The Santa Monica High School baseball team is welcoming its third head coach in four seasons, another transition for a program that has been the subject of several controversies in recent years.
The Santa Monica-Malibu school district has selected Adam Klein to take the helm of the Vikings, who will enter their spring season with hopes of making the CIF Southern Section playoffs after missing the postseason last school year.
Klein, who fills the vacancy left by Loren Drake, arrives with coaching experience at the high school and college levels. He has recently held head baseball coaching positions at Crossroads School in Santa Monica and Brentwood School in West L.A., previously serving as an assistant coach at L.A. Pierce College in Woodland Hills.
Klein attended Pierce College and later enrolled at Cal State Los Angeles, where he studied psychology while playing baseball for the Golden Eagles. He then played in the minor leagues in the Oakland Athletics organization, leading the Arizona Rookie League in stolen bases, on-base percentage and runs scored. He also played for a few seasons for the SouthShore RailCats in Gary, Indiana.
“Coach Klein has a well-rounded background of playing and coaching experience,” Samohi athletic director Tim Ballaret said in a statement. “He also had a very organized approach to how he plans take over the team that will unfold over time.”
Over the last five years, Klein has worked as a part-time life skills teacher for Angels at Risk, a substance-abuse treatment program for teenagers and their families.
Klein will be tasked with taking the reins of a program whose reputation has been punctured by national infamy, contested hiring policies and student behavior issues.
Kurt Schwengel was canned in 2014 after two successful campaigns, the second of which was pockmarked by his protest of an opponent’s illegal use of Wiffle balls during pregame batting practice. The protest, which allowed his team to advance in the playoffs, received widespread media attention.
When Schwengel was replaced amid community backlash, district officials said the selection of Drake fit with with the school’s desire to have coaches who work on campus. Drake has served as a science teacher at the high school, while Schwengel works as a kindergarten teacher at an SMMUSD elementary school.
Klein has been hired only as a coach and will not work full-time on campus.
It’s the district’s general practice to accept coaching applications from within and beyond the school site and district, according to district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker, and the school site has discretion in its hiring process. She added that “past practices do not dictate future decisions.”
During Drake’s tenure this past spring, when the Vikings went 14-14 overall and 5-5 in the Ocean League, a few members of the baseball team were sent home from a tournament in the San Diego area for a “student behavior issue,” officials said. Drake handled the matter, Pinsker said.
Klein and Samohi are moving forward without a graduated senior class that included Jaylon McLaughlin and Lowell Schipper, both of whom are continuing their careers at the college level. McLaughlin has joined the Nevada program, while Schipper is on the roster at Richmond.