As a former minor league catcher, Dominic Campeau knows how to give signs.
Eighteen years ago, he caught Eric Gagne before his hat became as filthy as his pitches. The two played on the Canadian national team. It didn't take long for Campeau to realize why the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Gagne as an amateur free agent that summer in 1995.
"He was throwing gas as a 19-year-old," Campeau said.
Once Gagne made the big league team, Campeau said Gagne invited him to Los Angeles often to watch him pitch.
Campeau is back in Southern California and it has nothing to do with Gagne.
Gagne, the 2003 Cy Young Award winner, has been out of the major leagues for five seasons. Campeau is still involved with the game of baseball, giving signs to high school players.
Campeau is the new baseball coach at Sage Hill School. He replaces Danny Gonzales, who stepped down after three seasons in charge of the Lightning.
Campeau said Gonzales plans to return to the program as an assistant. The two are switching roles after Campeau joined Gonzales' staff as an assistant last season.
"Danny wants to focus on getting a teaching job in California," said Campeau, who found himself in a similar situation last summer.
To know how badly Campeau wanted to teach in California, the number of schools he applied to says it all. Three-hundred schools heard from Campeau.
Only one school called Campeau with an opportunity. One school is all it took for him to leave Florida because teaching in the Sunshine State turned dark for Campeau.
"Financially it didn't make sense," said Campeau, who also needed to relocate to Southern California for another reason. "I was in a long-distance relationship. My girlfriend lived here and I was in Florida. I came to visit her last year and we were in San Diego when [Sage Hill] contacted me about a teaching job."
The rest is history as Sage Hill hired Campeau to teach history.
As for that girlfriend, she's still around. Campeau said he and Lora Carreon are engaged.
She teaches as well, working as a professor at Cerritos College. The two live in Orange with Campeau's son, Dominic Campeau Jr.
Like his father, the young Campeau is a catcher. He played varsity at El Modena High last season as a freshman and hit around .400.
While Campeau got Carreon to say yes when he proposed to her, his attempt of having his son come to Sage Hill to play for him wasn't as successful.
"I tried," Campeau said, "but he said, 'Dad, I'm happy at El Modena.'"
Campeau tried to find a replacement for Ryan Fishel behind home plate. Sage Hill lost a standout catcher in Fishel.
Last season as a senior, Fishel hit .400, finished with a .556 on-base percentage, drove in 13 runs, walked 18 times and swiped 11 of 12 bases. He earned Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team and first-team All-Academy League honors.
Despite losing Fishel, Sage Hill expects to return most of its roster from last season. Only a couple of players graduated off a team that reached the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs for the second straight season, finished 13-7 overall and placed third in league.
Campeau believes Sage Hill is primed to contend for a league title, the program's first since the 2009 season. Players who Campeau is counting on to lead the Lightning are first baseman Conner Bock, who hit .438 with 27 runs batted in as a freshman last season, and utility player Kellen Ochi, who hit .306 and went 4-3 as a sophomore, and incoming junior pitcher Parker Reposa, the staff's ace.
"This is going to be the first time that I've been an on-campus head coach on the high school level," said the 40-year-old Campeau, who has coached high school baseball for 15 years, mostly in Florida. "I know how hard it is not to be with these kids. Being here will only help us."