June 26, 2003
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Although a record that is five games above .500 is considered just above average, that marginal description would be an injustice for a coach who reached that mark in only his second year after taking over a program that had not posted a winning season in nearly seven years.
Santa Clara skipper Mark O'Brien took over the Bronco Baseball program in 2002 and has turned around a program that is rich in tradition but had struggled in its recent history. During his two years on the Mission Campus, O'Brien has posted 57 wins with players who were mostly inherited from the previous regime. In only his second year O'Brien guided the Broncos to a 31-26 overall record and a 21-9 mark in West Coast Conference play, finishing just two games behind Pepperdine for the Coast Division title.
O'Brien notched his historic 50th win on April 29 at No. 2 Stanford when the Broncos shutout the eventual national runners-up by a score of 2-0. The win made the San Jose native only the third coach in Santa Clara's 120 years of baseball history to reach 50 wins in only their second season.
With only his second season just recently complete O'Brien has already accomplished much in his time at SCU. But he has his sights set on bigger and better things.
"I am extremely excited about the direction that this program is headed in," said O'Brien. "I think that if we continue to filter in the right kind of players through this program that we could have something very special here at Santa Clara. We have a talented group of players who are returning and a very skilled group of incoming players who should make us very competitive on the national level. There is truly something very unique happening here and I am excited that I will be here to help make it happen."
Through his first two years at the helm of the program O'Brien has produced three All-Americans, one conference player of the year and eight all-WCC honorees. He has seen eight of his players sign professional contracts over the last two years, including six seniors off the 2003 squad.
"Having six of our seniors drafted from this year's squad was really a great thing for me personally and for all of the coaches on the staff," said O'Brien. "That group of guys really worked hard and they were rewarded for it at the end of their collegiate careers. They can hold their heads up high and say that they helped get the program going in the right direction."
O'Brien, who at 33 is one of the youngest coaches in the nation, came to Santa Clara after spending three years as an assistant coach at Stanford. During those three seasons Stanford qualified for the College World Series, taking home a third place finish in 1999 and back-to-back national runners-up in '00 and '01. O'Brien's infield led the nation in 2001 with a .977 fielding percentage and was among the top-five in the nation in '99 and '00.
O'Brien has an impressive resume, having served as the head coach at DeAnza Junior College in 1998 and spending four seasons as an assistant coach at Cal Poly in addition to his last three years at Stanford.
O'Brien was a critical component to the recruiting efforts at Stanford. The recruited class in 2001 was ranked No. 1 while the classes in '99 and '00 were ranked in the top-10. His talents of recruiting can be traced back even to his earlier days at DeAnza and Cal Poly. At DeAnza O'Brien was able to recruit 12 local high school seniors within a two-week period, while helping all nine sophomores already on the team continue on to four-year institutions. While at Cal Poly O'Brien assisted in recruiting three-straight classes that were ranked in the top-40 by Collegiate Baseball.
In his one season at DeAnza, O'Brien led the Dons to a third-place finish in the Coast Conference. At Cal Poly, he served as recruiting coordinator, academic advisor and third base coach, as well as hitting and infield instructor. During the summers of 1996 and 1997, O'Brien served as head coach of the Anchorage Bucs in the Alaska Summer League. He led the Bucs to a 68-40 record and a league championship in 1996 while coaching four eventual first-round draft picks (Matt Ginter, Danny Peoples, Mark Redman, Alvie Shepard).
Throughout his six-year coaching career O'Brien has helped over 45 players advance on to professional baseball, including seven first-round draft picks. O'Brien's list of first rounders includes Joe Borchard, Justin Wayne, Jason Young, and the four players from the Anchorage Bucs. He also coached the '99 minor league player of the year and current Oakland A's outfielder Adam Piatt.
Other notable players that O'Brien has coached at some critical point of their career include current Kansas City Royals player Tony Cogan, three-time all-American and Stanford's all-time leading hitter John Gall, three-time all-American and all-time Pac-10 leader in runs batted in Andrew Beinbrink, Santa Clara All-American Bill Mott, and the NCAA all-time career saves leader Jack Krawczyk.