Indian Creek grad Matt Mark leads Caltech to first baseball win since 2003
It is something Matt Mark never expected.
Not winning a baseball game as coach of the Caltech Beavers.
But, what followed after that win.
“I actually had to shut my phone off yesterday because I wanted to watch the Super Bowl,” he said Monday night in a telephone conversation. “It’s been fantastic for the school and been great for recruiting.”
That win, 9-7 over Pacifica, in the second game of a doubleheader at home, snapped a 228-game losing streak for the Beavers, a Division III school in Pasadena. Caltech last posted an NCAA baseball win on Feb. 15, 2003, when it beat CSU-Monterey Bay 5-4. The win has put the program all over the nation, on “SportsCenter” and “PTI,” and Mark has something scheduled on the MLB Network.
“It’s been great for recruiting,” said the 2002 Indian Creek graduate. “I’ve put about 12-14 athletes into our database.”
Mark was named the ninth head baseball coach in the 103-year history of California Institute of Technology (Caltech) on Aug. 27.
This is not your average Division III NCAA program as 17 alumni and 14 non-alumni faculty at the Pasadena facility have won the Nobel Prize. The median SAT score is between 2200 and 2340.
“I want to win more than one game,” he said with a laugh.
The Beavers held a 4-0 lead after four innings, but Pacifica plated seven in the fifth.
“That was a big fear of mine,” Mark said. “We talked a lot about winning and competing. We talked about adversity and how a call might not go our way or a ball would take a bad hop and how we would respond to that adversity.
“Right there was a chance for the guys to show that they know how to win and they really answered the call. All the credit in the world to them.”
Caltech scored five times in the bottom of the sixth and held on for the win.
“We talked about changing the culture,” said Mark. “We talked about how the seniors had not won a game and we wanted to get a win for them and using that as a stepping stone to get to where we want to go throughout the season.
“We had a great practice today (Monday).”
Mark has 13 players in uniform and 12 for Sunday games because one is a Mormon.
“The one thing I learned coaching football and coaching in so many intrasquad scrimmages that you are never going to lose to yourself,” he said. “We have 13 so it’s going to be nine against four.
“Baseball is a crazy game because there are so many intangibles that happen during a game and we don’t have a chance right now to see that during practices.
“I knew the guys were confident and I saw progression from Day 1 to Day 27. They were going the direction I wanted them to go.”
The win came on the opening day of the season.
“There were alumni at the game who had never won a game in their career and came up to me and said, ‘Coach, this means the world to me,'” said Mark. “The alumni support for our program is amazing. They are excited about the direction of the program.”
Mark is a 2006 graduate of Washington & Jefferson with a bachelor of arts degree in business administration. He was a member of the baseball team for three years, and served a team captain for two seasons. Mark helped lead the Presidents to the Presidents’ Athletic Conference championship in 2004 and 2006.
After graduation, he spent the 2007 season as the assistant baseball coach at W&J. While coaching the Presidents, Mark was involved in day-to-day situational analysis, field operation and recruiting as the squad won the conference championship.
He spent the 2007-08 campaign at Indian Creek as an assistant football coach under Andrew Connor and baseball coach under his former coach Mike Cottis, still the Redskins head baseball coach. Mark also served as a behavioral teacher.
Mark expected Caltech to win games.
“You expect to win,” he said. “I’ve come from good programs. I want to win.
“I didn’t think it would be like this. I am appreciative that it means that much to so many people.
“I remember sitting in coach (Joe) Dunlevy’s class and he said that if someone had one hit in their career they could never be a .000 hitter.
“I thought of that after the win. I can never have a .000 winning percentage.”