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Retiring Coach Not Bitter, Just Fatigued by Multiple Duties

April 28, 1988|DICK WAGNER | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — There is no bitterness, just fatigue, frustration and a son who needs him badly, said John Gonsalves, who is retiring after 19 years as baseball coach at Cal State Long Beach.

After the season's final game May 8, Gonsalves will be free to enjoy what he has missed for so long. He can watch his son, Jayson, play baseball at Huntington Beach High School. He can spend more time with his wife, Sandy. He can just go for a lunchtime burger and beer at a restaurant near his Seal Beach home.

First, though, he will have to take off his uniform for the last time, and Gonsalves knows that will be among the toughest things he will ever have to do.

After that he will no longer have to manicure the campus baseball field each morning at 6, or wash his team's uniforms on weekends or try to raise money so the 49ers can become competitive.

Those duties wore him down, as did losing. He had only six winning seasons, none since 1983, and a career record of 463-627-16.

"I was thinking of an even year," Gonsalves said last week.

But the 49ers are 13-38 this season.

"I'm 44," he continued. "I've got a lot of years left, but I'm tired, very tired," he said. "(Retirement) has been coming."

He said he created a "monster" over the years by often spending his own money on the baseball program to make up for what the university could not afford to offer him. For his first 15 years, he had only two scholarships, which left him outmanned against the better teams that had the maximum of 13.

Last spring, Athletic Director Corey Johnson gave Gonsalves a commitment to building a strong Division I program. Johnson has said his goal over the next five years is to raise money enough to offer 13 baseball scholarships a year.

"I can't wait for 13 'full rides,' " Gonsalves said.

The days leading to his decision to retire were trying.

Short on Sleep

On Thursday, April 7, Gonsalves told a school official that he thought it was time to retire. He said he could no longer coach and raise money at the same time, and was frustrated because he had asked Johnson without success for a groundskeeper and someone to wash uniforms.

"Thursday night I got one hour of sleep and woke up at 4 a.m. in a sweat," Gonsalves said. "That's when I said, 'Get out.' "

He said that on Friday morning, before a game with Cal State Fullerton, he was at the field, pounding the dirt around the mound.

"I put the hose on, but the water was out. I went to the fountain, got a bucket of water and went back to the mound. I just stood there leaning against a rake."

Then he said he turned to his assistant, Rick Hayes, and said: "Rick, I'm tired. I don't have fire, I don't have enthusiasm. The challenge is still there, to complete the goal of 13 full rides, but I don't want to be a fund-raiser and groundskeeper. I can't do all those things, plus teach and coach too."

Another assistant, Dave Torres, suggested that Gonsalves let his staff perform the groundskeeping chores at the next day's game. Gonsalves agreed.

"On Saturday morning, I took my wife and Jayson out to breakfast for the first time in 19 years," Gonsalves said. "I liked it. I did it Sunday too.

"I was feeling so good Sunday afternoon because I was staying away till game time that I told Sandy I'd stay another year.

"One of my players said, 'Coach, we'll wash the clothes.' " But Gonsalves did not feel right about that.

On Monday, April 11, Gonsalves' spirits were raised even higher when he found out that he could move the team into a larger locker room, one that would include an office.

He went home early to work on his baseball budget.

He stared out his window and thought about how the day before he had used his Jacuzzi for the first time in six years. But he also thought how time-consuming his job is and that he would probably have to paint the locker room himself.

"I got up Tuesday with the worst stomachache I ever had," Gonsalves said. "I said, 'That's it, I'm done.' "

That morning he went into Johnson's office and told the athletic director of his decision to retire.

"I wasn't forced out," said Gonsalves, who will be honored by friends and former players before Sunday's 1 p.m. game with San Jose State at the campus field. "There's no bitterness toward Long Beach State. There had always been light at the end of the tunnel, but now I don't like the way the light is."

He said he will stay away from baseball for a year so he can devote time to Jayson, who will be a senior, and then perhaps try for a job in professional baseball. He will continue to teach at the university.

After telling Johnson of his decision, Gonsalves went to Jayson's game at Huntington Beach to tell him.

"Dad, you did it! Great!" Jayson said.

Gonsalves cried. He knew he had made the right decision.

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