By Darby Brown-Kuhn
George Arnott’s love for baseball is so profound he married his sweetheart on the Santa Cruz High School baseball field. He later coached the team there and spent $3,000 of his own money to repair the dilapidated field.
A former Cabrillo player drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1997, Arnott ended up in the center of a heated controversy. His high school contract wasn’t renewed after he used mild profanities and wrote a letter asking parents to mind their own business and let him coach the team.
Fervent supporters packed school board meetings and begged board members to keep him, but the pleas fell on deaf ears.
Santa Cruz’s loss is Cabrillo’s gain. Arnott, 36, is now the Cabrillo Seahawks’ strength and conditioning coach. The hiring not only reunites Arnott with the baseball program for which he once played; he also rejoins one of his mentors, head coach Bob Kittle.
“It’s been very exciting for me having George back on the staff,” Kittle said. “We are very lucky to have him back, and adding his strength-and-conditioning component to our program has been the high of the return.”
Arnott’s goal is to raise players’ performance and durability by training them in the weight room, a must for athletes.
“I operate under the mindset that we need to build strength in the chest, back, biceps, triceps and legs,” Arnott said in a clubhouse interview. “We do simple compound movements with all those muscle groups, and so my goal is to build a foundation where we’ll take two exercises per group and really focus on getting those muscles as strong as we possibly can during the season.”
Along with the change in scenery, other aspects of college coaching are new for Arnott, including the increased amount of time dedicated to coaching compared to high school. Cabrillo’s practices start in September; the season begins in late January and ends in May. Local high schools, by comparison, start playing in February and end in May, earlier than Cabrillo.
As an assistant volunteer coach, Arnott focuses on practice and coaching players without being involved in other duties.
“In the high school level, you are in charge of field maintenance. You’re in charge of all the scheduling, all the things that take a lot of time,” said Arnott, “The actual practice time is a little less significant than it is here at this level.”
While Arnott’s tenure at Santa Cruz was short, he got a taste of working as a head coach. As his career has progressed from his playing days, Arnott’s perspective on the game has changed.
“As a coach, you look at the bigger picture and see things that players necessarily are not going to like to hear or do, but there are decisions that are being made based on what’s happening on the field,” he said.
One such decision was made Tuesday during Cabrillo’s 3-2 win at host Cañada College. A player was struggling offensively, so Arnott and Kittle talked with the rest of the staff and decided to pinch-hit for the player. The gamble was successful: the pinch-hitter drove in the deciding run. Arnott said he wouldn’t have made that move as a younger coach.
“I would have left him in and let him hit,” he said. “As I’ve gotten older, I know there are some times where you have to make that decision. It’s a tough call, but those are the decisions you have to make because it’s going to benefit the team.”
Arnott is content returning as an assistant coach, he said, and does not see himself taking over a program in the future.
“I have no desire to become a head coach at the junior college or college level,” he said.