The best managers in Bay Area baseball history? Bill Rigney, Dick Williams, Tony LaRussa, Dusty Baker, Mark Marquess…
Mark Marquess is "The Quiet Man" of college baseball. Like the John Wayne character in John Ford’s classic of the same name, Marquess does not say much. He does not have to.
Marquess, of course, is not actually a manager like the aforementioned big league skippers. The coach of the Stanford Cardinal is in charge of a program that produces pitchers like iron ore out of the Caucasus. Jack McDowell apprenticed on The Farm. So did Mike Mussina. That was back in 1987-88, when the Cardinal broke out of the pack and emerged as the elite program in the country, winning back-to-back College World Series.
When Marquess, who played on Stanford’s 1969 CWS team with catcher Bob Boone, took over in 1977, Southern Cal dominated the scene. Marquess could not be more different than USCs legendary coach of that era, Rod Dedeaux. Where Dedeaux was gregarious, loose, a wiseacre, Marquess is vanilla.
"You have to coach to your personality," says Marquess, "and be who you are. I'm different off the field and when I recruit, so I wear two hats. Our practices are very serious, organized and disciplined. Most of our players aspire to play professionally and want it that way."
That approach works just fine down on The Farm, thank you. The rise of Stanford has coincided with the rise of college baseball as big business. Sunken Diamond is a sweet little "secret," offering high-quality baseball. Hey guys, there is also lot of "talent" down there, and it is not all wearing spikes, if you catch my drift.
"There's a big retirement community down here," explains Marquess, "and they love baseball. Plus, a lot of young families take their kids here. It's safe and grassy, kids can't get lost, and there's plenty of parking."
The Cardinal played their final home series of the year this past weekend against Arizona before a Sunken Diamond-record crowd of 4,458, all of whom stayed afterward to watch a fireworks display. They came in ranked seventh in the country, second in Pacific-10 Conference play, and as usual their strength is pitching. Their ace is 6-1, 195-pound right-hander Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie started the Friday-night opener, a 6-5 Cardinal win, carrying an 8-4 record with a 2.44 ERA, and 96 strikeouts in as many innings. In the high-octane, aluminum-bat world of the college game, that is fairly microscopic.
The next All-American candidate is 6-4 rightie Jeff Bruksch, who came in to the Arizona series at 8-2 with a 2.87 ERA. He was undrafted out of Beverly Hills High in 1998.
“We have a great track record for pitching," says Marquess, "but Joe Borchard <a first round pick as an outfielder last year> got $5.3 million. Tom Dutton was one of the best pitching coaches in the country, and Tom Kunis has picked up on his philosophy. They're almost identical in their approach, but Dutton set the standard."
Both pitchers started out at other schools - Guthrie at Brigham Young and Bruksch at rival USC – but were drawn to Marquess like the swallows to San Juan Capistrano.
"Both kids wanted to come to Stanford out of high school," says Marquess. "Guthrie went on a Mormon Mission, and he turned out to be a big surprise. He wasn't even going to play baseball as a high school senior. I honestly didn't know how good they are."
Guthrie and Bruksch arrived like Manna from Heaven because, in 25 years, he is 1034-512-5. His one-thousandth victory came early this season. At 53 and the picture of health, Marquess is capable of putting pressure on the high-falutin’career victory marks of Texas’ Cliff Gustafson and Dedeaux.
After losing to Arizona Saturday but rebounding to take the rubber match Sunday, 8-2, Stanford is 38-14 heading into the final stretch of the regular season, and will learn today if they have earned the right to host the NCAA Super Regional June 1-3. The NCAA is usually happy to make Stanford a post-season host because they have a proven track record of drawing sellout crowds.
In the mean time, Major League Baseball should pool Marquess’s finders-fee for the players he has found, trained and turned-out ready made for big league stardom.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism