Cal Boyes planted the seed. John Smith watered and nurtured the growth. And Reggie Christiansen has helped Sacramento State baseball blossom.
Before Christiansen led the Hornets to their first appearance in the NCAA Division I baseball tournament this weekend, and before Smith coached the Hornets to 879 victories over 32 seasons and to the 1988 Division II national championship game, there was Boyes, the father of the program.
Boyes was the Hornets’ interim coach in 1957 and took over as the head coach in 1960. In 17 seasons – before athletic scholarships, the Internet and radar guns – Boyes had 13 winning seasons and won 11 Far West Conference titles.
The Hornets lost to East Carolina 13-7 in the 1961 NAIA title game. Boyes later won two Pacific Coast Regional titles, including in 1964 with his best team that included hard-throwing left-hander Spider Thomas . Boyes retired in 1975 and later had two stints as interim athletic director at Sac State. He and wife Eileen now live near Donner Lake.
“Great coach and great times,” Thomas said recently of the 1964 team. “We won our last 16 games. No one would’ve beaten us.”
Boyes helped shape the lives of scores of players who went on to become some of the biggest names in regional high school sports history, including Thomas. After six years in pro ball, Thomas sought out Boyes for career advice, explaining to his mentor, “I don’t know what I can do.”
Boyes encouraged Thomas to get into teaching and coaching, and Thomas coached Kennedy’s championship teams of the 1980s and ’90s.
Mike Alberghini faced a similar crossroads after playing for Boyes. Alberghini was encouraged to get into education, and he has taught and coached at Grant for 45 years.
Others who became coaches after playing for Boyes include Joe Belcastro , Bernie Church , Jim Greene , Norm Marks , Don Moak , Don Nannini and Joe Soto .
Smith played for Boyes in 1971 and ’72 and was hooked.
In his first season as Sac State’s coach in 1979, Smith was 19-31, but then he had 14 consecutive winning seasons during which he averaged 34.5 victories. His best season was 1988, when the Hornets, led by Erik Bennett , won a school-record 43 games and lost to Florida Southern 5-4 in 12 innings in the Division II national championship game.
Smith hired Christiansen as an assistant in 2008 and groomed him to take over before the 2011 season. Sac State’s field is named after Smith.• J.D. Davis , a former Bee Player of the Year from Elk Grove, hit a grand slam in the eighth inning and then pitched a scoreless ninth inning to lead Cal State Fullerton to a 5-1 opening victory over Nebraska in Friday’s NCAA regional in Stillwater, Okla.
• Former Sacramento City College baseball coach Jerry Weinstein splits his time between San Luis Obispo, where he lives with wife Andrea , and Denver, where he is in his seventh season with the Colorado Rockies and first as the team’s “offensive coordinator.” Weinstein, who won 831 games in 23 seasons at Sac City, was the Dodgers’ director of player development in 2000 and 2001, and he was an assistant coach at Cal Poly from 2001 to 2005.
• Sacramento is well represented in the NCAA Division I softball playoffs. Oregon’s Courtney Ceo (Bear River)ranks second in the country with a .490 average and is a finalist for Player of the Year. At Florida, senior infielder Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln) is batting .360 with 10 home runs and 60 RBIs. And Alabama sophomore Leona Lafaele (Inderkum) has 35 RBIs.