Hart baseball legend to retire after 2024 season 

Hart High baseball coach Jim Ozella had six former players make the major leagues in 2016. Two of them played in the World Series. Signal file photo
Hart High baseball coach Jim Ozella had six former players make the major leagues in 2016. Two of them played in the World Series. Signal file photo
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The longest-tenured coach in the Santa Clarita Valley will be hanging up the cleats after the 2024 season. 

Hart legend Jim Ozella has been at the helm of the Indians baseball program for 25 years but the skipper announced to the school on Tuesday that 2024 would be his final season. 

“I came to the decision because I thought it was time,” Ozella told The Signal in a phone interview. “I’ve been doing this for 40 years and I still love the game and love coaching. I’ve been teaching since 1983. I still love being in the classroom but it’s time for a new chapter. I’m not sure what it’s going to be. I couldn’t really tell you right now. 

Ozella hadn’t been pondering retirement. The coach has kept the standards high and the traditions alive at Hart, as the program continues to take strides. 

“Retirement hasn’t been in the back of my mind. I just think it’s time. I think it’s time for Hart also, to find someone maybe younger who can take control and be here for a substantial amount of years as well.” 

Ozella has led Hart to over 400 wins, 11 Foothill League titles, and dozens of playoff wins.

The Hart coach has seen hundreds of his players go on to play college baseball and several even reach the majors.  

SCV baseball fans know the Hart Baseball Wall well, honoring big leaguers like Tyler Glasnow, Trevor Bauer, Mike Montgomery and James Shields, who all played for Ozella. 

“It’s been the pleasure of my lifetime,” Ozella added. “The gate has always been open in left field and we’ve had a lot of quality people walk in and make something of themselves. Let’s not kid ourselves, I’m just a part-time administrator of their lives. Their parents are the guiding force and they’ve done a great job.” 

The skipper has always been excited to see his players move on and play at the next level but equally loves seeing them thrive as men. 

“When you deal with this age group for a long time, it’s exciting to see their success and development later on,” Ozella said. “It’s great going to college and pro games and seeing our guys … It’s great to talk to alumni, grown up and now being quality parents, having careers, and they still have passion for Hart baseball.” 

Hart baseball's Coach Jim Ozella gives instructions to the kids from Boys and Girls club Tuesday morning. Hart Baseball collaborated with the Boys and Girls club in efforts to inspire the children who are a part of the organization and giving them a chance to practice with the senior class of Hart High School.  Eddy Martinez/The Signal.
Hart baseball’s Coach Jim Ozella gives instructions to the kids from Boys and Girls club Tuesday morning. Hart Baseball collaborated with the Boys and Girls club in efforts to inspire the children who are a part of the organization and giving them a chance to practice with the senior class of Hart High School. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.

Ozella is still focused on the 2024 season and hopes his announcement won’t turn the players’ focus as well.  

Hart is the midst of a successful offseason where the coach has seen some solid growth from his team. The 2023 Hart baseball squad was the youngest varsity team the skipper had ever coached but they are shaping back into contenders. 

“It’s fun to see the development, improvement and strides being made,” Ozella said. “And it’s not just one group, the younger group is pushing the older group, and the older group is pushing back. The Brayden Jefferis, Troy Coopers and Ryan De La Mazas that have been with us for three to four years, those guys have taken on the leadership roles. I’m proud of those guys. I’m expecting big things from them and they are expecting big things from themselves.” 

Ozella feels the program is in a great spot for whoever takes on his role. The coaches, varsity players and lower levels are all shaping up for strong years and will hope to see their coach off with a bang before he rides off into retirement. 

Santa Clarita Valley baseball fans, coaches and players have referred to the head coach as a wizard or the “John Wooden of high school baseball.” So while his shoes and position will be eventually filled, there will still only be one Jim Ozella, and he’ll likely be around to enjoy the bright future of Hart baseball. 

“I was blessed to come into a program, after Bud Murray and Frank Sanchez, who were very successful,” Ozella said. “I just followed in their footsteps and carried on their tradition. I think whoever takes my job will do the same.” 

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