HORTON Head Coach
Cal State Fullerton (1978)
After five conference championships and four trips to the College
World Series, two-time National Coach of the Year (2003 Baseball America
and 2004 Collegiate Baseball) George Horton added last year to his extensive
resume the only credential lacking since becoming the Titan head coach
… a national title. At the helm of the Cal State Fullerton baseball
program, Horton, 51, guided his Titans to their fourth NCAA National Championship,
by defeating the Texas Longhorns and his mentor, former Titan Head Coach
Augie Garrido, 3-2, at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb.
Since taking over for Garrido on Sept. 4, 1996, after six years as Garrido’s
associate head coach, Horton has led the Titans to a 356-154-1 overall
record. They have been a constant in the national Top 25 polls, briefly
ascending to the top spot in 1999, 2001 and 2003. Horton’s .698
winning percentage is eighth-best among active Division I coaches (minimum
five years). Of the 29 teams – many of which are nationally prominent
– that Horton has faced five or more times, only two (Stanford and
Wichita State) have managed winning records against Fullerton.
Horton himself couldn’t even imagine the comeback the Titans would
produce in 2004. The team started out a dismal (for Fullerton standards)
15-16 through the first 31 games, falling out of the Top 25 polls completely
for 6 straight weeks (3/8-4/12).
In Horton’s attempt to right the ship, he enlisted Sports Psychologist
Ken Ravizza to come clear the heads of the slumping Titans. And, in storybook
fashion, the Titans flushed away their problems and went on to finish
an all-time best 19-2 in the Big West while winning 27 of their last 32
games to reach the College World Series for the 13th time in their history.
In Omaha, Horton’s Titans jumped out to a 2-0 record before a powerful
South Carolina team gave them their only loss at the CWS. Fullerton rebounded
from the loss and took the next three games including a 2-game sweep of
No.1 seed Texas in the championship series.
The three-time Big West Conference Coach of the Year has been at his best
in series play. Heading into 2005, Fullerton owns a 91-23 (.798) overall
record in three-game regular-season series and the Titans have won 57
of 68 (.838) Big West Conference series. Fullerton has been swept just
five times while the Titans have recorded 49 series sweeps. Perhaps an
even bigger credit to Coach Horton has been his success on the road: the
Titans have won 30 of Horton’s 34 conference series away from Goodwin
Horton, who is one of nine men to have appeared in Omaha as a player (1975)
and a head coach, has seen 50 Titans selected in the Major League Baseball
First-Year Player Draft during his tenure, including nine in 2001, 11
in 2003 and four in 2004. Aaron Rowand was a “sandwich” pick
in 1998, Adam Johnson was the second overall selection in 2000, Chad Cordero
was the 20th overall pick in the 2003 amateur draft and battery mates
Kurt Suzuki and Jason Windsor were taken in the second and third rounds,
respectively, on the first day of last year’s draft. Already, nine
former Titans who played under the Horton regime have ascended to the
Major Leagues, including the latest, Cordero, who jumped to the bigs just
two months after leading the Titans at the College World Series in 2003.
Horton scripted a brilliant season in 2003, guiding the Titans to one
of their best starts in program history (15-1) and leading them to a program-best
record of 31-3 at Goodwin Field. After sweeping through the regional at
Goodwin Field, the Titans beat Arizona State – the top offensive
team in the country – in a super regional to advance to Omaha for
the 12th time in their history. Fullerton quickly shot out to a 2-0 record
in Omaha before Stanford knocked off the Titans twice en route to the
championship series. Nonetheless, the Titans finished as the consensus
No. 3 team in the nation for the second time in three years. For the Titans’
efforts, Horton was named the National Coach of the Year by Baseball America,
the highest reputed baseball publication. He was honored in December at
the 2003 Baseball Winter Meetings in New Orleans.
Horton’s Titans also carried the Fullerton flag to Omaha in 2001,
when they secured a berth at home for the first time and carried the national
No. 1 seed to Rosenblatt Stadium. After holding off local favorite Nebraska
in the opener, the Titans lost a pair to Stanford with a win over Tulane
sandwiched in between. The Titans finished No. 3 in all three national
polls. Under Horton’s eye, the 2001 squad posted several memorable
moments during the regular season as well. They won 24 of 25 over one
stretch and became the first team ever to sweep a three-game series against
eventual national champion Miami at Mark Light Stadium.
The 2000 Titans, the unanimous preseason pick to win the conference and
the consensus No. 2 team in the country, had a two-game lead on Nevada
with three games to go in the Big West race. But the Wolf Pack swept Pacific
in the final series and Fullerton lost two of three to Long Beach State,
so the Titans had to settle for a co-championship. However, the Titans
did host a regional for the first time, which was won by USC.
In 1999, the Titans went 25-5 to win the BWC by four games. They swept
three games at the Notre Dame Regional and then overcame an assortment
of disadvantages to triumph in three games in the Super Regional at Ohio
State to qualify for the school’s tenth College World Series, where
they went 1-2.
