Petaluma Pride: Veteran coach was hometown star who stayed to build Trojans’ powerhouse


Coach Kurt Jastrow runs drills during softball practice at Petaluma High School on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 in Petaluma, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Coach Kurt Jastrow runs drills during softball practice at Petaluma High School on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 in Petaluma, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Success has never pushed Petaluma High softball coach Kurt Jastrow to leave for greener coaching pastures.

There’s never been an itch for Jastrow, a 1970 Trojan graduate, to jump from his hometown or the same childhood home he’s lived in for 50-plus years. He loves Petaluma too much to do that.

“I’m a Petaluma guy. I will never coach at another high school,” said Jastrow, whose 2013 team starts the North Coast Section postseason softball tournament today as the No. 1 seed in Division 2. “I feel like it’s home. Like it’s my place. I grew up in my town since I was 8 years old.”

Fourteen seasons, four Division II North Coast Section titles, two second-place section final appearances and job offers from local community colleges have never swayed him away from the southern Sonoma County town.

“I don’t change much,” Jastrow said. “I don’t move around or do too much. I just love Petaluma — great people and a great town.”

Some may call him old-fashioned, but this former baseball prospect turned-softball player/coach shares a loyalty to the underhand game and his hometown that is unique. He started sporting Petaluma purple while Lyndon B. Johnson was in office.

Jastrow was a three-sport athlete for the Trojans from 1967-70. He played second base for the Petaluma Leghorns American Legion baseball team after graduation. While preparing for a tryout with the Cincinnati Reds in a summer camp, Jastrow tore his ACL.

“My career was over in baseball,” he said. “My dreams were shot.”

A year after the injury, Jastrow returned to the diamond — the fast-pitch softball diamond to be exact — and played a step below the “open” or top level of competition. The knee, unfortunately, only allowed him to play three to four more years.

“I just didn’t have the speed anymore because of the injury,” he said. “But that didn’t stop me from watching when I could.”

Jastrow soaked up every inch of the game when he played though, and always kept an eager eye when he didn’t. Then in 1998, Jastrow got a call from then-Trojans softball coach Mike Thomas to be an assistant coach. Thomas had known Jastrow played softball in the past.

“I’d always wanted to coach at the high school,” Jastrow said. “And when the opportunity came up to coach the girls’ softball team, I said, ‘Why not?’ I wanted to build a program.”

Though Jastrow didn’t get that chance off the bat, he eventually took over Petaluma softball when Thomas retired after the 2001 season.

It’s safe to say Jastrow has a good thing going on in his hometown since he took charge. He’s never felt the need to go “searching” for a better talent pool outside of town because he feels like the players he needs to win are within his reach.

“I always felt when I started coaching, I was always told to stay in our area,” he said. “Looking at the kids we were getting, I always believed we could go to the East Bay and make our marks.”

Jastrow’s championship teams have often played and taken down teams from the Bay Area, which is known as an area ripe with some the best athletic talent in the state. Credit the success to his hunger to play the best so the Trojans can be the best.

“I like to win, but it’s the competition,” he said. “I felt the kids ‘over here’ are good enough to compete with the kids ‘over there.’”

St. Vincent de Paul softball coach Don Jensen — a close friend of Jastrow — said his Petaluma counterpart helped take North Bay softball teams to the next level by being the first to play outside Sonoma County lines.

“He was always about the idea that you get better by playing teams outside the Redwood Empire,” Jensen said. “He had a hard time trying to get those teams to play him. He said, ‘You don’t have to come to me. I’ll come to you.’”

That’s what Jensen feels will be Jastrow’s lasting legacy.

“He stepped up the game in the North Bay, and that’s what I think makes him one of the elite coaches up here,” Jensen said.

Jastrow’s athletes have gone on to play for college teams across the country, including NCAA Division I Arizona. He’s always felt that girls can play.

“Girls can really play this game,” he said. “That’s the way I try to teach them. Play like the men play. Play quick.”

Jastrow strives to teach his athletes “small ball,” or a chess match of sorts on the diamond. The strategy involves trying to score runs without the need of a powerful extra-base hits, often using sacrifices, walks and good base running — like stealing bases — to move runners to the next base. He believes a grind-it-out, one or two-run battle is a true softball game. “I want competition. I want a match-up,” Jastrow said. “I want to see how good we can be. That’s been my whole philosophy.”

To add to his Petaluma passion, Jastrow accepted a job as a campus supervisor at Petaluma High in 2005. He retired from a 30-year career at Lucky’s grocery stores in Sonoma County the same year. “I said, ‘I went to school there, why not work there?’”

The banners he’s earned since that time show the side gig hasn’t distracted Jastrow from his ultimate goal.

“Until I retire, I’m going to find the best teams we can and see what we can do,” he said.

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