A change in lineup: New coach brings fresh spirit to baseball team

Amy Leung, Author

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Junior catcher Lawrence Han goes up to bat against St. Ignatius High School. Paly defeated St. Ignatius 6-3. Photo by Amy Leung.

Junior catcher Lawrence Han goes up to bat against St. Ignatius High School. Paly defeated St. Ignatius 6-3 in a non-conference game. Photo by Amy Leung.

The Palo Alto High School baseball team (1-0, 0-0) looks forward to a new season with a new coach, holding high hopes despite graduating nine seniors as it takes on rival Gunn High School at noon tomorrow at home.

Pete Fukuhara is this season’s new head coach, taking over for Erick Raich, who coached for five seasons.

“The new coach is a little more laid back,” junior third baseman Shaun Pike said. “It makes the sport a little bit more fun, and it makes people want to play for him.”

Fukuhara stresses the importance of camaraderie on the team over setting a concrete goal of winning a designated number of games.

“I just want to be one family — the JV [junior varsity] program to the varsity program,” Fukuhara said. “I want to play the game the right way [with] a lot of hustle and just being one family together.”

A key difference this year is the graduation of nine seniors.

“We lost Jack Cleasby and Danny Erlich,” junior catcher Lawrence Han said. “Jack [Cleasby] was a big bat. He provided a lot of offense.”

Despite losing firepower, Han believes that winning league is a viable goal.

“It [the loss of seniors] hasn’t affected us nearly as much as I had anticipated as we’ve had people step up to fill the places that we lost,” Han said. “I’d say winning league is the team goal.”

When it comes to key players, Fukuhara has a similar philosophy of communal strength as he does for the goals of the team.

“Our [senior] center fielder Phil Lewis has been fantastic, [sophomore] Ben Cleasby stepped up [and] we’ve had [senior] Isaac [Kasevich] step up on the mound,” Fukuhara said. “Hopefully it’s a shared role — there’s a different star [in] every game.”

As the team looks to its next game, Fukuhara approaches it with a relaxed mindset.

“We’re just going to come out prepared to play the game of baseball,” Fukuhara said. “Just play hard and hope that we come out on top. That’s all you can do.”