There will be a not-so-new face at the head of the La Cañada High baseball team next season in Alex Valadez.
For the past two seasons, Valadez has been an assistant coach with the Spartans with 10-year La Cañada Coach Dennis Ballard, who resigned to spend more time with his family May 22. Valadez was unveiled as La Cañada's new coach Friday.
"I think [the past two years] gives me a better understanding of who these kids are and how to coach them," said Valadez, who teaches junior high physical education at La Cañada. "Being a teacher on campus, I have a rapport with these kids. I have been there before and I know what they're capable of doing and what they haven't done before."
La Cañada High Athletic Director Craig Franzen, who announced the hiring Friday, said Valadez' relationship and experience with the team is a huge plus.
"There are so many positives with Alex, the relationship he already has with the kids," Franzen said. "That relationship will change a bit now that he's the head coach and calling the shots. He is on campus and we always want on-campus coaches."
First off for Valadez, a 30-year old Azusa Pacific University graduate, will be instilling an "old-school approach" to the game that stresses work ethic and buying into a team-first concept.
"There's a lot of things I have in mind, one is teaching them the fundamentals of the game," Valadez said. "I think that's going to be one of the main focuses this year — technique and working on the small things that make winning programs."
Valadez got his first taste of success as a coach in his first assistant job at San Dimas High, where he was an assistant coach for seven years and was a part of the Saints' CIF Southern Section Division V title run in 2009, before making the move to La Cañada in 2010.
"I know what it takes to get to places like that," Valadez said. "I know how much work is needed to be consistently successful and often times coaches don't get opportunities like that."
Valadez highlighted players Anthony Mizrahi, Johnny Selsor, Alex Bang, Clayton Herrmann and Jacob Yonan as players he expects to have a major impact on the program next year and in years to come for the underclassmen.
Valadez said he doesn't have a goal of a certain number of wins for next year, but he does expect to be competing for a top spot in the Rio Hondo League after the Spartans have showed promise, but failed to finish third place or higher the past two years.
"That's always the focus when you're the coach — winning — but there's a lot of things that come before winning," Valadez said. "Building a program takes a lot of work and people buying in. … We should be in [the league title race]. We have good players, I think a lot of it is just buying into concepts."