Feb. 8, 2002
By Brian Betz
The Santa Clara
If you build it, they will come. Such a memorable quote now pertains to more than just the movie to which it grew synonymous. This is exactly the feeling that has swept the Bronco Baseball Program since the hiring of new manager Mark O'Brien.
O'Brien was the previous head coach at De Anza College and then was the first base coach at Stanford where he was also responsible for instructing hitters and for recruiting. This is O'Brien's first head coaching job at the division one level and his intensity and desire show through.
The indelible fire behind his dark sunglasses comes with a confidence that Santa Clara Baseball can compete with the nation's elite for years to come. So far, Coach O'Brien's straightforward, determined attitude has been everything that this school could hope for.
"The guys respond very well to Coach O'Brien, were having a lot more fun this year and are very loose, we've really learned to take every game at a time and not to get to high or low, just keep working hard," sophomore John Redmond said.
After the preseason prediction that they would finish sixth in the West Coast Conference, it is clear that the players and the coaching staff have shrugged off such prognostications, which was evident in taking two of three from former No. 11 Bulldogs of Fresno State. This series was crucial for many reasons, firstly it gave the Broncos a boost of confidence and it showed the young strong arms of sophomores Kellan McConnell and Redmond and it paid notice to the top ranked teams in the WCC.
"There is no bitterness to the fact that we were picked to finish second to last in our conference," O'Brien said. "All we need to worry about is going out and doing our job. Beating Fresno State the way we did is a tribute to this team's mental toughness. Our backs were against the wall after Friday's loss, and we really bounced back by taking the next two."
It is clear that the mental toughness O'Brien sees in his team has filtered from his very own desire to win. The success he tasted as assistant coach at Stanford is the same winning tradition that he hopes to bring here.
"I am extremely confident that results will come as this team develops a personality," O'Brien said. "There is definitely an essential process that requires a solid work ethic and a constant energy, day in and day out. If we continue to work hard, results will come."
O'Brien has brought new life to the program. His constant demand for energy and hustle from his players reflects the seriousness of college athletics, as well as his belief that enthusiasm is needed for representing an institution. All he asks from his players is that they give their best efforts every time they step foot onto the diamond.
"Coach's presence has brought a whole new mentality to us players," senior Joe Diefenderfer said. "He has an unbelievable work ethic and intensity about him that sets him apart from other managers. His mental toughness rubs off on the entire team, which makes us confident we will get things done in conference this season."
With an upcoming series against highly ranked Stanford, O'Brien gets a chance to stick it to his old team. However, he'll tell you that there isn't any personal motivation behind wanting to knock off the Cardinal. Anyone who knows him should expect the only satisfaction O'Brien would feel from beating such a powerhouse is to know that his guys beat a quality team.
The confidence he displays has undoubtedly started to rub off onto his players. At the same time, his presence around campus should start to make the entire school confident that good things are on their way. Throughout the rich history of Santa Clara Athletics, no Broncos baseball team has ever made the trip to Omaha, Neb. for the College World Series. Yet under new head coach O' Brien, that should be the direction his program is headed within the next few years.