Alexander: Cal State Fullerton baseball family remembers Augie Garrido

 

  • Former big leaguer Mark Kotsay speaks during the Celebration of Life honoring long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Former big leaguer Phil Nevin speaks during the Celebration of Life honoring long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • A video tribute by Dave Snow plays on the big screen during the Celebration of Life honoring long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Don Sneddon, head baseball coach for 32 years at Santa Ana College, dons a Titans cap as he speaks during the Celebration of Life honoring long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Former big leaguer Mark Kotsay shares a moment with University of Oregon baseball coach George Horton, after the Celebration of Life honoring long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Family members listen to speakers during the Celebration of Life honoring long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido, at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Current Titans’ baseball players sit under National Championship banners during the Celebration of Life honoring long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • University of Oregon baseball coach George Horton speaks during the Celebration of Life honoring long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Former big leaguer Mark Kotsay speaks during the Celebration of Life honoring long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Current Titans’ baseball players listen to speakers during the Celebration of Life honoring long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The family of Augie Garrido, including his wife Jeannie, listens to speakers during the Celebration of Life honoring Augie Garrido, the long-time baseball coach, at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Loving messages fill the guest book at the Celebration of Life honoring long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Former big leaguer Chuck Finley, left, listens to speakers during the Celebration of Life honoring long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A mug featuring the likeness of long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido is given away after a Celebration of Life gathering at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Pete Donovan starts off the Celebration of Life for long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Jeannie Garrido hugs a friend after the Celebration of Life honoring her husband, long-time baseball coach Augie Garrido, at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in Fullerton on Friday, November 9, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cal State Fullerton baseball coach, Augie Garrido in 1988. (OC Register File Photo)

  • Augie Garrido led Cal State Fullerton to three NCAA championships. (Photo contributed by Cal State Fullerton)

  • The 1984 Cal State Fullerton team carries coach Augie Garrido after their national championship. (Contributed photo from Cal State Fullerton)

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FULLERTON — The first 10 or so rows of folding chairs in Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym on Friday afternoon were marked by signs: “Reserved for the Garrido family.”

That pretty much confirmed it. The late Augie Garrido had a large extended family, and it included anyone who has ever pulled on a Titans baseball uniform.

Garrido passed away in March, at the age of 79, two weeks after suffering a stroke. The memorial service for the winningest coach in college baseball history was held in Austin, where he completed his career with 20 seasons at Texas and two of his five national championships.

But Fullerton was home. It was where Garrido started, where he took a program that was literally a Division I startup and built it into one that has won four national titles and has legitimate expectations of getting to the College World Series every year. Fullerton won an NCAA regional in its first Division I season, 1975, and won its first of three CWS titles won under Garrido (and four overall) in 1979.

So it was entirely appropriate that Augie’s (very) extended family would gather for a “Celebration of Life” on Friday afternoon to honor their old coach and share stories.

Mark Kotsay, one of three Garrido-coached Titans to win the Golden Spikes Award as college baseball’s player of the year and later a 17-year major leaguer, recalled speaking at Garrido’s memorial service in Austin and having this reaction: “I wanted to say, ‘Really? He belongs to us.’ ”

Fullerton has had five head baseball coaches since 1973. Garrido accounted for 21 of those seasons, in two different stints, 1973-87 and 1991-96. Of the other four, the last three – George Horton, Dave Serrano and Rick Vanderhook – played and coached under Garrido.

“I am honored,” Vanderhook said Friday, “to be the coach of the program he built.”

Beyond the numbers, which include a 1,975-951-9 career record in 48 seasons, there was a specific, fundamental-based style of coaching and teaching the game that is recognizable to this day.

“I’ll sit in the dugout now,” said Tim Wallach, the school’s first Golden Spikes Award winner, later a 17-year major leaguer and now Don Mattingly’s bench coach in Miami. “And a guy will come to the plate or go to the mound and I’ll say, ‘There’s a Titan,’ to the players. And now everybody knows what a Titan is.

“And I’d say everybody has one because they play the game right. They still do. It’s just been a tradition: coming out of Cal State Fullerton, you knew how to play the game the right way. … You learned how to play the game the right way, or you didn’t play.”

When Garrido arrived from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1973, Fullerton was about to make the move from Division II to Division I. They had a rickety ballpark – it was a source of pride that someone had scored some hand-me-down AstroTurf from Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium to lay down in the bullpens – no clubhouse and few other amenities. It wasn’t until 1992, a year into Garrido’s second term at Fullerton, that the school had a ballpark that met the qualifications to host an NCAA regional.

“We weren’t built on fancy things,” said Horton, now Oregon’s coach. “It was truly the culture that Augie built and the philosophy of being a part of something really special.”

Don Sneddon, who played for Garrido and went on to a Hall of Fame career as a community college coach at Santa Ana, recalled that in 1975, when the first-year Division I Titans qualified for an NCAA regional at USC, Dedeaux Field organist Madeline Franks asked someone in the Fullerton party what the fight song was. The reply: They didn’t have one.

“We suggested China Grove by the Doobie Brothers,” Sneddon said. “Somehow she didn’t play that on the organ. So she saw some of our players running out on the field … and with the proximity to Disneyland, the organist started playing ‘It’s A Small World.’

“Big mistake.”

Did we mention that Fullerton won that regional?

Not all of the lessons Garrido taught were baseball-related. If his players watched closely – and judging from the stories Friday, enough did – they saw that their coach believed in going first class, even while working for a school with a tight budget.

They also learned about respect for the game, for each other and for those around it.

“No matter where you were, whether it’s the owner of the team or the clubhouse kid cleaning your shoes, you respected everybody around there,” Phil Nevin said. “That was just part of respecting the game.

“I think his best quality was that he understood what each player was from top to bottom on his team, understood what they were going to be, and prepared each person … separately, individually, for what they were about to enter after college and made each guy better in their own way.”

It is probably no accident that all three of Garrido’s Golden Spikes winners from Fullerton are currently on major league coaching staffs, Wallach in Miami, Nevin with the Yankees and Kotsay with Oakland.

It is an abundant coaching tree. And here’s another indication of where its roots lie: When Fullerton’s new baseball building is completed for the 2021 season, there will be a statue of Augie Garrido outside of it.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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