During his days as a member of the Palo Alto High baseball team, Pete Fukuhara never made it to a Central Coast Section championship game.
The Vikings came close once, in 1994. That was Fukuhara's senior year. Paly won its first two games in the Division II playoffs before losing to Terra Nova, 5-2, in the semifinals. The Tigers went on to lose to Sequoia in the finals.
"The new AD, Jason, and I went to school together and I played football with him," said Fukuhara. "My baseball coach at Paly, Tony Brewer (who co-coached with Mark Ginanni), said he'd help out. It was a package deal. He was in my wedding and he's one of my best friends. I wouldn't have done it without him.
"I'm definitely excited about coming back. I was born and raised here."
Fukuhara, 38, comes to Paly after spending the past five years as an assistant varsity baseball at St. Francis, where the Lancers sent more than 20 players to Division I colleges.
"Coach (Mike) Oakland is a fantastic coach," Fukuhara said. "I learned a lot over there . . . he definitely helped me become a better coach."
Fukuhara said he didn't have any thoughts of leaving St. Francis, where he was very content. But, when Erick Raich left Paly after five successful years, "it just seemed like the timing was right," Fukuhara said.
Fukuhara and his wife, fellow Paly grad Julie Stern, have moved from Mountain View and are living once again in Palo Alto in their old neighborhood -- only a short drive to school.
After graduating from Paly in 1994, Fukuhara was picked by the Houston Astros in the 74th round of the 1995 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He passed on the pros and instead played at Canada College, where he earned All-American honors and was named the JC State Player of the Year after batting .451 with 14 homers. He led the Golden Gate Conference in hits, runs, doubles, stolen bases and home runs.
Fukuhara then played two seasons at Cal State Fullerton, batting .320 in 1997 with 57 hits and 32 RBI and .383 in '98 with 54 hits and 47 RBI.
Fukuhara moved on and signed with the Chicago Cubs. He played three seasons in the minor leagues, where he averaged .269 with 16 homers, 94 RBI and 199 hits.
He takes over a Paly program that saw great success under Raich, who left to take over the baseball program at De Anza College.
Raich's final season, however, was his least successful as the Vikings went 16-15 and lost in the first round of the CCS Open Division. Raich did lead Paly to a section title in 2011, its first CCS crown and the first section crown since 1927 when the Vikings won the North Coast Section title.
Now it's up to Fukuhara, and Brewer, to keep the program running successfully and, perhaps, get the Vikings back to a section championship game.