Montclair Prep Hires Former Major Leaguer Paris as Baseball Coach : High schools: Taft graduate inherits team that finished 18-9.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kelly Paris, a former major league player, has been hired as the Montclair Prep baseball coach, Principal Vernon Simpson announced Wednesday.

Paris, a 1975 graduate of Taft High, played professionally for 16 years, including five seasons in the majors with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox.

"I am very pleased," Simpson said.

"We had a lot of people apply--and many who graduated from Montclair Prep--but I needed to get somebody with some maturity. That was the main thing that tipped it for us with Kelly."

Paris, 36, replaces Walt Steele, who resigned to pursue a master's degree, and will inherit a team that finished 18-9 last season and returns all but two players.

Steele, who will remain head of the math department at Montclair Prep, will serve as a consultant to Paris, Simpson said.

It is Paris' first assignment as a head coach, although he was an assistant for a high school team in North Carolina and a couple of local American Legion teams.

"I know that I've got a strong group of kids," said Paris, who will meet with his team for the first time today.

"I've never seen one of them throw a baseball or seen one of them swing a bat.

"(But), I'm of the theory, if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Among the returnees is outfielder Darrell Dent, who last season hit .390 with 34 runs batted in and is considered one of the top prospects in the nation.

In addition to several baseball camps that he runs in the summer, Paris also administers private individual and group lessons.

Paris, an infielder, was a second-round draft pick by the Cardinals in 1975.

Seven years later, he was a member of the Cardinals' team that won the World Series.

"The money is spent, but I still have the ring," Paris said.

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