Gila Ridge names James Kuzniak head baseball coach

YUMA, Ariz. - Gila Ridge High School has named James Kuzniak as its head varsity baseball coach.

Kuzniak, who was approved by the Yuma Union High School District (YUHSD) Board of Governors on Wednesday, replaces veteran head coach Greg Osowski, becoming the baseball program’s second head coach since Gila Ridge opened in 2007. 

“James has experience in baseball on a number of different levels,” Gila Ridge principal Shawn Wehrer said. “He’s been on our campus for several years and worked well with our kids. Most recently, he’s been a varsity assistant for baseball and girls basketball and has been the head coach of our boys golf team. So, he’s a fit. I’m confident he will keep our baseball program at the level it has been and help it rise to the next level in the future.”

In a decade under Osowski, who announced his retirement following the 2017 season, the Hawks made five postseason appearances, including a trip to the state semifinals. Kuzniak served as an assistant coach on Osowski’s staff for six seasons.

“I am very honored and excited to be named to this position,” Kuzniak said. “It has always been a goal of mine to follow in Coach Osowski’s footsteps. Working alongside Osowski, John Stratton at AWC and countless other professional managers I have always prided myself on being a student of the game, and I intend to teach not only the game of baseball, but the process necessary to be a successful person.”

Gila Ridge posted a record of 11-15-1 last season, but ended the year with wins in six of its final seven games. They return 10 varsity players from a year ago, including starters Andres Cota, Ramces Urias, and Ryan Hoskins.

“Wins and losses will not dictate my success,” Kuzniak added. “The way the players carry themselves on and off the field will be my ultimate measure of success. I’m excited and ready to hit the ground running. We have a great group of returning talent with an influx of talented younger players as well.”

Kuzniak, who moved to Yuma from Okinawa, Japan in 2001, played two varsity seasons for Kubasaki High School in Japan before attending Cibola High School. A left-handed pitcher, he compiled a 12-1 record in two years, and helped lead the Raiders to a historical 30-3 season as a senior. Kuzniak was a high school teammate of current Cibola High School baseball coach Larsen Jones.

Prior to coaching at Gila Ridge, Kuzniak spent four seasons with Arizona Western College as an assistant and has also worked as an Arizona Diamondbacks Academy coach since 2016. He played independent professional baseball for seven years, including three years with the Yuma Scorpions and one year with the Cimarones de Tijuana of the now defunct Golden Baseball League, and multiple other stops throughout Arizona, Texas, and Mexico.

Kuzniak’s hiring also marks the first time in YUHSD history that all five baseball programs have head coaches who played at District schools. Kuzniak and Jones attended Cibola, Yuma High School’s Nick Johnson and San Luis High School’s Cesar Castillo attended Yuma High, and Kofa High School’s Richy Leon is coaching at his alma mater.

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