musick said. "The players had the physical tools, they just weren't mentally in-tune to situation baseball."

Slowly, that is changing. Although Santa Ana Valley isn't exactly having a banner season, things are looking up.

The Falcons are 9-10 overall, and though their Century League record is only 3-6, that's three more league victories than they had all last season.

"Herschel gets the most out of any team he coaches," Villa Park Coach Dave Ochoa said. "I can't remember a team he's had that didn't play above its potential."

When the Falcons are hitting, Musick stands in the first-base coaching box with a stop watch in hand. Every time a pitcher throws or a batter runs to first or a catcher throws to second base, Musick looks at the watch.

In fact, almost everything that happens gets clocked by Musick.

"I think he uses the watch to give the kids some incentive," Foothill Coach Gerry Sedoo said. "They seem to hustle down the line a little more because they know they're being timed. It's a great piece of psychology."

Musick has been using the stop watch since the 1960s, but says incentive is only part of the reason.

He also times opposing pitchers when runners are on base to see who the Falcons can steal on. He also charts the time it takes for a catcher to throw the ball to second.

It's this attention to detail that has been the cornerstone of Musick's success. He misses nothing.

Most coaches have one scouting report on every team in their league; Musick has two. He pours over these charts before and during games. They tell him what pitcher to use or what pinch-hitter send up.

After every game, Musick will go over the score book for hours. He picks out the things his team did well, as well as the mistakes that were made.

The next day in practice, Musick will hold a skull-session to go over the game. At time, the sessions last as long as 30 minutes.

"We break down everything," Musick said. "We go over every mistake, whether it was physical or mental."

Musick lives by three rules of baseball--fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.

Against Villa Park Wednesday, Santa Ana Valley pitcher Scott Crosby picked off runners three times. However, twice the Falcons muffed the play, allowing the runners to advance.

Both times, Musick held an impromptu team meeting when the inning was over.

"Herschel is a stickler for those fundamentals and he keeps after people," Santa Ana Coach Bill Ross said. "He's real good at doing that."

Musick and Ross have been friends for more than 30 years. In fact, Ross gave Musick his first baseball job in 1959.

After graduating from Cal State Long Beach in 1957, Musick took a teaching job at Santa Ana, his alma mater. He also was an assistant football coach, having played the sport in high school.

In the spring of 1958, Ross named him junior varsity baseball coach. Musick has been a baseball coach ever since.

"I found out that coaching baseball was a heck of a lot more fun than coaching football," Musick said. "Coaching football was hard work with all the blocking and tackling. That's not as much fun as playing catch, fielding grounders and hitting in the cage."

When Santa Ana Valley opened in 1960, Musick was hired as the baseball coach. He won six league titles in 17 years and led the Falcons into the Southern Section Major Division championship game in 1967.

Santa Ana Valley lost to Millikan, 2-1, in the title game.

Among the players Musick coached was San Diego Padre shortstop Garry Templeton. However, Musick won several championships with players who never played baseball beyond high school.

"There was one team several years ago that probably should have finished last," Sedoo said. "Herschel got every bit of talent out of them and they made the playoffs. It was truly amazing."

Musick resigned in 1977 to help coach his sons at Orange. During that time, he also coached Little League, Mentor League and Senior League.

"You could have Tommy Lasorda out there and you wouldn't learn as much about baseball as you would from Herschel," said Chapman College assistant basketball coach Rich Prospero, who played on a Little League all-star team coached by Musick. "He has the greatest baseball mind I've ever seen."

Musick returned as the Falcons' head coach after his last son graduated from Orange in 1981. He guided Santa Ana Valley, a team which featured Gerald Young (Houston Astros), to the Century League title.

The Falcons reached the quarterfinals of the Southern Section 3-A playoffs before being eliminated.

However, coaching had stopped being fun. The daily grind of being a head coach was too much and Musick resigned again in 1983.

"It got to the point where the problems of running a program were getting to me," Musick said. "I was spending time doing things other than coaching. I had to keep the facility in shape and I wasn't getting a lot of cooperation from the school. It got to the point where I was just worn out."

Musick got away from high school baseball in 1984, although he remained active with youth leagues. The following year, he went to work for Ross as an assistant.

During his five years at Santa Ana, the Saints won two league titles.

"It was great," Musick said. "I would get to practice and start hitting fungoes. Bill had all the worries. I was really lazy."

Now, three years from retirement, Musick become active again. He said he plans to coach until he's 60.

Musick said the problems that come from running a program don't bother him anymore, mainly because he doesn't let it bother him. In fact, things are going so well, Musick said he might continue coaching after he retires from teaching.

"I could see myself coming to school about noon, work on the field and then run the practice," Musick said. "That would be ideal . . .

Pause.

" . . . Robbie Johnson."

Huh?

"He was the kid on the Santa Ana team in 1982. He had the clutch hit in the championship game."

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