Hired in July 2002, Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee has elevated the Mustang baseball program to a level of play that is highly respected among his peers in the NCAA Division I West Region, resulting in nine winning seasons in 12 years, 35 or more victories six times, a Big West Conference champion-ship in 2014 and a trio of NCAA Division I playoff berths.
The 2014 Big West Conference Coach of the Year arrived at Cal Poly after 16 highly successful seasons as head coach at nearby Cuesta College.
The Mustangs earned their first NCAA Division I regional playoff berth in 2009, returned to the postseason in 2013 at UCLA, giving the Bruins their toughest test of the postseason as UCLA overcame a 4-0 deficit in the second round en route to the 2013 College World Series championship, and qualified for the 2014 postseason, hosting the San Luis Obispo Regional and finishing 2-2.
“I think Coach Lee and his staff do a great job of coaching,” said San Diego head coach Rich Hill. “I’ve coached against Larry for so long. Their guys are so disciplined at the plate. They are extremely well coached.”
“They are competitive and well-coached,” adds UCLA head coach John Savage. “We know we dodged one against them in the 2013 regionals.”
The historic 2014 campaign saw Cal Poly shatter the school record with 47 wins, finishing 47-12. The Mustangs, ranked No. 1 for a week by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper after sweeping Cal State Fullerton in mid-April, claimed the Big West title with a 19-5 record, two games ahead of Long Beach State and four in front of UC Irvine. The Mustangs have posted 12 winning seasons and ten 30-victory campaigns since 2000 and won 40 games for the second year in a row and fourth time in school history.
Lee guided the Mustangs to a 38-23-1 mark in 2004 to break the school record for wins in a season as a member of Division I and the 2013 squad to 40 victories, one shy of what was the school’s all-time record for wins in a season (41 in 1977 and 1992).
Lee begins his 13th season at the helm in 2015, having led Cal Poly to seven 30-win campaigns, a 396-284-2 mark (58.2 winning percentage) and 10 top-four Big West finishes.
Under Lee’s guidance, Cal Poly has finished first in the Big West Conference once, second three times (2005, 2012, 1013) and a third-place finish in 2011.
In 2005, the Mustangs won 36 games and finished second in the Big West with wins over Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State. The 2006 squad won 11 of 17 three-game series while the 2007 Mustangs won 19 of their final 27 games en route to a 32-24 record.
In 12 seasons with the Mustangs, Lee has produced 34 first-team All-Big West players, seven All-Americans and a quintet of freshman All-Americans. A total of 54 Cal Poly players coached by Lee have signed professional baseball contracts, including 52 in the last 10 years.
From 2004-09, a total of 15 Mustangs were drafted in the first 10 rounds, including Garrett Olson in the first round (compensatory) in 2005. A total of 23 Cal Poly players have been drafted in the top 10 rounds over the last 10 years, including 14 Mustangs in the top five rounds. Southpaw Matt Imhof was a second-round pick of Philadelphia a year ago.
Lee led Cuesta to the California Community College State Final Four on four occasions, all in the last 11 years of his 16-year tenure. The Cougars reached the state’s Final Four in 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2002 and qualified for the Southern California Regionals each of the last six years, including a No. 1 seed in 1999 and No. 2 in 2002.
Lee’s overall record at Cuesta was 460-241-3, including a state-leading 44 wins in 1997. His teams qualified for the regionals 11 times in his last 13 years and Lee was No. 15 on the state’s community college baseball coaches’ list for career wins prior to being hired at Cal Poly.
Under Lee’s leadership, Cuesta claimed nine Western State Conference titles, including six in a row (1997-2002), and averaged 38 wins during that six-year stretch. His teams produced a 267-119 record in conference games and Lee earned conference coach of the year honors eight times.
During Lee’s tenure at Cuesta from 1987-2002, he produced 26 all-state players, three Southern California Players of the Year and numerous professionals. Thirteen of his 16 teams finished above the .500 mark overall, including the last seven.
Lee led his 2002 team to a school-record 24 consecutive wins en route to a 43-9 mark and a third-place state finish.
In 11 postseason appearances, Lee’s teams compiled a 34-28 win-loss record.
Lee, a 1979 San Luis Obispo High School graduate, was a standout baseball and football player for the Tigers before going on to play baseball at Santa Barbara City College (1980), Orange Coast College (1981) and Pepperdine University (1982-83).
Lee was a first-team All-South Coast Conference selection at Orange Coast College as well as a second-team All-Southern California pick.
At Pepperdine, Lee was a career .304 hitter and, as a junior, earned first-team All-Southern California Baseball Association and second-team All-District 8 honors as the Waves posted a 46-21-1 record and earned a berth in the NCAA West Regional at Fresno State.
Lee hit 13 sacrifice flies for Pepperdine in 1982, tied for No. 2 in the NCAA record book for sacrifice flies in a season.
He enjoyed a brief professional baseball career, playing one year for the Utica Bluesox (1983) and ending his career in the Seattle Mariners’ organization.
Before becoming head coach at Cuesta College in 1987, Lee served as an assistant coach for the Cougars for two seasons (1984-85) and at Cal Poly for one year (1986).
Lee earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education/kinesiology from Pepperdine in 1983 and a master’s degree in physical education from Cal Poly in 1985 as well as an adaptive physical education credential from Cal Poly in 1988.
Lee, 55, and his wife, Liz, reside in San Luis Obispo with their two children, Jenna and Brooks.