Above is a video of the awards ceremony up through Coach Esquer's presentation, which starts at the 7:44 mark.
OMAHA -- It's been a long, hard road for California head baseball coach David Esquer, not just this season, but for his entire 12-year coaching tenure in Berkeley. No lights, not on-field clubhouses, sub-par facilities, season after season of late-year collapses, just one playoff win in 11 years -- all of it, every last tear, every last heartache -- is now worth it.
Early Tuesday morning, before the sun was even up on the West Coast, the self-described "kid from Salinas," was named the NCBWA Coach of the Year.
"I'm very humbled to be sitting up here," Esquer said. "I want to thank my staff, without whom any coach - in particular, me - is nothing, and my wife, as well. If anyone, college baseball coaches have to sacrifice a lot. Many times, I will tease my players that I spend more time with other peoples' kids than I do my kids, and a lot of that has to do with the strength of my family at home, and in particular, my wife."
Esquer's wife Lynn smiled in the back of the room, along with Athletic Director Sandy Barbour as Esquer accepted the honor. Afterwards, Barbour said, there is a very good chance that a contract extension could be in the near future for Esquer, who's contract is up at the end of the season.
"We agreed that it would be when the season is over," Barbour said of the talks. "We're thrilled that we haven't had to talk about it yet.
"It's just fantastic. I don't think there's anyone that deserves it more. I'm personally thrilled for him and thrilled for what it means for the program, and the University. He's represented us so well, and this is just the icing on the cake."
Esquer was as surprised as anyone at the award, as all along he has given the credit to his assistants -- Dan Hubbs, Tony Arnerich and Brad Sanfilippo -- and the players for the team's remarkable run.
"They actually told me on the drive over," he smiled. "They kept it from me pretty well, and it was a surprise. I really appreciate that, because it really was a surprise. It's a big shock. You don't expect something like that, and you don't coach for honors. You coach to teach, and I'm a teacher first. Boy, I felt like if you can get your point across and teach kids baseball and some lessons, then that's a job well-done. You don't expect any rewards for it."
The Bears (37-22) face off against Texas A&M today at 11 AM Pacific at TD Ameritrade Park in Game Seven of the 2011 College World Series, searching for one more magical comeback that has sparked the program not only to return from the brink of extinction, but to roll through the Houston Regional and the Santa Clara Super Regional after a Tournament-opening loss.
"We always felt like this team was talented enough, even with the negatives," Esquer said. "Even the first day of school, our first team meeting, I mentioned to them that we had the type of team that could beat any team in America in a two-out-of-three series. I mentioned to them that the beauty of that is, what it takes to get to Omaha is to win a two-out-of-three series. I felt like we were on that road, not just to get to the playoffs, but to be successful in the playoffs. All the events that happened around the program, that was a disruption to their lives that I don't think necessarily inspired us to get to where we are, because we were talented all along. We needed some luck along the way, but along the way, it provided some inspiration. During the course of the season, it provided a chip on our shoulders that we maybe hadn't had there before."
Over 12 seasons in Berkeley, Esquer has amassed a 353-312-2 record, been to four NCAA Tournaments, one College World Series and has won the Pac-10 Coach of the Year award once, in 2001. This year's recipient was Oregon State's Pat Casey, who's Beavers exited in the second round of the playoffs while the Pac-10's sixth-place team -- Cal -- rose from being a No. 3-seed in the Houston Regional to a CWS participant, picking up a Pac-10 Player of the Year nod for sophomore Tony Renda along the way, and the second All-Pac-10 honor for former walk-on catcher and 2011 Chicago White Sox draft pick Chadd Krist.
"My team this year has been fantastic," Esquer said. "It's been a long, strange, rewarding journey that I think will impact all of our lives forever, and I think all of the young men in our program have grown, and will be better people and better fathers because of the adversity they've gone through, but also they'll be great alumni, and really loyal to the University of California, Berkeley."
After starring as a three-sport star at Palma High in Salinas, Esquer moved on to play baseball at Stanford, where he went to the College World Series twice, winning one national title in 1987.
"I bring up here with me so many different people who have played a part in my career and my life," Esquer said. "I sent a message to my high school baseball coach and football coach right before the Series, and I said that I just wanted to thank all my coaches, and everyone who was a part of me progressing to this point. I said, 'I just wanted to say Thank You, to the people who made me the player I was, but the coach I am today.' There are so many people that had a hand in that, and allowed me to coach."
Two of those people are Cardinal skipper Mark Marquess -- who hired his former shortstop to be his assistant coach -- and former Stanford assistant coach Bill Alhouse, who passed away in early March at the age of 85.
"A former coach at that other University down the road, named Billy Alhouse, has as much to do with me staying in coaching," Esquer said. "He's an ABCA Hall of Fame member, and what a great mentor. Coach Mark Marquess at Stanford, as well, he was a mentor of mine and gave me my first start.
"Billy Alhouse was a real mentor and a father figure to me. He coached Coach Marquess at Stanford, and I lived with him and his family for about six years while I was coaching at Stanford, so he provided me the opportunity to stay in coaching, and he taught me a lot of lessons about coaching and about family, and about how to deal with both, just the right way to go about treating people and being a teacher."
Esquer worked under Marquess at Sunken Diamond as the No. 2 assistant coach from 1991 to 1996 before getting a gig with Pepperdine as the No. 1 assistant to venerable skipper Frank Sanchez.
"I started coaching in the NCAA when we had the 'limited earnings' title, and I was lucky enough to have the help and support of some people around me who allowed me to begin when that started and come out the other side and still be a coach," Esquer said.
Esquer went to the NCAA Tournament five times with the Cardinal as a coach, reaching Omaha in 1995, and then handled hitting, infield and third base coaching for the Waves during a stretch where they went 112-63. Esquer learned how to recruit under Sanchez, and became the top recruiting coordinator for the program.
Those lessons have served Esquer well at Cal, where he has had 65 players taken in the Major League Draft, including current big leaguers Tyson Ross, Brandon Morrow, Xavier Nady, Conor Jackson, Allen Craig, Brennan Boesch and John Baker. All but Nady were signed to National Letters of Intent by Esquer since he arrived in 2000 to replace Bob Milano.
"I think I was destined to be a coach," Esquer said. "At some point, I think I wrote a book report on John Wooden from grades one through six, and it might have been the same one," Esquer said, to a chorus of laughter from the assembled press. "I knew I had a little different take on sports than most people when I idolized a coach, instead of idolizing players.
"I can't say how humbled I am by this honor. I'm such a fan of college baseball and the number of coaches that I have admired in the past, Jerry Kindall, Gary Adams, Coach [Jim] Brock at ASU who I watched on ESPN. When the World Series was just starting when I was a high school player, and to imagine that I'd get to be one of them as a head coach in Division I baseball, this honor is just humbling."