NORTHEAST GLENDALE — There was much fanfare Thursday afternoon at Occidental College's Anderson Field. The winner of the Prep League finale between Webb and Flintridge Prep had a postgame celebration that included a Gatorade bath for the coach and a parent playing "Eye of the Tiger" on a bugle as teammates high-fived one another.
But in a moment that could have been celebratory for Flintridge Prep Coach Buzz Cook, Cook instead was more reflective as he watched the events that unfolded across the field. The game was Cook's final game as head coach after 12 years at the helm of the program and a 14-year coaching career at Flintridge Prep.
But Cook's team came out on the wrong end of a lopsided 17-5 Prep League loss, concluding a 7-15 season (3-8 in league), and though his achievements as head coach were not lost on him or his squad, he was not the coach on the receiving end of the Gatorade bath.
"I just think it's time for me to step aside," Cook said. "I think the time is right and I think the program itself could probably use maybe a new voice. It could use someone, in all honesty, that can dedicate a little more time to the program."
Cook said he came to the decision back in March, deciding that it was ultimately best for not only himself and his family but for the Rebels baseball program as a whole. The day he made the decision, he accomplished a coaching feat that was a first in his career — a road victory against Pasadena Poly.
"I spoke to the athletic director back in late March," Cook said. "The odd thing about it is that afternoon I got on a bus and we beat Poly at Poly. And I had never won at Poly before so it figures."
But Cook would not win this one. A 9-5 game going into the top of the sixth, the Gauls (19-4, 9-2 in league) doubled their run total as Rebel pitchers Clayton Weirick and Cole Rademacher combined to give up nine runs in the final two innings. Routine plays resulted in costly errors and controversial plays on the base paths led to a frustrating turn of events.
"This was, to a certain extent, the way the entire year went," Cook said.
Down, 10-5, Rademacher replaced Weirick on the mound and induced a popup for the second out. But Joe Shaver then singled to shallow center field. Trying to get the force at home, Prep catcher Dylan Arya laid out completely, diving to make the tag on a sliding Jordan Veiga, but the tag was too high and Veiga was ruled safe. A visibly upset Arya slammed down his mask in frustration.
On the next play, a routine grounder to third base was dropped.
"That blew the game open," Cook said. "I know that it's frustrating, I'm sitting there watching as it all unfolded. Getting mad is the easy reaction."
There were few bright spots in the game, but the ones that were the brightest were the seniors — Alex Sierra, Andrew Mahoney and Steven Fleming. In his final game, Fleming went three for four with two runs.
Cook's replacement is expected to be named by the end of the month. With a young team, he feels that core is fully in tact and that he is handing over a solid squad.
"It's been a lot of fun and 12 years goes by pretty quick," Cook said. "But again, I just think the time is right."