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Leaving His Mark

Former Cerritos College coach Kincaid is plenty proud to see Fullerton's Horton and Irvine's Serrano reach College World Series

June 15, 2007|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

OMAHA — Wally Kincaid lives more than 1,500 miles away from here, but his presence can be felt.

He retired almost 30 years ago, but college baseball still oozes with his influence.

He doesn't get to games much anymore, but he still affects the outcomes of many.

Kincaid, 81, the former coach at Cerritos College, is the dean of Southern California baseball coaches and the patriarch in a long line of successful coaches that includes Cal State Fullerton's George Horton and UC Irvine's Dave Serrano -- both of whom have brought teams to the College World Series this season.

This year, the road from Orange County to Omaha took a detour through Cerritos.

"I'm so proud of both of them," Kincaid said from his San Clemente home. "They've both done a wonderful job with their teams and they both deserve it."

Horton played for Kincaid at Cerritos and also served as his assistant before taking over the program in 1985. Kincaid stuck around to help work with the pitchers. The first ace of that staff was Serrano.

During his 22 years as the head coach at Cerritos from 1958 to 1980, Kincaid led the school to a 678-163 record and 15 conference championships. He also won six state titles. No other school has won as many.

His .806 winning percentage is the best in state history and he ranks 10th on the victories list. In 1966, his team went 40-0, part of a state-record 65-game win streak that spanned three seasons. In 1970, the Falcons were 40-1.

Along the way, he turned Cerritos College into a hotbed for some of the greatest baseball minds in Southern California baseball.

Santa Ana College Coach Don Sneddon, the record holder for community college coaching victories, played for Kincaid, as did former Long Beach State coach Dave Snow, who built the 49ers into a national power, and current Long Beach State Coach Mike Weathers.

"I look at it as if he is the John Wooden of Southern California baseball," Horton said. "He was light years ahead of anyone else in the game."

Kincaid shrugs off such accolades. He says what he did was nothing revolutionary and that his techniques were based on simple fundamentals.

"You throw the ball, you catch the ball and you hit the ball," Kincaid said. "Baseball is not a real complicated game."

But Weathers begs to differ. He says Kincaid was teaching the hit and run, slash hitting and drag bunting when others looked at those things as gimmicks. Weathers said Kincaid also brought the ideals of discipline and drilling the fundamentals into a culture that was without both.

"He changed the way teams practice," Weathers said. "He brought things to the game that weren't there before. He greatly influenced and molded the way we teach the game today."

Aggressive baserunning and fundamental pitching and defense were the trademarks of Kincaid's teams and this week, those Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine teams will display some of those practices on college baseball's grandest stage.

The Anteaters rank fourth in the nation in fielding percentage and are fifth in the nation in stolen bases. The Titans boast a pitching staff with a team earned-run average of 3.76 -- 26th in the nation.

Kincaid is not at all surprised that his proteges have reached the pinnacle of the college game. He said both showed signs of coaching talent even at an early age.

"I remember George used to follow me around and ask me questions and always wanted to talk baseball," he said. "Dave was just an average pitcher, but he really knew how to get the most out of his talent and he's good at getting his players to do the same."

Much has been made this week of the relationship between Horton and Serrano -- how Serrano was Horton's assistant at Cerritos and then at Fullerton before taking the Irvine job and how they have both ended up here.

Serrano says the pupil is trying to take down the teacher. Horton says the father is trying to hold back the son.

Both say they owe it all to the grandfather.

"He taught me my foundation," Horton said. "Almost everything I know about the game of baseball, I learned from Wally."

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peter.yoon@latimes.com

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