They'll be missed

When Paul Renfrow arrived as the new varsity baseball head coach at his alma mater, Marina High, in the fall of 1983, he was surprised to find that the school didn't have a baseball field.

Worse yet, one did exist, but he couldn't find it.

"It was dragged over and desolate," he said. "I can't even tell you what I thought."

When he retires and relinquishes his positions this week as baseball coach and boys' athletic director at a school he's been loyal to for nearly 43 years, he will have done so as the architect who built the baseball program from the ground up.

Renfrow said he is "retiring and resigning" to spend time with his wife, Vicki, and the rest of his family.

Former Marina student and assistant football coach, Dean Yoshiyama, is the new Marina boys' athletic director.

"He really has built this program," said Bob Marshall who inherits the role of varsity baseball coach from Renfrow. "What's amazing is that when Paul came here, the field wasn't there. It was a big weed patch, a real mess. He came in and changed everything, for the better, bottom line.

"We've had several outstanding players pass through this program, and several outstanding coaches, as well. When you think of Marina baseball, you think of Paul Renfrow."

Marshall, who has taught at Marina for the past 15 years, has been Renfrow's right-hand man on the diamond for the past 16 years. In addition to being an assistant on Renfrow's staff, Marshall spent three years as the junior varsity baseball head coach and also coached at the freshman level. Marshall is a 1985 graduate of Marina.

"His drive and determination really got this program going," Marshall said. "Paul's thing, above all else, was to do what was best for the kids. He treated kids with respect and wanted them to be good young men. He wanted to win but he never sacrificed how he taught the kids for winning. I've seen that first-hand, first as a player, then later, as a coach."

Renfrow guided the Marina varsity baseball program for the past 27 years and took the Vikings to new-found success. He compiled 420 victories and won two CIF Southern Section championships, the last of which was the Division I title in 2003. Several of his players have been drafted, his last being senior third baseman Chad Lewis who was a fourth-round selection last week by the Oakland A's.

He said winning a CIF Division I championship in 1990, was his most memorable coaching moment.

"It was just great to win CIF in both of those years, but that 1990 title was really special," he explained. "To think of where the program had been just six years before that, to winning CIF, the strength of the Sunset League and playing in Division I, the toughest division in Southern California, was really something."

Although he resurrected the Marina baseball program and took it to new heights, Renfrow never waivered from his coaching credo throughout his tenure.

"From the very beginning, when I started coaching at Marina, my personal emphasis was that I didn't want to my pathway to be strewn with carnage," he said. "I would define my success on being able to make better players and better people out of these young men, not on winning. I never sacrificed that. I never wanted to cross the line to win at any cost. I wanted to do it right, rather than win."

Renfrow taught in the science department during his first few years at Marina and has been in the math department since the early-1990s, he said.

"I like it there and the department is full of good people," he said. "I enjoyed class time and it made coaching that much more enjoyable."

Renfrow said what made his athletics experience at Marina all the more memorable was the fact that he didn't have to "sacrifice family" for the sake of work.

He and his wife, Vicki, also a Marina grad, had their three daughters, Jamie, Julie and Jocelyn, attend Marina between 1991 and 2004. Jamie and Jocelyn were members of the pep squad, he said, and Julie played on the girls' volleyball team that won both a CIF and State title in 1997.

"The fact that the family was around all the time, that my girls went to school here while I was coaching and teaching, makes all these years all the more memorable," Renfrow said. "Family was around all the time. That is my single-most favorite memory of coaching here."

A vivid memory he also takes with him is that first impression he had all those years ago, that discovery of a mangled weed-patch-of-a-field, located in the rear of the school.

If we build it, they will come, he thought.

And, the players did.

"But if you could have seen the look on my face when I had discovered that there wasn't a baseball field, after I had taken the job," he added. "The weeds. The mess. The work. But it was all worthwhile."

When you think of Edison High School athletics, the name Bruce Belcher, is synonymous with everything to do, whether it be on the field, court or meeting room, with the Green and Gold.

Belcher, who is retiring as the school's athletic director at the end of the week, has put his stamp on every boys' and girls' sports program at Edison but to him, his proudest achievement is what took place in the classroom.

