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Coach, 50, passes away

Former Hoover baseball coach who touched many lives is found dead in his home.

May 06, 2009|By Grant Gordon

GLENDALE — Longtime former Hoover High baseball Coach and former Burbank resident Jim Delzell, who had just stepped down from his position less than a year ago, died in his sleep Saturday morning at the age of 50.

Paramedics responded to a call from his wife, Karen, at the Delzells’ Tujunga residence, where he was pro- nounced dead at 6:45 a.m., according to the Los Angeles County Dept. of Coroner’s office. A cause of death has yet to been determined.

“Nobody saw this coming,” said Troy Jemjemian, who played at Hoover under Delzell and then coached with him for three seasons, as well. “He’s probably one of the greatest people I’ve ever met. He was a mentor to me when I was a player and he was a mentor to me as a coach.”

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Delzell had coached Hoover for 15 seasons until stepping down after the 2008 campaign. He had also coached as an assistant three prior years in the program and was an assistant football coach. Despite leaving his baseball post, he had remained at Hoover as a physical education teacher.

“All the students loved him,” said Hoover Athletic Director Jack Van Patten, a longtime colleague and friend of Delzell’s. “He could always tell good stories.

“I’ve known him for a long time, after a certain point, you lose count of the years. ...He was a friend.”

Van Patten added that grief counseling for students will be available at Hoover when school resumes today.

Although the Hoover’s baseball team has resumed Pacific League play, likely the Tornadoes have done so with heavy hearts. Many of the current baseball players were coached by Delzell and his son Tyler, a junior, is on the team.

Delzell’s close relationships and ability to identify with his players were a hallmark of his coaching tenure.

“He was like a second father for all of us,” Jemjemian said.

One of the many players Delzell coached was Tito Cruz, his successor as the current Tornadoes coach.

“It’s just crazy, [especially] after just seeing him [Friday],” said Cruz, who played for two seasons at Hoover before moving on to Long Beach State and eventually returning for a season to assist Delzell before being hired as the head coach last summer. “Delzell made [playing baseball at Hoover] a lot of fun.

“I think the kids made him feel young at heart.

“It was easy for him to relate with the kids.”

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