The spring weather in Phoenix is certainly one of the more attractive aspects of life in the desert. With the pleasant weather comes the smell of fresh-cut green grass, the crack of baseballs coming off of bats and the “pop” of a ball in a mitt.
For Phoenix Christian Preparatory School, the spring of 2019 ushers in a baseball season that presents an interesting challenge for a significant milestone.
The Cougars have won back-to-back AIA 2A Conference state championships under the leadership of head coach Mark Band.
To think of three in a row is tempting, especially since the Cougars are now 14-0 in 2019.
Coach Band is in his 16thseason as the Cougars’ head coach. His overall record entering 2019 was 258-145-2 for a .640 winning percentage. More impressive is the most recent three-year run for PC baseball. The combined record for the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons borders on phenomenal as his PC record is 74-16 in that span. That’s winning 82% of the time.
Add that the Cougars have made four straight AIA state tournament appearance and some may say that Coach Band has created a 2A dynasty.
This kind of success does not come without work, and work is something that Band does well.
The on-field success is only the icing on the cake. What happens in the off-season and off of the field is significantly positive as well.
Band gets great support from parents and others who contribute tangibly to the baseball program. Some provide monetary contributions to raise the needed budget funds to operate the in-season and out-of-season participation for student-athletes. Others provide volunteer services to maintain and even improve the baseball facility on the campus. Still others put in countless volunteer hours to run snack-bars, cook meals on out of town travel trips or participate in any number of fundraising activities.
The program raises nearly 100% of the expense of operating the program on the small central Phoenix campus at 18thAvenue and Indian School Road.
If you want to know how passionate a baseball coach is about the game, look no further than their field. At Phoenix Christian’s field, you will quickly see one man’s field of dreams driven by a lifetime of passion for the game.
Coach Band cuts his own infield grass or successfully organizes parents and volunteers to do all the “little things” like moving dirt or one of many other small seasonal improvements. The attention to small details has paid big dividends.
Coach Band is a Phoenix native who has not wandered far from his roots and still calls central Phoenix home. After attending Montbello Grade School and Alhambra High School, Coach Band continued his education and baseball career at Phoenix College and Grand Canyon University.
Ask Mark about his childhood and through a big smile he will tell you about a close community where the summer streets were filled with kids riding bicycles and playing whiffle ball. He will tell you of his days at Montbello Little League and a PE teacher who mentored a young player into a coach.
Mark’s coaching philosophy is simple and his words say it best:
“Be the best individual player you can be, be the best team you can be. Always give your best effort, no short cuts. If you give your best and do your best and somebody else is better than you, then you tip your cap and walk off the field with pride knowing you gave your best.”
He does not talk to his players about winning. It is more important to Coach Band that his boys leave him with characteristics that will serve them for a lifetime, including respect, morality, integrity, strong character and work ethic.
Watch a Phoenix Christian baseball practice and you will see and hear many of the vignettes Coach Band and his staff use to teach the game and life lessons.
Coach Band’s favorite saying can be found on the back of every players practice jersey: “Little Things Make a Big Difference.” Yes Coach, the little things do make a big difference—in baseball and in life.
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