A couple times, when explaining what was going on, Paul Maytorena reached with his right hand and tapped the back of his head. It was there, he said, where the action was. Started a few months ago.
Something ain’t right, dude. Whaddya gonna do? Figure it out, fella. Ain’t got all day. I’m gonna start RAISING MY VOICE. It was a cry to action. Might as well have been a cry into the void.
“I’m not a big fan of change,” said the man who announced this week he was resigning as coach of Casa Grande baseball team after 23 years at the high school. “It was the longest relationship I ever had,” he said.
Why would Maytorena change? His teams won 74.9 percent of their games. Never had a losing season in his 20 years as head coach. He has won enough awards he could wallpaper his house. He has won enough hearts he could run for mayor of this town. Oh, and one other thing.
“I want to die in the dugout,” Maytorena said. He loved coaching and the sport that much. He loved baseball the way he loved to take a breath. Casa baseball was his second skin. He wore it everywhere. Why would anyone want to rip off their skin?
And the game itself? He has been playing or coaching it since he was 5. Five! Maytorena was still counting his toes when baseball entered his life. Now, 42 years later, he had to man up. His grinding teeth lost some of their enamel when the decision became apparent.
“I tell my players all the time — ‘Pre-pitch! Pre-pitch!” he said. “Before every pitch think about what you should do if the ball is hit to you. I used to yell the players — ‘The ball is coming to you!’ Now the ball was coming to me.”
He’s 47 with no retirement package; an off-campus coach in high school doesn’t build a bank account. He asked himself: What happens when I get to 67? What do I live on? My press clippings? My winning smile? My incredible alacrity when I work with others?
Maytorena had spent all this years working at jobs that could accommodate his off-the-grid coaching hours. The past four years he was in charge of the valet parking at the Graton Casino. He’d go to work at 5 a.m., get off at 1:30 p.m. in time to go to practice. Before that he worked 16 years as a physical trainer at a health club, which fit perfectly with his degree in kinesology and exercise science from Sonoma State.
Maytorena was making ends meet but he wasn’t fooling himself. “It was a roof over my head and three hots and a cot. But we valued people relationships instead of monetary things.” Some of the time he was living with his ex-wife, Casey, co-parenting their two daughters, Tatum (now 15) and Brooke (17). Other times, he was living alone.
In the beginning, when the girls were infants, Maytorena needed help and got it. He still recounts with a warm smile how much help he had with changing diapers. Jonny and Joey Gomes did their time as did current Casa assistants Ralph Gentile and Gordie Wirtz.