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Youth Served Myers Very Well at Mater Dei : Softball: He led talented but inexperienced Monarch team to within one victory of section title.


SANTA ANA — As many as seven freshmen started on the Mater Dei softball team this year.

Several played on the same travel team, the Firecrackers, and won the under-14 national championship last summer.

Yes, they have played a lot of games together.

Yes, they come from all over--not just Orange County.

Yes, they are very good.

But they are all 14. And they still play against varsity high school teams largely made up of players two and three years older.

And no one really expected them to reach the Southern Section Division I championship game.

But they did. And the man who guided them, who put all the pieces of the puzzle together, who had everyone in the right position and in the right spot in the lineup, deserves some credit.

For that reason, Doug Myers is The Times Orange County softball coach of the year.

It's an award that no doubt will raise the hackles of some because Myers' players aren't bound by county lines. Fifteen of his 16 players went to the nationals last year in club programs, and six won; most finished third or better. There are some who believe he encourages players to attend Mater Dei.

"I'm constantly working with different kids," Myers said. "I do clinics, and they look at me as representing Mater Dei, but I've never asked a kid to come to Mater Dei. But I can understand why there's that perception."

Although the Monarchs may look like a club all-star team, no one expected them to be as good as they were. In the future, yes. Going into the season, no way.

Not even Myers thought his team could put together the season that left them ranked sixth in the state.

He was asked that question point-blank after Mater Dei's 3-0 semifinal victory over Los Alamitos.

At the beginning of the year, did you think you would be playing for the Southern Section title?

His eyes squinted and a smile crossed this face.

"I was hoping," he said. "I knew this team had a lot of talent, but I didn't know how well they would play together."

The Monarchs (26-5 through the playoffs) won 13 of their last 15 games and outscored their opponents, 116-22, during that span.

Myers heaps praise upon his pitching coach, Jim Dolan, every chance he gets. Coach of the year honors probably should be shared by the entire staff--Jim Bollinger, George Flowers, Ted Catelano. But it's the head coach who is ultimately responsible for a program, for making the personalities fit in the dugout and the physical talents complement each other on the field.

And it's his responsibility for a game plan, and Myers took a "speed kills" philosophy and ran with it all the way to the championship game.

"I've put more energy into this year than any other year I've coached," he said.

He was able to incorporate Mater Dei's freshmen into a dynamic that included only one senior and make the most of it. The Monarchs started four freshmen and two sophomores in the championship game. They started five freshmen in the semifinals.

Myers' job in the outside world is as a specialist coach, and he must know what he's doing. He teaches hitting, and 10 players batted .300 or better. He also teaches players how to improve their speed, and Mater Dei's speed was its most dangerous weapon, forcing opponents into mistakes and capitalizing on the 60-foot base paths.

After working in the NFL for seven years in administration and scouting, he turned to fast pitch. His 10-year softball coaching career has been nomadic, with stops at Los Amigos, Canyon, Ocean View and Mater Dei.

But if controversy swirls about Myers and his program, there is something else that swirls with it--that the man knows what he's doing. He can coach softball with the best of them.

Which he did this year.

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