Former Stanford baseball coach explains why he’s become a Bronco
October 18, 2018
In 2017, Mark Marquess concluded his final season as Stanford’s head baseball coach—a position he held for over four decades. With a record of 1,627-878-7 (.649), two national championships (1987-1988) and an Olympic gold medal, Marquess’ accolades have earned him membership in the American Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.
After stepping away from work to enjoy a year of leisure, Marquess has returned to coaching. However, rather than heading back into the dugout, the ex-Cardinal will join Santa Clara as the Special Assistant to Director of Athletics, Renee Baumgartner. His focus now, among other things, is mentoring coaches—including Bronco baseball head coach Rusty Filter, who he worked with at Stanford.
After coaching for 41 years and then retiring in 2017, what brings you to Santa Clara?
Well, a lot of friends of mine who had retired gave me some good advice. They said don’t decide what you want to do or even think about it for a year. So during that year, I tried to reflect on what I wanted to do. I have nine grandchildren, so I did a lot of things I wasn’t able to before. I traveled—my youngest daughter lives in New York so I went back there—and we did a lot of things, my wife and I, which was good. But at the same time, I kept thinking I’m not going to coach again, but what can I do next?
So, last year, Rusty [Filter], who had coached with me at Stanford, had me speak to Santa Clara’s baseball team four or five days before their opener. I had a connection to this school because my wife and daughter had both gone here. And when I was at that dinner, I sat at the same table as Renee.
I knew Renee a little bit because I’d talked to her when she was hiring the next baseball coach, and I obviously knew Rusty. Because she used to be a golf coach at Oregon, she said, “I don’t know how you’re going to handle this retirement, Coach, but when you’re ready to try and come back, you come see me.”
So a year later—I had gotten back from a trip or wherever the heck I was—I’m talking to Rusty about the idea and Renee asks, “how would you like to get back involved?” I said “yeah, I’d like to but I don’t know what I can do if I’m not going to coach.” So she says, “Well, why don’t you mentor other coaches?” It was the first time I’d ever heard anybody say that.
What do you see as Santa Clara’s biggest opportunity to improve athletics across the board?
Well, I think you have a university that recently made a commitment to doing so. I think you have an athletic director that really gets it and really wants to improve and give the coaches the things that are necessary.
Maybe you can’t fully fund every sport. Each school is different, but Renee wants to give the coaches the opportunity to be successful on the playing field. I think we need to highlight the educational reputation of the university, which is fantastic, and find out with each sport what its niche is. So I just think it’s an exciting time and Renee reflects that. The coaches I’ve talked to really appreciate what she’s trying to do.
In my vintage, Santa Clara was really dominant in basketball. Things change, obviously, and I don’t know if it’s possible to replicate that, but Santa Clara athletics will get better, and that’s because of the leadership of Renee.
And you, now.
Well, I don’t know about that. Hopefully I can help a little bit.
What was the highlight of your career as either a player or a coach?
You know, two, three years ago I would have said back-to-back national championships in ‘87 and ‘88; I would have told you coaching the U.S. team, winning a gold medal in Seoul. I would have told you that because those are highlights.
But, the interesting thing is the highlight of my coaching career was my last year. They had a day honoring me [at Stanford] and I had probably 200 players from over the course of the 41 years I coached come back. You’re talking from the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. And that was the highlight. Because in reality, about 98 percent of them didn’t become Major League players and they came back to say thank you.
The ironic thing is some of the guys you had the hardest trouble with coaching—they were the biggest pain in the rear—come back to say thank you. And they would say, “Coach, I know I was a handful, but thank you for everything.” That makes it all worthwhile.
It kind of puts everything in perspective—that’s one way I can relate to coaches because that’s really why they’re doing it. And if you coach long enough, you will get that feedback.
I understand you played football as well as baseball while you were a student at Stanford?
My scholarship was for football. I was really fortunate, that was a great era of Stanford. John Ralston was the head coach, my position coach for all four years was Dick VermeiI, Bill Walsh was there as a coach twice and I spent time talking to him. They were great coaches. You know, when you’ve been there that long, you get to meet a lot of really special people.
What strikes you as unique about Santa Clara?
The thing that Santa Clara emphasizes—and we did a little bit at Stanford—is community service, which is important. [At Stanford], the baseball team used to go to the Children’s Hospital. But Santa Clara really emphasizes that with their teams—to give back—and I think that’s a Jesuit philosophy, their core value system, so I really admire that. It isn’t about just the wins and losses but, you know, what you are teaching.
Are there any other similarities you can draw between your alma mater and Santa Clara?
It’s very similar, the academics end of it. Classes are small, you can interact with professors. When you go to UCs, you could have 200 kids in class. And the mission of Santa Clara is very similar to Stanford with one added thing which I think is positive: it’s about excellence in academics and athletics, but also the service mission of the Jesuits, which I think is very important.
Who are you going to root for when they play each other?
I’m on the Santa Clara team, so it’ll be Santa Clara! I have a lot of Stanford friends, but I’m a Bronco now.
Contact John Brussa at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.