Kubasaki baseball starts anew after longtime coach replaced
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Adam Garlick stepped toward first base, taking the place of his teammate Eric Ganci, then took several throws from infielders during Monday’s baseball practice at Foster Field 4.
In the two seasons before this one, the two juniors wore a Kubasaki varsity baseball team uniform. But Garlick and Ganci opted this season to play for OkiBoys, a club team that longtime Dragons coach Randy Toor has operated in the off-season for 12 years.
Toor is no longer coaching Kubasaki, following what Toor calls a misunderstanding between Toor, an OkiBoys parent and Kubasaki administration. School officials did not comment.
Toor opted to continue coaching his club team, and eight of his former veteran Kubasaki varsity players followed him, Ganci and Garlick among them. Rules prohibit club activity during the high school season.
“I see Coach Toor as a father figure,” said Ganci. “He’s taught me a lot. And playing for OkiBoys gives me an opportunity to play against Japanese teams that are more skilled.”
A few hundred feet away from Field 4, on Foster’s main baseball field, the Kubasaki varsity was going through its practice paces under new coach Pete Soto — 19 players, 14 of them seniors, but none that have varsity experience.
Soto and his coaching staff said that it was the former Dragons’ decision to stay with OkiBoys, and Soto found a sufficient number of players who wanted to wear the Dragons’ colors and move along.
“That’s my focus,” Soto said, adding that he didn’t know anything about what caused the divide with OkiBoys “and that’s where I want to stay.”
What sparked the whole divide, Toor said, was when he dismissed one of his OkiBoys players (Toor did not elaborate as to why), and the parent apparently went to Kubasaki’s leadership, thinking the player had been removed from Kubasaki’s team, “which wasn’t true,” Toor said.
Toor’s version of the events that led to the divide could not be confirmed by anybody in DODEA Okinawa administration. Okinawa district superintendent Mike Thompson and Kubasaki assistant principal Shaun Knudsen each declined to comment for this story.
“This is the first time something like this has happened to me,” Toor said, adding that at one point several years ago, he had former principal Steven Sanchez’s two sons, Vinnie and Mateo, on both Kubasaki and OkiBoys “and we never had a problem.”
In years past, he would coach the Dragons for the 2½-month-long season and run the OkiBoys program for eight months, giving players a break for summer vacation. As soon as it was time for Kubasaki tryouts, OkiBoys would shut down, following rules as set down by DODEA Pacific, which prohibits club activity during the course of the high school season.
This is believed to be the first time this has happened to a DODEA varsity baseball team since 2003, when most of Kinnick’s varsity stayed with former coach Keith Ross to form the Ikego Mud Hens, after the principal dismissed him and hired a different coach.
Kubasaki baseball won Far East Division I titles in 2010 and 2013, and Okinawa district titles for seven straight years, 2006-12, under Toor. Present and former players credit their time matriculating with OkiBoys for Kubasaki’s success.
Club play is not limited to baseball on Okinawa. Kubasaki instructor Mike Hogen coaches Dragons varsity volleyball, which has won three straight D-I titles, and also runs the Shisa Volleyball Club outside of the high school season. The Dragons softball program also benefits from the Lady Ambassadors club program. Kadena athletes have also played for those clubs.
OkiBoys has already played seven games this season, and has five scheduled with Kadena, but none against Kubasaki. Toor and Soto both said they did not expect to schedule games between the Dragons and OkiBoys.
Teams with mostly new players generally can go only in one direction, up, Soto said, “and that’s where we want to go.”
Soto leaves after this school year, and Toor says he plans to reapply for the Kubasaki coaching position for the 2018 season. “I hope so. We’ll see,” Toor said, adding that no matter what, he still plans to run the OkiBoys program in future years.
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