PETALUMA - Nice thing about having a conversation with Paul Maytorena, it’s like watching an octopus. Eight legs going everywhere. In this case, in this interview, a trombone, oral cancer, Cardinal Newman football, parking cars, human remains, hugging parents, a boat in the water and, oh yes, baseball came up sooner or later.
Casa Grande’s Maytorena, coach of the state’s sixth-ranked Division 2 baseball team and the No. 1 seed in its North Coast Section division playoff, prides himself on flexibility, the unquenchable thirst to learn, to grow, to make himself a better person, and in no way is that desire more evident than this — his ex-wife, Casey, lives with Maytorena and their two daughters, Tatum, 16, and Brooke, 14.
“People shake their head and wonder how,” said Maytorena, 46. “But Casey and I get along better than we ever have. We are there for our kids. It’s working out great.”
So said the Control Freak, er, the former Control Freak. For the first 10 years after he took over the Casa baseball job from Bob Leslie, Maytorena was fueled by the unquenchable thirst to control. Intense, passionate, wanting to live up to the trust Leslie placed in him, knowing an off-campus coach doesn’t have the security blanket around him that an on-campus teacher-coach has, Maytorena pushed hard against that insecurity. Oh, and he was only 24.
Sure, OK, he knew the game. He was named Athlete of the Year in 1998 at Homestead High School in Cupertino. Wore No. 32 in tribute to Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum. Got a baseball scholarship to Colorado State, finished at Sonoma State under John Goelz, a baseball man. Spent three years under Leslie, another baseball man. Sure, he knew the game. But the ground is littered with baseball men who know the game but deliver that knowledge with a hammer.
Ten years into it, with never a losing season and averaging 20 victories, Maytorena began to release his grip on that hammer. The game needn’t be a forced march. It could be more fun. He didn’t have to mute his passion. He could redirect it.
Like this: Once a year Maytorena asks his players to perform a Random Act of Kindness. He asks this on a Monday. He wants an example on Thursday. He spent more time getting to know his players as people. He went out of his way to do that, realizing a basic human truth.
“No one cares how much you know,” he said, “until they know how much you care.”
So all that baseball knowledge is a thunderclap, direct, understood but delivered with all the subtlety of megaphone, unless there’s a human being behind it, not Thor.
“Hug your parents for no good reason!” Maytorena tells his kids. He tells his kids two other things, two things before each season, two things that aren’t warm and fuzzy, two things at the core of Casa baseball.
“Don’t do anything to embarrass the program, the PROGRAM, not the team,” Maytorena said. That mandate is easy to accept — Maytorena has averaged 20 victories a year for 20 years.
Continued Maytorena, “Then I tell them what their role is. I tell them ‘this is how I see you now. It can change but right now this is how I see you.’ Then I give them 24 hours to think it over and then come back with their answer. I tell them ‘Once the ship leaves the dock I don’t want anybody to jump off.’ I’d rather have a player tell me ‘I think I’ll be a better trombone player.’ I would really respect that.”