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CLASS ACT: Culver City High School girls softball coach John Sargent honors Santa Monica High coach Debbie Skaggs Thursday before the two teams took the field in the season finale. Skaggs is retiring after 24 seasons with the Vikings. She helped her team finish the season with a perfect 10-0 league record and a birth in the playoffs. The final score was 16-0 with Celisha Walker pitching a no-hitter, allowing only one walk. (photo by Wendy Perl/perlphoto.com)

SAMOHI — Retirement from coaching didn’t last too long for Debbie Skaggs.

The former long-time Santa Monica High School head coach has decided to return to the softball team after taking a one-year break.

“We’re excited to have her back as our coach again,” Athletic Director Daniel Escalera said. “Having her back in the fold is wonderful, it’s outstanding.”

Skaggs returns to a team that she led to its first CIF-Southern Section title in the sport to cap her last year as coach in 2010. After 24 years of leading the team she cited her desire to follow her son, Tyler Skaggs, a prospect in the Arizona Diamond Backs organization, as motivation for leaving the team. Tyler Skaggs has emerged as one of the top pitching prospects in all of Major League Baseball and Debbie Skaggs has returned to her new/old position.

“I’m either stupid or crazy,” she said jokingly. “There are things that I love about coaching, and things that I don’t, but I felt that I could help the girls be better players and people.

“That’s important to me.”

Skaggs continued to teach at the school, but handed the reins of the team to former junior varsity coach and Samohi alumna Marybell Moreno. Moreno was successful in keeping Samohi’s impressive string of Ocean League titles and playoff appearances alive in Skaggs’ absence.

Staying with the school was strained for Moreno this summer as she has dealt with her mother’s failing health and the prospect of a better job at the aerospace company she works for.

Deciding it was in the best interest of the school, Moreno stepped down in August, paving the way for Skaggs’ return to the dugout.

The news was a pleasant surprise for at least one member of the softball team.

Kelly Ricard, the team’s catcher who was a starter on the ‘10 CIF-SS title team, is stoked to have her former coach return.

“We’re going back to the roots of the program,” Ricard said, “back to a winning mentality.”

Ricard said that Skaggs wasted little time in getting after her players on her first day back at practice. As soon as Skaggs hit the field, she was pushing players, hoping to win another regional title in the process.

The decision to bring Skaggs back was simple for Escalera.

After interviewing five candidates, he had little hesitation in going with Skaggs.

“There’s no way around it, she has tremendous experience,” he said. “More than anything else, it’s Debbie Skaggs. It’s her program, she built it.”

Escalera said that the only thing he has to do is “get out of her way.”

Skaggs even comes complete with a co-head coach, her husband Dan Ramos. He had served as her assistant for a number of years, but Skaggs said that their relationship was always that of co-coaches. John Heavens will also return as a package deal. All three retired following the championship season.

The only marching orders Escalera has given her is to continue Samohi’s dominance of the Ocean League.

“We’ll pick it up from there and go on,” he said. “Debbie has some very high standards.”

The only significant change to the program will be the loss of the team’s field on campus. It is slated to be replaced by a science building as part of an overall Samohi redevelopment.

The team will play at Memorial Park for the next few years. As part of the campus overhaul, a new softball field is planned, which will sit above a subterranean parking structure.

Escalera said that it isn’t clear exactly where on campus it will be located, but that it is in the cards.

Now that Skaggs is back at the helm the only thing she can think about is putting in work.

“We have to focus on the fundamentals,” she said. “We have to get after it.”

daniela@www.smdp.com

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