Big expectations and plenty of scrutiny await Tony Bloomfield, the new baseball coach at Harbor College.
Bloomfield inherited one of the state's top community college baseball programs when he replaced legendary Jim O'Brien in May.
In 15 years at Harbor, O'Brien led the Seahawks to three state championships, 11 conference titles and was named community college coach of the year three times. He also led Harbor to the state final six times and compiled a 460-171-2 record. He retired after guiding the Seahawks to a state championship and 51-5 season. O'Brien wanted to concentrate on his duties as Harbor athletic director and spend more time with his family.
Bloomfield says winning two big tournaments early this season and defeating playoff foe Cerritos twice has helped lift the pressure. He's confident the Seahawks (11-5) will be in Sacramento for the state tournament in May.
"There's really no pressure right now and there probably won't be until the playoffs," said Bloomfield, a former player and assistant under O'Brien. "We had a real good recruiting year. This team is young, but it definitely has the potential to win a state championship."
When O'Brien named Bloomfield as his successor, the new coach admitted the job would not be easy.
"\o7 Pressure?\f7 Of course there's going to be pressure," Bloomfield said. "I mean I'm taking over for a legend. But I feel we're always going to win at this program. We've got kids knocking the door down to come play at Harbor."
That is because O'Brien built a dynasty. He had local ties when he accepted the Harbor job in 1976. O'Brien had led North Torrance High to eight Bay League titles and two CIF 4-A Division championships.
But can Bloomfield, with little coaching experience, keep Harbor at the top? Coaches in the Southern California Athletic Conference say yes. They believe the program is too solid to deteriorate simply because of a coaching change.
"I seriously doubt there will be a letdown in that program," said Compton baseball Coach Lorenzo Clark, whose team competes in the SCAC with Harbor. "When you got a built-in program like O'Brien has, you take the book and show it to your kids and that's impressive. That will always attract the good players."
Clark believes Bloomfield will also be successful because his coaching style is similar to O'Brien's.
"Tony is not Jim O'Brien, but O'Brien raised him," Clark said. "He played for him and he coached under him. He's a product of Jim O'Brien and that means success."
East Los Angeles Coach Al Cone predicts Harbor will be as strong as ever. His much-improved team (14-5) is expected to be the Seahawks' toughest competitor in the five-member SCAC.
"They'll play hard and aggressive like always," Cone said. "Tony is a great coach who gets the most out of his players. He's a disciple of Jim O'Brien's."
Bloomfield played football and baseball at West Torrance High. He was an All-South Bay wide receiver and free safety as a
senior and played shortstop, second base and third base for the Warriors. In 1982 and 1983 he played baseball for O'Brien at Harbor. He was an All-American shortstop in 1983 when the Seahawks lost to College of the Canyons in the final of the state tournament.
"He was an outstanding player," O'Brien said. "At our level it was like having a Magic Johnson on the field. It was like having a coach out there. Everybody was very impressed with the way he played. He was very tough."
Bloomfield completed his college eligibility at the University of Nevada-Reno, where he also served as an assistant baseball coach for a year. He coached junior varsity baseball at McQueen High in Reno for a season before O'Brien hired him as an assistant in 1989.
Because there is no full-time teaching position available at Harbor, Bloomfield is a walk-on head coach. His wife, Lori, who is a hospital administrator in Long Beach, supports him while he coaches and works on his masters' degree in health and physical education at Cal State Los Angeles.
Bloomfield would have remained an assistant had there been a full-time teaching spot available for the new baseball coach. O'Brien said Narbonne Coach Nick Van Lue, a former assistant, would probably have been hired as coach because of his experience. But O'Brien says he is happy with the way things turned out.
"Tony has rejuvenated the program because I was really getting tired," O'Brien said. "He has lots of energy and he puts in lots of time. He's very dedicated. Last year I gave him full responsibility of the defense. I'm real happy with things right now."
Bloomfield says Harbor will play the same intense baseball practiced during the O'Brien days. His teams will hustle, always give 110% and strive on pitching and defense. Practices will also continue to be extremely competitive.
"I don't think anything has changed," sophomore pitcher Carey Lundstrom said. "Tony is very competitive and he hates to lose. There's really no difference between him and Coach O'Brien."