Machtolf building upon baseball legacy
Originally published in Gonzaga Quarterly, Winter 2007By Dale Goodwin
Two months before he would lead his 1987 Stanford Cardinal baseball team to the College World Series Championship in Omaha, Neb., Mark Machtolf received tragic news. His older brother, Dave, had been killed in a car accident. Mark was devastated.
(Gonzaga University baseball Coach) "Steve Hertz was one of the first to be there for me," Machtolf said. "A lot of my best friends were GU players. They provided me a great support system, one for which I've always been grateful.
It hasn't, however, made the pressure to win any easier on the fourth-year Gonzaga head coach.
"Everybody who coaches feels that pressure, and I'm sure we all deal with it differently," Machtolf said. "But that also is what draws you to the profession, and it's the hardest part. Being able to lean on my assistants, talk things out, then go home and get busy with family life (wife Sheila and boys David, 12; Steven, 10; and Jack, 8), it gives me perspective and keeps me centered."
Hertz, now director of athletic relations, continues to have a big impact on Machtolf.
"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Steve Hertz," Machtolf said. "I continue to learn from him. He still is a big part of our program. He is raising money and friends for the program. He can analyze my team and my performance. I seek his counsel all the time. He sat in this chair and he knows the job better than anybody. He has been a great role model in how to go about this job with honesty and integrity; he never sacrificed those things to win a game - and he won a lot of big games."
So with Machtolf, Hertz said. That's one reason Hertz stepped aside in 2003 after 24 years at the reins to give his highly touted and nationally recognized 11-year-assistant a chance to show his stuff. And with 81 wins in his first three seasons at the helm, Machtolf is showing plenty, despite the fact that the team's field had been plowed under to make way for a new basketball arena, and there's nothing easy about preparing for a season that begins in early February when snow is often on the ground.
But The Warehouse indoor practice facility, built by John Stockton across Hamilton Street from campus, has improved the program immensely. So has the new Patterson Baseball Complex, which will see its first pitch March 15.
Machtolf said he loves the new theater seats and the stadium atmosphere. The players' clubhouse, with its nice furniture, computers and a big screen TV is sensational, he said, and the recruits are giving it rave reviews.
The coach also loves the natural grass surface. The play and durability of this turf is "second to none," Machtolf said. "I'm getting a half-dozen compliments about the field every week.
"Having this stadium is an important piece in the puzzle to help us get to Omaha and become one of the top programs in the country," Machtolf said. "We have great assistants who know what needs to be done and who work very hard (all former Zag all-conference players: Gary Van Tol, Danny Evans, Steve Bennett). We need to pitch better, and that's always an issue for small, northern climate programs. But we are going to put important resources there to attract the kind of pitchers we need.
"But first and foremost, our players will always know that we are honest, we treat players fairly and we treat them with respect. They know we expect them to compete hard in the classroom as well as on the field. And they know we will support their academic careers, because for many of them, this will be their last baseball experience," Machtolf said.
As for Machtolf, he knows he has an important job in fulfilling the Zag baseball legacy created by Hertz.
"And that's right where I want to be," he said.