"I would like to think that I am more than an AD," said Belcher who, during his 36 years at the school, taught traffic and safety, health, U.S. history, world history, child development and physical education. He also served as activities director between 1981 and 1985.

"My greatest love is teaching U.S. History and (I) have been doing that for the last seven years of my career," he continued. "I will miss that. I know people see me as a coach and AD but I would hope some will remember me as a dedicated classroom teacher.

"I also feel that whatever position I have been placed in, I always worked hard to do my very best."

Belcher arrived at the Edison campus in the fall of 1974. He served as a freshman football assistant coach that first school year, was the freshman football head coach between 1976 and 1978, was a varsity football assistant coach during the 1979-80 seasons when the Chargers won back-to-back CIF Big 5 championships, was sophomore football head coach from 1985 to 1988, returned as a varsity football assistant from 1989 to 2000 and also was varsity track and field head coach in 1994-95.

He took on the role of girls' athletic director in 1989 from Pauline Bachakes. He replaced Dave Mohs as boys' AD in 1995.

The school's highly successful athletic department has won numerous Sunset League and CIF championships during his tenure as AD yet Belcher says that the donation of the school's all-weather field, and the construction of an "outstanding" weight room, rank at the top of the list of accomplishments.

"I feel especially proud of two things we have done over the last two decades," he said. "First, is our scholar athlete program. Before it was fashionable, in 1980, (former athletic director) Lyman Clower and Pauline Bachakes began recognition of our athletes who excelled in the classroom. It has evolved over the years where it is one of our most cherished awards.

"Secondly, Coach (Dave) White and I were concerned about teaching our athletes about the need of helping others. Over the last 20 years, I have asked all of my varsity head coaches to involve their players in some type of community service project each year. We have made it our mantra to 'learn to be better human beings, good students and good athletes,' in that order."

"He is so passionate about Edison High School athletics," varsity football coach Dave White said. "He's loyal to coaches and backs them up. He's pissed some people off but he's always put Edison first. He'll fight for you and I haven't seen that from anyone.

"He's also a great teacher in the classroom. Everything he's done, he's done full throttle. He's one of a kind, really. He's irreplaceable."

Stepping into the role of Edison athletic director is Rich Boyce who has been the boys' varsity head basketball coach for the past 10 years.

Boyce will continue on in that role, as well.

"My goal the first year is to not mess it up," Boyce joked. "Bruce has meant an awful lot to this school. Here's a guy who has had his handprint on everything here. He's been committed to academics, athletics and he's a champion of the students."

Belcher had entertained the idea or retiring last year, but changed his mind.

"For some reason, I always thought that 58 would be a good age to retire," said Belcher who turns 59 at the end of the month. "However, when the class of 2010 came in, I noticed immediately that they were special, so I decided to go another year and leave with them. I have not been disappointed.

"I have always said that despite living in a major bedroom community, Edison has always had a small-time atmosphere in how everyone pulls together and supports one another. With that said, I will miss the people, my colleagues and of course, the students. The CIF Football Championships in 1979 and 1980 were also special."

During his time as AD, high school athletics has changed. As with any job, his also included highs and lows.

"As an AD, the biggest challenges I faced with any athletes was if they violated our athletic code," he said. "It is not enjoyable to discipline them but it is necessary. My biggest challenge was not with the athletes, but with some of their parents. I say 'some,' because most are great and support you. However, there are a few who are totally clueless and cause a great amount of grief. Some feel they have a sense of entitlement to make coaching decisions and can create a very negative situation. Keep in mind this is only about 5% of the parents. The other 95% are great. It's just that 5% will sometimes take up 95% of your time.

When school lets out this week, it will be summertime, from now on, for Belcher.

"I have spent so much time at Edison during my career that right now I feel I need to get away and let the younger ones take over," he said. "I will come back but I do plan to travel a lot and that will take precedent over Edison for awhile."

Whatever he goes, the last line Belcher leaves you with on his office answering machine, lets you know what he's felt for 36 years: "Proud to be a Charger."

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