A picture of a winner; Don Sneddon is nine wins away from making Santa Ana College baseball history.
With his arms crossed and a stern expression on his face, Don Sneddon stands quietly in the back of the dugout as his players take the field.
[slideshow id=5 w=590 h=400]
Sneddon, already the winningest coach in California Community College Baseball history is poised to reach another milestone, possibly by the end of the month — his 1,000th win.
“The number of wins doesn’t really mean a lot,” Sneddon said. “People are going to get higher numbers. Somebody is going to break this record.”
Sneddon learned his craft from two of the most respected coaches in collegiate baseball, Wally Kincaid from Cerritos College and Augie Garrido, currently the head coach at the University of Texas.
Kincaid is the only coach in California Community College history to record a perfect season and was named National Community College coach of the century by Baseball America Magazine.
“It’s part of a perception. It’s just a number. It’s certainly an accomplishment, and you have to respect that,” said Garrido who has 1,629 wins, five College World Series Championships and a career win percentage of .681.
After graduating from high school, Sneddon went to Cerritos College where he played for Kincaid and was an All-Southern California short stop.
After his two years at Cerritos College, he was recruited to play at Cal State Fullerton by Garrido.
“Donny is a very special guy,” said Garrido. “He was also a strong student.”
Garrido recalls Sneddon fighting back from an arm injury. “He had to make a comeback to make the team, and he did. That’s the kind of man he is,” Garrido said.
While at Cal State Fullerton Sneddon led the Titans to California Collegiate Athletics Association Championship in 1974. He was the first NCAA Division II All-American in school history.
By the time he got to Cal State Fullerton he knew that did not want to continue his baseball career past graduation.
But baseball was his destiny, even though he shunned the field. Sneddon served as a graduate assistant coach to Garrido at Cal State Fullerton for two years before coming to Santa Ana College.
He started his career at Santa Ana College as an assistant coach to Jim Reach. When Reach retired in 1981, Sneddon was named head coach.
Since he took over the baseball program, the team has won 15 Orange Empire Conference Championships and three of the six state championships in which they have played.
“One of the things I take pride in is the ability to keep the program at this high of a level,” said Sneddon. “It’s the consistency.”
Sneddon has maintained a win percentage of .740 over the 29 seasons he has coached at Santa Ana College.
But these numbers are secondary to the numbers that matter the most: 178 of his former players receive scholarships to play at four year universities, and 101 received professional contracts.
“He’s looking out for the best interest of the players all the time academically and athletically,” said Associate Head Coach John Bryant. “He’s trying to develop people who will be constructive in society as well as good baseball players.”
His players have a deep appreciation and respect for him as a coach and a mentor.
“He is a very honest person. That’s why I have a lot of respect for him,” said Christian Meza a former player and two time Southern California Pitcher of the Year. “If you respect him, he’ll take care of you. He knows what he’s talking about and he’s always right.”
Many of Sneddon’s past players have gone on to play major league baseball. A couple of active players include Heath Bell who is an all-star relief pitcher for the San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Kris Medlen and C.J. Wilson who was a starting pitcher for the Texas Rangers in the 2010 World Series.
“It’s obviously not about me, it’s about the players.”
RELATED STORY: Don Sneddon gets 1000th win