Tony Tarasco named new head coach

— TEMECULA – Great Oak High School’s athletics department announced Monday, Aug. 22, that they have hired Tony Tarasco as their next head coach for the Wolfpack baseball program. Tarasco will be replacing longtime head coach Eric Morton, who retired from coaching earlier this year after 17 years.

If the name sounds familiar, it should. Tarasco not only played Major League Baseball for nine seasons in the nineties but coached with the Lake Elsinore Storm and in the MLB as recently as 2021 with the New York Mets. The former big leaguer was also given some backdoor TV time recently in ESPN’s “The Captain,” a documentary about Derek Jeter. Tarasco was playing right field in 1996 when then-12-year-old baseball fan Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall and gloved a ball that Jeter had hit against the Orioles in the American League Championship Series. The result in the play, which sparked a lot of media attention, was a homerun.

Tony Tarasco, who was coaching with the New York Mets last season, will be the new head baseball coach at Great Oak High School. Valley News/Courtesy photo

As a player, Tarasco signed with the Atlanta Braves in 1988 after being selected in the 15th round of the MLB Amateur Draft out of Santa Monica High School. He made his Major League debut at 22 years old against the St. Louis Cardinals, in which he recorded a pair of base hits. The California native then went on to play in parts of eight major league seasons with the Braves, Montreal Expos, Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees, and New York Mets.

“I look forward to watching what he does,” Morton, who will still be teaching math at Great Oak, said. “He is a good guy, and he has a great group of guys coming back. I have met with him a bunch already and will be here to help with anything he may need.”

Once he retired from baseball, Tarasco began his coaching career, landing a job in the Washington Nationals organization. He started out as a minor league coordinator before joining the Nationals coaching staff as a first base and outfield coach. In 2015 he was hired by the San Diego Padres and spent most of his time here locally as a manager with the Lake Elsinore Storm, serving as a first base coach and outfield coordinator.

“Coach Tarasco is a member of our local community and knew of the Wolfpack baseball program that Coach Eric Morton built and led for so long,” Great Oak Athletic Director Herschel Ramirez said. “We are very fortunate to have Coach Tarasco reach out to us when the job position was available. It is not every day that you have an opportunity to interview a former major league ballplayer and someone who recently coached professionally at the highest level.”

Great Oak announced the hiring of former MLB player Tony Tarasco as their new head baseball coach Monday, Aug. 22. Valley News/Courtesy photo

With Tarasco taking the reins at Great Oak, three of the current six Southwestern League coaches will be bringing big league experience to the table. Murrieta Valley’s Brynn Wade, formerly of Murrieta Mesa, played in the Angels organization, and Murrieta Mesa’s Mike Wolford, a Hemet graduate and former UCR Highlander, played in the Rockies organization.

“As we met more and more to discuss this head coaching possibility, it became clear that Coach Tarasco approaches everything with detailed intentionality, humble confidence and a contagious enthusiasm for developing young people,” Ramirez said. “It took a while to get to this point but now we are excited for our players to have Coach Tarasco lead the Wolfpack!”

Ramirez also said the Great Oak Athletics Department will formally introduce Coach Tarasco to their student athletes shortly and its parent community in the near future.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.