A Home Run Career
Patriot's baseball coach reaches milestone 600 wins
When George Mason's baseball team defeated Towson University in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Tournament this past May, Head Coach Bill Brown, B.A. Government and Politics '80, wasn't rejoicing about the game being his 600th career win; he was happier about the fact that his team would advance in the tournament. The milestone was a belated birthday gift to Brown, who turned 46 the day before. Brown is the third youngest coach in college baseball to reach 600 wins.
"Although [the 600th] win was really neat to make and made it more fun in some way, it was more important that we survived to play another day," says Brown. It is this philosophy—to play the best you can but still have fun—that has carried Brown popularly through 22 years as head coach.
"He's an easygoing guy, and he knows a lot about baseball," says Bruce Baldwin, a senior on the team. "He treats you like a man. At least once a year, he'll give an inspiring speech that he relates to baseball, but you know it's also about life in general."
Brown grew up in a baseball family (his brother, Mike, pitched for the Boston Red Sox) and was a catcher during his undergraduate years at Mason. After he graduated, he stayed on, spending the next two years as an assistant coach. When Walt Masterson retired as head coach in 1981, Brown took over the job. Ever since, he has actively promoted baseball at George Mason and in Northern Virginia, developing summer player camps and winter coaching clinics and working closely with community and local baseball organizations.
This past season, the Patriots set two school records: the longest winning streak and the most consecutive wins at home, with 11 and 12 in a row, respectively. They made it to the championship game in the CAA tournament but lost to Virginia Commonwealth University. Previously, Brown's teams have won two CAA titles and made four appearances in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. He has been honored as CAA Coach of the Year three times, and in 1993, he became the all-time leader in baseball coaching victories at Mason. Next year, Brown will tie Norm Gordon, head coach of women's track and field at George Mason from 1976 to 1999, as the head coach with the most longevity of any sports team at the university.
Joe Raccuia, an associate head coach who has worked with Brown for four years, says that Brown performs his job like a major league coach. "He's very professional and allows his kids to perform to the best of their ability without intimidating them. He treats them as grown men and as individuals."
Brown considers himself a player's coach and thinks that good coaching means keeping priorities straight. "You have to remember what is important in terms of why these kids are here," he says. "Sports are important, but they are secondary to students' academics and careers. I try to do whatever I can to help these players across the board."
Since Brown has been head coach, 19 Patriots have been drafted and signed by major league baseball clubs and several others have been signed as free agents. Three of the drafted players—Mike Draper, Chris Widger, and Mike Colangelo—have reached the major leagues.
Brown says the connections made with baseball alumni make his job even more rewarding. As assistant development officer of the Patriot Club, the Athletic Department's fund-raising organization, Brown helps with the annual golf tournament for baseball alumni and says he is proud to have such active alumni.
"If I think about the first championship game we ever won, I
couldn't tell you the score of the game," he says. "But I
do know which players were on the team."