In 1998, the Titans used a remarkably balanced squad to start strong and
then dominate the Big West Conference regular season with a 25-5 record.
But they stumbled at home in the Big West Tournament and then ran into
a powerful buzz saw in Baton Rouge in the NCAA regionals, placing second
at 3-2 with a pair of losses to the host LSU Tigers.
In Horton’s debut season in 1997, the Titans struggled to a 23-19-1
start, but then rattled off 15 victories in their final 18 regular season
games. They lost the opener of the Big West Conference post-season tournament
at home to Pacific ace Dan Reichert, but then came back to win four games
in a row at Blair Field. They swept a doubleheader on the final day against
host Long Beach State to capture the automatic NCAA tournament bid. At
Stanford, the Titans went 1-2 to place third, losing to Santa Clara and
Horton fulfilled a lifelong dream of being a Division I head coach when
he was promoted to replace Garrido, who left to take over the program
at the University of Texas. A 1978 CSF graduate, Horton had returned to
the campus in 1991 when Garrido came back after a three-year stint at
Illinois. In the next six years the Titans posted a 264-99 record and
made three trips to the CWS, winning the 1995 crown with a phenomenal
57-9 season. Horton had input on virtually every aspect of the Fullerton
program with his primary concern being the development of the pitching
staff. His organizational skills, patience as a teacher and his attention
to detail provided the backbone of the Titan coaching staff.
During the years Horton was responsible for the pitching staff, nine pitchers
received All-America honors and James Popoff (1992), Matt Wagner (1994)
and Ted Silva (1995) won Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year honors.
Dan Naulty became the first Titan pitcher under Horton’s guidance
to reach the major leagues when he made the 1996 opening-day roster for
the Minnesota Twins. He later earned a World Series ring in 1999 with
the Yankees. Another Horton product, Brent Billingsley, made two appearances
for the Florida Marlins early in the 1999 season. Eleven more of Horton’s
former pupils – both pitchers and position players – have
ascended to the Major League ranks over the last few years.
Horton also worked with Phil Nevin (San Diego Padres), who in 1992 was
the Golden Spikes Award winner, Baseball America player of the year, baseball’s
No. 1 draft pick (by Houston) and the College World Series MVP. Nevin
has gone on to a successful pro career as have former Horton pupils Mark
Kotsay (Oakland A's), Mike Lamb (Houston Astros), Aaron Rowand (Chicago
White Sox) and Reed Johnson (Toronto Blue Jays).
Kotsay and Nevin along with Brian Loyd and Jason Moler – all tutored
in part by Horton – were Olympians and Kotsay was chosen the college
player of the decade by Baseball America.
Horton began his head coaching career at Cerritos College in Norwalk,
where he guided the Falcons to three junior college state championships
in six years. He compiled a 226-53 record and won the California titles
in 1985, 1987 and 1989. Each of those years he was selected National Junior
College Coach of the Year. His best season was 1987 when the Falcons went
46-5. He had a South Coast Conference record of 102-28 (.785) and was
a four-time South Coast Conference Coach of the Year (1985, 1987, 1989
He had many players graduate to the major leagues including Brian Hunter,
who played for the Atlanta Braves in the 1991 World Series. Other names
include Mike Benjamin, Craig Worthington, Ever Magallanes, Al Osuna, Joel
Adamson, Dan Patterson, Luis Medina, Jeff Hearron, Naulty and Olympian
and major leaguer Bret Barberie.
Horton was a player on the Cerritos College teams in 1972 and 1973. As
the Falcons’ team captain in 1973, he won the Dallas Moon Award
and was a member of the state championship team. Horton played two seasons
for Garrido at Cal State Fullerton in 1975 and 1976 and won All-PCAA honors
as both a junior and a senior. He was on the first Fullerton team to go
to the College World Series in 1975. He batted .308 as a junior and .290
as a senior while playing first base. He graduated in 1978 and went on
to earn a master’s degree in 1980 at Cal Lutheran.
Horton’s coaching career began as an assistant at Cerritos in 1976-77
and he went to Los Angeles Valley College the following three seasons
where he coached with former Long Beach State Coach Dave Snow. In 1980,
he moved back to Cerritos as an assistant to Gordie Douglas before taking
the head job in 1985. In addition, he coached during the summer for the
Fairbanks Goldpanners (1981 and 1983) in Alaska and the Hutchinson Broncs
(1982) in Kansas. A few famous names played for him on those summer teams
such as Shane Mack, Oddibe McDowell, Joe Magrane, Dan Plesac, Phil Stevenson
and Roger Clemens.
In 1994, Horton was inducted into the California Community College Baseball
Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Downey
High School Hall of Fame last May.
Horton was born on Oct. 5, 1953. The Yorba Linda resident and his wife,
Francie, have four daughters: Michele (25), Heather (21), Loyal (16) and
Rebecca (14), and two granddaughters: Angelica (5) and Alyssa (3).