by Brandon Rebboah
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – History, compassion and tradition. When the 1962 Bronco College World Series team recently held their reunion on campus, they were honored at the Santa Clara-Saint Mary's basketball game on the court. Joining them on the court and throughout the weekend was new Bronco head baseball coach Dan O'Brien. Preaching these three words as the center of his baseball philosophy since the first day he stepped on the Mission Campus, O'Brien has taken steps to mirror the success and attitude of team's like the 1962 Broncos.
Since he was hired in June 2011, O'Brien has taken on the task of changing the culture surrounding the baseball program. Without squandering tradition, baseball alumni and the history of the program the first-year head coach has taken great strides to get the program ready for the 2012 season. In fact, he's done just the opposite of straying from traditions – he has embraced the rich history of the program.
One ways O'Brien began to morph the program and embrace history was the "old school" uniform that will serve as the Broncos main uniform this coming season.
"I think there is a right way and a wrong way to play this game," said O'Brien. "In my opinion, the game was played the right way back in the day. When you're wearing the old school uniforms and constantly reminding the guys how the game was played, that will be reflected in the way we play the game."
It started with a simple stylistic jersey switch and has now taken hold in the hallway of the locker room inside Schott Stadium, which now boasts a corridor filled with the history of the program.
"I think at some point I became a little frustrated with how athletes were acting. Not here at Santa Clara, but in our society," said O'Brien. "We want guys in our program to feel privileged to be in a Bronco uniform. When you give [players] the perspective of a 100-plus years of history, they never feel bigger than the program. The program should always be bigger than all of us."
Material changes that highlight history are obvious, but the most important changes are those on the practice field. The Bronco coaches and staff have captivated all of the Santa Clara players, returners and first-year players alike.
"Philosophically, we want to identify with the players," said O'Brien. "We want to get to know them probably more than any coaching staff they've ever played for. We wanted to be invested in them as human beings as opposed to be consumed with winning baseball games. My experience has been if we have a group of people who really care about each other they will work harder for each other."
On the field, O'Brien and the Broncos have continued to work at becoming a better baseball team. The offseason included a Bronco World Series that served as the team's intra-squad scrimmages. The games helped boost the competitive morale around the facility in preparation for Santa Clara's opening game at Texas State on February 17.
Even with a slew of returning players, O'Brien knows that there is a lot of work to be done heading into the season but is optimistic about the opportunity the team has to compete.
"Honestly, with every team I've coached, it has always been my goal to find their ceiling," said O'Brien. "Everyone else is going to categorize us on our win-loss record. Internally, we are going to judge our season based on [if] we reached our potential and [if] we exceed it. I think this team has a higher ceiling than people think. There is a lot of talent and potential on this team-although 'talent' is a dangerous word. There is a lot of heart and a lot of soul and that will help us this season."
Click here for the complete 2012 schedule.
Click here for pictures from the Bronco World Series.