California dreams, Cooperstown memories
By Samantha Carr
After 34 successful years as head coach of the Stanford University baseball team, it’s still all about the dream for Mark Marquess.
“When you are in the backyard and playing ball pretending to by Mickey Mantle or A-Rod, you dream to be a major league player – and I get these kids on their path to that dream,” Marquess said Thursday during a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Marquess and his wife, Susan, were visiting their youngest daughter, Maureen, in Manhattan, and they decided to make their first trip to Cooperstown.
“If you are a baseball fan, and even if you’re not, it’s just so American,” said Marquess. “The Museum is a special place, and the town is so quaint, we could stay here for a week.”
A Stanford alum, Marquess played baseball and football during his college days. An All-American first baseman, he was drafted by the White Sox and spent four seasons in their system before returning to his alma mater as an assistant coach. Five years later, he took over the team and since has posted a 1,356-694-7 record. That puts him in the top 10 in NCAA Division-I baseball history in wins.
He has led the team to two NCAA Championships and is a member of the Stanford University Athletic Hall of Fame and the American Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. He is a three-time NCAA Coach of the Year recipient. He has also served as President of USA Baseball and earned a Gold Medal as the head coach of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team.
“Baseball is still our National Pastime, but it is very much becoming a world game,” said Marquess. “You travel to Latin American countries and some of those kids don’t have much, but they are playing baseball.”
Susan Marquess is a counselor at St. Francis High School in Palo Alto, Calif., and each year sees kids that dream of being a major league player, but are taking the steps of going to college and getting an education too.
“I think the exposure of the College World Series is helping a lot,” she said. “It becomes part of the dream.”
Division I baseball is very competitive, but unlike at the professional level, a coach’s job is not just win games.
“The difference is teaching,” said Marquess. “These kids are bright and can do so many things, but their focus is to be a major league player. I need to make sure they are getting an education and on track to graduate.”
Marquess has taught players like Mike Mussina, who achieved their dream that began as a kid on a diamond. But the percentage of players who see that kind of success in the game is small.
“It is just as rewarding for me, and sometimes more so when a second-string player who is now a successful heart surgeon comes back and donates money to our program because of his memories at Stanford. They don’t make their dream, but it is a different kind of reward.”
Susan is already making plans to come back to Cooperstown and bring their four grandkids with them. And after 34 years of coaching, I don’t doubt that Marquess will pass on his passion for the game to the next generation.
“Being here,” Marquess said, “reminds you of the dream.”
Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.