Ballard steps away from LC diamond

After 10 seasons coaching the La Cañada High baseball team, Coach Dennis Ballard resigned Tuesday, citing personal reasons.

Under Ballard's guidance between 2003-12, the Spartans went 135-95 and 79-67 in the Rio Hondo League. The Spartans reached the playoffs six times and won the league championship in 2005.

Ballard said he yielded the position to spend more time with his family, though he will continue to teach physical education at the school. It's not clear who will succeed Ballard, though La Cañada Athletic Director Craig Franzen said he'd like to fill the job shortly.

"I have six children and 17 grandchildren and most are back in the area," said Ballard, who compiled a .586 winning percentage. "I want to be a dad and grandfather and I want to break out the golf clubs, so I decided there's no time like the present.

"Baseball is mostly year round these days and I don't want to go that far anymore."

Ballard's teams won at least 10 games each season, but the watershed season came in 2005. A 1-0 victory against Temple City gave La Cañada its first league title since 1980.

"That was just a great team and the way they went about their business on the field," Ballard said. "We had been finishing in second or third in league for so many seasons and the hard work paid off in winning [the league championship]."

The Spartans qualified for the CIF playoffs under Ballard from 2003-06, 2009 and 2011. The Spartans last won a playoff contest in 2006.

La Cañada finished 10-14, 2-10 this season and finished under .500 in league for the third season in a row.

"We were very young," Ballard said. "I thought we might be more competitive, but we had trouble producing some runs."

Franzen said the struggles throughout 2012 factored in Ballard's decision to leave the post.

"Dennis really had a tough season," Franzen said. "The losses weighed very heavily on him and he had told me privately that he wasn't going to run his summer camp.

"I think it's just coaches are expected to coach year round and it's a lot of time away from the expanding grandchildren in his family. I think for him it was just time. I don't think things ended the way he wanted to, but the reality was he just wanted to spend more time with his grandchildren."

Franzen said La Cañada assistant Alex Valadaz might be a candidate to succeed Ballard. Valadaz has served as Ballard's assistant the past two seasons.

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