Tom Meusborn sat in Dodger Stadium with dreams of coaching there some day, but not for the big league club.
As Meusborn, then a 26-year-old junior varsity coach at Grant High in Van Nuys, Calif., took in the Los Angeles City Section championship game for the first time in 1988, he thought to himself, “I’ve got to go to this game at least once.”
Meusborn began his high school coaching career at Chatsworth (Calif.) High two years later in 1990. In the nearly three decades since, Meusborn guided his team to Dodger Stadium for the Los Angeles City Section championship game 16 times, winning eight of them.
In 27 seasons from 1990-2013 and 2015-17, Meusborn won 677 games, including two national titles in 2003 and 2004 and a state record 54-game win streak. Earlier this month he resigned, citing it was “time for a change,” after a storied career at Chatsworth.
“I think that desire to compete and just trying to get better . . . I think that’s allowed us to have the success in this 27-year span,” Meusborn said. “It’s a special run.”
About a three-hour drive south from Chatsworth, just north of San Diego, another Southern California coach ended his illustrious career. In 43 seasons of coaching split between Mount Carmel and Rancho Bernardo high schools, Sam Blalock won 946 games and went to 18 San Diego Section championship games, winning 12.
The second-winningest coach in California high school baseball history wrapped up one of the finest California high school coaching careers ever when he resigned in early June.
“I don’t know,” Blalock said of his accolades. “I guess I’m good at it.”
“I consider myself a constant learner,” he said. “I steal from as many people as I can. . . . Eventually it becomes your system and your way of doing things.”
Both Meusborn and Blalock realized early in their playing careers that coaching might be in their futures.
Blalock helped coach his little brother in Little League with his dad when he was 15 years old. While playing junior college baseball and basketball, he began studying UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.
Meusborn was also a junior college baseball player who wanted to stick around with the sport. When he returned home from school he often visited his old high school baseball team to share the knowledge he had gleaned from his college coaches.
“I really enjoyed the game,” Meusborn said. “I just found a way to stay in it.”
Blalock’s coaching career started in 1975 at Mount Carmel, where he coached first-round draft pick and future Athletics general manager Billy Beane.
He arrived at Rancho Bernardo in 1991 to start the program, taking over what was essentially a junior-varsity team. Blalock eventually turned the program into a powerhouse, and earned the school the nickname of “The Factory,” for its ability to produce top college and professional talent.
During the course of his career, he coached 26 players selected in the MLB Draft and several others who played pro ball after high school. That list is comprised of nine first-round picks, including his nephew and former Rangers all-star third baseman Hank Blalock, and current Rangers’ lefthander Cole Hamels.
“Understand the fundamentals, understand how the fundamentals work in your style of hitting, your style of pitching and set goals for yourself,” Blalock said was the advice he gave his players. “Even if you don’t get that, there’s always other avenues for success. I was never one to hold someone back from that dream.”
Chatsworth had 12 players drafted since Meusborn took over in 1990. Meusborn coached Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and former Astros infielder Matt Dominguez on the same team from 2004-2007. Both went in the first round of the 2007 draft.
Moustakas and Dominguez are two of four former Meusborn players who have made it to the majors. Meusborn had to wait 20 years before former player Bryan Peterson broke into MLB with the Marlins in 2010.
“That was something that I really wanted to see was one of the guys that we coached make it to the big leagues,” Meusborn said. “That was really special.”
Blalock, 68, does not have any future career plans for the time being. He is already retired from teaching, and his physical health has slowed him over the past few years. He said he will miss “watching the kids grow” now that he is done coaching.
Meusborn is still going to teach at Chatsworth, but he hopes to look for the opportunity to coach somewhere else. He spent a season in 2014 as the pitching coach at Cal State Northridge. The relationships with players, coaches, administration and the community are his favorite part of coaching.
“I think those relationships are special things,” he said.