Eager to take the baseball program to the next level of excellence, Malibu High School announced last week that former Dodger and seven-year Major League veteran Billy Ashley has been hired as the Sharks’ new baseball coach. Ashley replaces Ari Jacobs who resigned at the end of this past season.
Ashley has been the head coach at Westlake High School for the past three years where he guided the Warriors to a 41-39 record and 21-22 in the challenging Marmonte League. Ashley inherits a program that recently finished in fifth place in the Tri-Valley League and missed the CIF playoffs for the first time since 2011.
“I’m very excited. This is a rebirth and a good opportunity for me to jump start a program that has potential to be on top of its league and maybe go further,” Ashley said. “It’s a great opportunity for me and my coaches to develop and bring this program to the forefront. I’m hoping to be that guy that helps lead this team to that promised land of a CIF championship.”
Ashley, 44, brings a wealth of baseball knowledge and experience, having reached the big leagues in 1992. He was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ third round draft pick in 1988 and immediately became an intriguing prospect with his power and home run ability.
He hit 24 homers with the AA San Antonio Missions in 1992, 26 with the AAA Albuquerque Dukes in 1993 and a whopping 37 with the Dukes in 1994 when he was chosen as the Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player and AAA Player of the Year in all of Major League baseball.
Ashley made his Major League debut with the Dodgers on Sept. 1, 1992, at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs. His first big league hit came on Sept. 6 against the Pirates. After being called up sporadically in 1992, 1993 and 1994, Ashley was a fulltime member of the Dodgers’ roster from 1995 through 1997. Due to an injury, Ashley retired at age 31, having hit 28 home runs with 84 RBIs.
“It was a dream come true. I would watch Tigers games on TV and play the game from within the game watching the game. I wanted to play Major League baseball. That was my goal. I didn’t deviate away from it one iota,” said Ashley, who was born in Michigan, just outside of Detroit. “I played every year from four years old to 31 when I was done. When I got there and played in Wrigley, it was awesome. I fulfilled a goal and an achievement beyond the dreams of many kids. I got to live it.”
Ashley’s work ethic is second to none. Known for his daily 6 a.m. workouts in high school, hitting soft baseballs until the bell rang, Ashley prides himself and his program on strength and conditioning.
“It wasn’t enough for me to be just a baseball player. I wanted to be great at an early age. I prided myself on my work ethic,” he said. “I am going to Malibu to institute a new method of coaching that is steep in hard work, conditioning, weightlifting and building strength, and executing the fundamentals of the game. There is no reason why we can’t do that here at Malibu.”
Ashley will emphasize hard work, focus, aptitude, mental strength and making in-game adjustments as a basis for a successful program. The Sharks return a majority of young, talented players.
“I’m an open book for them. Most coaches teach the game of baseball and how to play the game. I will do that and add all the idiosyncrasies that make you better at every level you can possibly think of,” Ashley said. “They are not going to be just good baseball players, but smart baseball players. Aptitude is huge for me. The guys who do get it and who work hard are the ones who will be out there performing. I expect them to demand more out of themselves than what I demand out of them.”
Ashley played under legendary manager Tommy Lasorda and led the Dodgers in starts in left field with 69 in 1995. He was the opening day left fielder in 1995 and 1996 playing alongside Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi and Hideo Nomo, to name a few. The Dodgers won the National League West Division in 1995.
“Tommy Lasorda would always say, ‘You guys have to always be on the same side of the rope. You can’t be pulling against the rope. You play for the name on the front of your jersey and not the back,’” Ashley said. “That’s all true. In order to be successful, you can’t do it alone. If you don’t win as a team, you can’t be the best.”
After winning league titles in 2013 and 2014, Malibu ended this past season with an 11-14 record. Restoring the winning tradition will be a priority for Ashley.
“My expectations are to do well,” said Ashley. “I’m not saying it will be an easy road, but if everyone is on board, we will get to where we want to be a lot sooner than later.”