Meza returns home to Hart baseball 

Photo courtesy of Brad Meza.

Hart alumnus Brad Meza has made his way back home. 

Meza was announced as the Hart baseball coach on May 20, three days after the team won the Division 2 CIF championship in skipper Jim Ozella’s final game. 

The former Indians catcher rejoins Hart after three years at Valencia but had no intentions of returning to Newhall a few months ago. 

“It’s something that I can’t say I’ve wanted for a long time because I was very happy with the way things were going at Valencia,” Meza said. “The program, the people, everything was great. An opportunity arose. My wife works at Hart, it’s a family thing … It’s been a blast man, being around the yard, we are trying to fix things up, trying to change things up. It’s tough to explain, it leaves me speechless sometimes. I’m the new head coach at Hart High School.” 

Although Meza returns to his alma mater, it’ll be a very new landscape for Hart baseball. 

Meza will be the inaugural coach for the newly rebranded Hart Hawks, while the team — as well as all sports — will compete in the new playoff format, where divisions are decided at the completion of the regular season.  

“I always say new is exciting,” the coach said. “It’s better at times and at other times, has its challenges. I’m super excited, hoping to make a name for the Hawks, but at the end of the day, we will always just be Hart High School.” 

The Hart alum will be the program’s third coach in 50 years, something that encouraged his tough decision to apply and leave a thriving program at Valencia. 

“One hundred percent, a difficult decision, call me a liar or whatnot,” Meza said. “People have thought for years that there was always a chance that I would be going back to Hart and it kept me up because I was building something good. I had a good group of seniors this year at Valencia, had a good group, and everything was kind of falling into place the way that I wanted it to … I’m looking to start a family here soon, hopefully have some kids running around the high school and that was something that we had talked about. Obviously, that’s years away but with my luck, if I didn’t take the opportunity, they were going to hire somebody who was going to come in and be there for 25 or more years, and this was my only shot.”  

“So 100% it was the most difficult decision I ever made because I really did enjoy my time and what I was building over at Valencia. But ultimately, I think it’s gonna be a good move, and I think it’s gonna be beneficial in the long run.” 

As new as things will be at Hart, Meza knows some things can’t change. The coach confirmed the program will be retaining Hart assistant coaches, Bob Keown, Rich Hernandez and Matt Elser, who all coached Meza in his playing days.  

“They are Hart baseball lifers, and I am super stoked to now coach alongside them again,” Meza said. “It’s really come full circle for me. I’ve just seen coaches that taught me as a young kid, and then a young coach. Now being able to come back and have them on staff with me, they’re coaches coaching coaches, they’re still teaching me.” 

Meza will in fact be bringing in some of his top assistants from Valencia, as his brother, Ricky Meza, father, Pat Meza, assistant Mitch Graff and Jake Sandoval will all trade in their purple and gold for the red and black. 

The new coach has learned for over a decade under Ozella. Whether it was as a player, assistant or even rival coach, Meza constantly sought out and took in Ozella’s advice. Although he is one of the many to have coached under Ozella, Meza is still his own coach with his own style. 

“I’ve got the chance to go out, branch out and be my own person, be my own head coach, adapt to my style and the way that I like things to be,” Meza said. “Certain things are very different than coach Ozella, but a lot of what I know has come from him. I played for him for four years. I coached for him for four years. That’s eight years of baseball, and obviously three years talking to him on the phone and asking questions. It’s over 10 years of his knowledge.” 

Meza is already hard at work with the Hawks and leading the team through summer ball. The coach knows the importance of playing for the name on the front of the jersey, and has seen the same sentiment from his players so far. 

“These guys understand the fact that they’re not just playing for themselves,” Meza said. “They’re not just playing for the class of 2025, they’re playing for the class of 1945, 1955, 1965. They understand that there’s a reputation and a legacy to protect. They understand that there’s people coming in from all walks of life and all age groups coming in to watch them play.” 

Meza was proud of everything he built in his three-year tenure at Valencia. The Vikings made the playoffs in all three seasons, won the Foothill League in 2023 and were one win away from the CIF semifinals in 2022. 

“I think I did my job at Valencia,” Meza said. “I’ve always said that I want to leave whatever program I’m at better than what I found it. I think I did that.” 
Valencia has already promoted top assistant coach Tim Pennell to head coach and Meza couldn’t be happier for his former colleague turned rival.  

“I’ve gotten to know Tim Pinnell the last three years, both as a coach and on a personal level, and I could not be more happy for him,” Meza said. “He’s the right guy for the job. Obviously, there were some great candidates for that job. The kids love and respect him. He’s been a part of the program, cares about the program. He’s seen it through its ups and downs over the last few years. I’m super excited to see where he’s going to take that program.” 

The two will go head-to-head in 2025 and once again open up league play against one another. The notorious Foothill League matchup has seen games go into extra innings for four straight years. Meza knows the upcoming season will be no different, as regardless of who’s calling the shots, the Valencia and Hart players will be gunning for bragging rights as well as the Foothill League title. 

“I have no doubt that there’s going to be another tight race this year,” Meza said. “It’ll be another good opening league series. It’s going to be pretty cool to see those guys across the field, coaches, players that I’ve coached up for the last three years.” 

Meza is thrilled to be back in the black and red. The skipper has already led Hart to the Foothill League title as a player and assistant but will now seek out his first as the Hawks head coach. 

“It’s a treat. Who doesn’t want to go home and coach their alma mater?” Meza said. “Who  doesn’t want to be good at their alma mater? There’s days where I sit at the yard, all the players are gone and I’m just sitting there being my brother. I look at him and I go, ‘Can you believe this? It really is unbelievable.’ Then you have to bring yourself back to reality. We’ve got a job to do. We’ve got a legacy to protect.” 

Meza and Hawks baseball are set to officially debut in February 2025. 

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