In his first year as the head coach of the Glendale College baseball team, Jon Strauss has guided the Vaqueros to their third Western State Conference title in three years, set a school record for wins at 30-10, and earned for himself the title of WSC Coach of the Year.
It was a case of the hometown guy returning as a winner. Strauss graduated from Glendale High in 1990.
“The season has gone very well,” Strauss said. “Thirty and 10 pretty much speaks for itself. We have a lot of good players, and we’ve had a real successful year.”
The previous record for wins was 27 set back in 1997.
Earlier in the season, the team had winning streaks of nine and 12 games, and was continuously ranked among the top five teams in Southern California.
Perhaps his youth adds to the team’s stamina. “We play with a lot of energy,” Strauss, 28, says. “I like to get after it. We’re a very intense team, and my goal is to put as much pressure on the team as possible.”
Strauss likes to hit-and-run, and to steal some bases along the way.
“It’s been a good experience with his first year here,” Fernando Valenzuela Jr. said. “We didn’t know what to expect, but we knew he was going to be good coming out of Long Beach State. He knew we had a lot of talent on this team, and he is a fun coach to play for.”
He learned most of his coaching style from Dave Snow, who is the head baseball coach at Cal State Long Beach. Strauss played for Snow during the 1993 season as a catcher when they made the semifinals of the College World Series.
“That’s about as good as it gets,” Strauss said. “The competition you play against, and [the fact that] you play in front of 20,000 people who absolutely love college baseball.”
Snow also was a coach for Cal State Long Beach when they made it to the College World Series in 1998.
“I think he (Snow) is one of the best coaches in the game today,” Strauss said. “We’re very similar, and from him, that’s where I’ve learned most of what I know.”
In 1994, Strauss signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees, where he played one year. He didn’t like the hotel-to-hotel lifestyle.
“One year was enough for me,” he said. “I was away from my girlfriend (who is now his wife), and I’ve always wanted to be a coach, and I had an opportunity to go back and coach back at Long Beach State and that’s what I wanted to do, so I decided to do it.”
But he came to Glendale because Snow was still at Cal State Long Beach, and he decided to move on in his life.
The opportunity came when Chris Zavatsky resigned to become the assistant coach at Santa Clara University. Zavatsky recommended Strauss, who played for him at College of the Canyons.
“Coming back to Glendale made it even more special,” Strauss said. “That’s probably the biggest reason why I came back.”
Strauss played for Glendale High for four years, and helped the team win two Pacific League titles. In his senior year, Strauss hit .378 with 32 RBI’s to earn most valuable player, and first team all-league honors.