As he heads into his 18th season with Cal Poly Baseball, Larry Lee remains the only Big West Conference head coach to amass more than 1,000 wins in his career. Lee achieved his 1,000th win during last season’s final conference series against Blue-Green rival UC Santa Barbara.
Lee recorded all of his wins on the Central Coast between his time at Cal Poly, which started in 2003, and at Cuesta College from 1987-2002. Lee won 460 games at Cuesta, which was the 15th highest all-time for community college coaches in California. Lee was inducted into the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2010 after leading the Cougars to the State Final Four on four occasions.
However, Lee said his wins “are only important if they’re meaningful.”
“It’s just about longevity and doing it a long time, and with the wins come a lot of losses,” Lee said. “It doesn’t really have a lot of significance for me. I’m not really a numbers guy.”
For someone who is not a “numbers guy,” Lee has amassed some impressive statistics during his time as Cal Poly’s head coach. Since Lee took over, the team has accumulated 541 wins and has never had a season with a sub .400 winning percentage. Lee’s most successful season with the Mustangs was the 2014 campaign, where the team was briefly ranked No. 1 in the nation in mid-May and clinched a Big West Conference Championship. From 2012-2014, Cal Poly averaged 41 wins per year, totaling 123 victories — more than any other Division I team in California.
Under Lee, Cal Poly has produced 43 first-team All-Big West players, nine All-Americans and seven freshman All-Americans. A total of 70 Cal Poly players coached by Lee have signed professional baseball contracts, with eight of those players reaching the major leagues.
Lee’s career total of 1,001 wins puts him significantly ahead of his Big West Conference peers, as the second-highest win total belongs to Hawai’i head coach Mike Trapasso at 501. Only 57 coaches have reached 1,100 career wins dating back to 1909, when the NCAA began recording career win totals. With around 60 games each year, Lee is assuredly on track to hit the 1,100-win mark within the next handful of seasons.
As Lee downplayed the significant milestone, the players who see him every day said its no act.
“He kind of just takes it like the way he teaches us, where every game is just another game and you’re just playing baseball,” junior pitcher Taylor Dollard said. “When you’re playing against a game, you’re not playing against the opponent.”
The player with the most exposure to coach Lee is undoubtably his son, freshman shortstop Brooks Lee. Brooks echoed his father’s stance on earning 1,000 wins, saying the achievement “wasn’t that big of a deal for him.”
“He just wants to win,” Brooks said. “That’s all that matters. He doesn’t care about the plaques that he receives, or awards. He just wants to have a good season every single year, and that’s all he cares about.”
Despite his rich history as one of the winningest coaches at the collegiate level, Lee said he remains focused on the future of the program as it moves forward.
“I think winning is an important part of recruiting,” Lee said. “You’re better able to get quality recruits. Recruiting is getting more difficult. There is a bigger discrepancy between us and the bigger conferences like the PAC-12.”
Regardless of the ever-growing odds of a Big West team taking home a national title, Cal Poly Baseball can take comfort knowing they have a 1,000-game winner at the helm of its program.
“[1,000 wins] is great,” Lee said. “And maybe when I’m done coaching, it’ll be something I’ll look back on and say, ‘You know, it was pretty good.’”
But in typical fashion, Lee could not finish his message without brushing off the accomplishment just one last time.
“All that stuff just means I’ve been coaching for a while,” Lee said with a smile.