Jeff Stout has a name sounding of baseball greatness and the looks of someone in motion pictures. It should be no surprise that Stout shares the same birth date as Willie Mays. In earlier years, his wife says young girls would stand on their front lawn, yelling for him.
On Saturday, they came from different destinations and generations to Yucaipa High School to acknowledge Stout, who retired as the school’s baseball coach after 41 years. A roster of colleagues, family and former players provided tribute before about 200 well-wishers. Unanimously, each told of Stout’s impact in the community and positive influence on thousands of teenagers and adults.
Long time Stout assistant Andy Calbreath said they have hired a new baseball coach at Yucaipa but there will never be a replacement for Stout. Current San Bernardino Valley College baseball coach Bill Mierzwik told about Stout’s first team in 1976 and how Stout became his father figure after his own father died that year. Former YHS athletic director Jim Taylor described the intensive nationwide hunt that 26-year-old Stout won in 1976 to become the new coach.
Event host Mark Anderson listed Stout’s statistical accomplishments that propelled him into the National High School Coaches Hall of Fame. About his 809-348 won loss record, three CIF championships, seven CIF finals appearances, 19 league titles, and the 120 college and 46 professional players he coached. Anderson introduced inaugural Marty Rouse Award winner Brent Frazier. Rouse was a teammate of Frazier and Mierzwik who was killed by a drunk driver after Stout’s first season. The special award has been presented by Stout for 40 years. About ten Rouse Award winners were in attendance on Saturday.
Former Yucaipa CIF Player of the Year, all-state pick and current Major League Baseball scout Mike Brown confirmed those at the pro level are well aware of Stout-coached players. Brown told Stout that some of his former minor league teammates like George Brett send their congratulations. Brown was a member of two of Stout’s CIF title teams and was the winning pitcher in all five playoff games in 1993.
YHS alum Mike Baker made the longest trip for the tribute after flying in from North Carolina. Baker was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1986 out of Nevada-Reno and was inducted into the YHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010. Matt Berg traveled from Colorado where he is chaplain for the federal prison system. Berg described himself as a role player who Stout treated as good, or sometimes better than his star players. Berg recalled being on the 1990 team that lost in the playoffs, 2-1 to eventual CIF champion San Marino. It would have given Yucaipa a record four CIF titles. YHS and Chaffey are the only county schools to win three CIF championships.
“It did not surprise me at all that Jeff became a successful baseball coach. He was mature as a young kid,” said Joe Gonzales, who was a little league and high school teammate of Stout in La Puente. Gonzales talked at an after-event party at the home of Vic and Cathy Espinosa. “Jeff’s father was a disciplinarian and so was our coach Dick Brown. That’s where Jeff learned,” said Gonzales, a retired sergeant with the LAPD.
Espinosa talked about his three son’s, Alex, Grady and Greg who all played for Stout. How Stout converted Alex from a backup infielder into a starting catcher. Espinosa told of the life-long relationships that have evolved from the Stouts.
Stout’s wife of 46 years, Roberta remembered when the young couple moved to the little town of Yucaipa, a foreign place at the time to those from Los Angeles County. She said it didn’t take long before all the players and cheerleaders knew where they lived and quickly targeted them for pranks. “Our house was open and players were always welcome.”
Daughter, Stacey said as a little girl she wondered what all the boys were doing at their house. She soon became known as Jeff Stout’s daughter and boys asking her for a date became “out of the question.” She eventually got used to sharing her father. Stacey Stout read a statement from her brother, Steve, who just became a father and lives in Colorado. He wrote that as a player on his father’s team, he received no preferential treatment and that his father kept a consistently level personality.
The event included video-taped thank you’s from current pro baseball players and former Stout players Scott Snodgress and Matt Davidson, who sent his tribute from Yankee Stadium. A 20-minute documentary about Stout produced by Debbie Chapman was also featured.
Dave Matuzsak chronicled his 35 years assisting in Stout’s sophisticated system of baseball operations. Similar to Jim Taylor, Matuzsak told of long hours of scouting and travel. He described practices that could last over four hours. Matuszak agreed that their mentor would always listen to advise from his coaches and trusted their judgement.
Tom Shelby assisted Stout for 25 years as his first base coach. Shelby said his previous experience was at Ontario-American Little League. Like Stout’s first assistant Steve Zahniser, there was something Stout noticed about Shelby that could be useful in Yucaipa’s professionally run program. “I wanted to become the best assistant coach that I could be,” said Shelby. “If Jeff Stout said the sky was black, then the sky was black.” Shelby revealed that Stout served as his little league pitching coach.
Tim Padgett played for Stout in 1984 and 1985 as a football and baseball player and was the first of Stout’s father-son teams when Wyatt and Dallin later played for Stout. “Jeff is good at everything he does,” said Padgett. “He never says anything negative about anyone and was never thrown out of one game in 41 years.” Padgett is featured in one of the many folklore stories about Stout. Padgett once donated 10,000 dented cans of dog food for the team to sell, enabling them to pay for an out-of-state tournament.
Former YHS catcher Kevin Cobb told of another Stout fundraiser that included a 50-inning exhibition game that used a pitching machine. Cobb graduated in 1982. His brother, Rocky played at YHS in 1976. “I was already following Yucaipa baseball at ten.” Cobb said when he wears a Yucaipa baseball hat to Dodgers or Angels games there is always someone asking about Jeff Stout.
“I made some bad choices and got into trouble as a sophomore,” said YHS alum Tyrone Hill. “I asked for forgiveness and Jeff Stout stood by me. God knew what he was doing when he made Jeff Stout.” Hill was Yucaipa’s most publicized YHS baseball player when he was the #1 draft pick in 1991 by the Milwaukee Brewers. He became more widely known when his 1992 Topps baseball card was included in that year’s set.
Hill, a 6-foot-6 lefty, led YHS to its first CIF championship. Stout called that 1991 championship game held at Anaheim Stadium probably the highest of achievements. “We’ve had a lot, though.” Stout said the demands of coaching baseball ten months per year have kept he and Roberta from traveling to see friends and family. “This will free me up. I won’t have to worry about being back to the game, but I’ll still be around,” said Stout.