Inspiring story of 'the Mexican shortstop from Salinas' who's now Stanford's head baseball coach

Luz Pena Image
Sunday, October 15, 2023
The inspiring story of Stanford alumnus who's now head baseball coach
As we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month we are featuring a Bay Area coach whose leadership is helping student-athletes succeed.

STANFORD, Calif. (KGO) -- As ABC7 News continues to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we are featuring a Bay Area college baseball coach, whose leadership is helping student-athletes succeed.

ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena met with Coach David Esquer from Stanford University.

For four decades, Stanford's baseball field has been a part of David Esquer's life.

"I was fortunate to take a lot of habits that I have as a man today from my experience on Stanford's baseball field. Whether it was the hard work or being on time or just being uncomfortable with people who accepted mediocrity. I was around a lot of guys who were shooting for the top," Esquer said.

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Esquer grew up in Salinas.

"My mother is from Mazatlán Mexico. She came over when she was about 14-to-15 years old. My dad was born in California but both of his parents are from Mexico," Esquer said. "My dad was a mechanic and an automotive mechanic. I don't think I knew my father ever to not have oil under his fingernails. Extremely hard worker. My mom was the same. My mom was a factory worker. She worked at a cannery early on when we were young."

In high school, Esquer thrived academically and as an athlete, becoming class valedictorian and "Athlete of the Year." Getting into Stanford was a dream for him and his family.

"My father went a little bit to junior college but neither of them graduated from college. And to have that opportunity, they were going to make sure that I took advantage of that," Esquer said.

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An accomplishment that came with a financial sacrifice.

"It really hit me when I came to Stanford I think my parents would write a check for me for tuition, and it's the most money I ever saw them spend at one time my whole life, and it was for me to go to school. So I had a lot of respect for the sacrifice," Esquer said.

In the fall of 1983, Esquer stepped onto the diamond at Stanford University with a clear goal: to make the team.

"I wasn't recruited. I walked on at Stanford. I graduated from Palma High School and had no scholarship offers anywhere and decided that I would come to Stanford and try out for the team," Esquer said. "Eventually by my senior year, I was the starting shortstop, and we won the national championship my senior year."

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Many of the traits he applied on the baseball field he learned in Salinas on a different type of field.

"I spent a summer working in the lettuce fields. A friend of mine whose father was a farmer said he was putting together a college crew to work in the fields. The college crew consistent of about four college people and the rest were migrant workers. It was a great experience. It was very humbling," Esquer said. "I learned to never just be above hard work."

Esquer went on to play professional baseball for four seasons.

Throughout our interview, Stanford's maintenance crew was on the field. An unexpected reminder of how far he's come.

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LUZ PENA: "You have stepped on this field for decades. First as a college athlete, now as the head coach, but also as a groundskeeper?"

DAVID ESQUER: "Yes. What they are doing right now. I've been on that mower. I mowed the grass. I've vacuumed the grass like that gentleman is doing over there. Everything that they are doing right now I have done. It's all added to what I was going to be prepared for. I have experience in almost every level of this organization from the very bottom."

LUZ PENA: "How did that happen? How did you become the groundskeeper?"

DAVID ESQUER: "I was playing professional baseball. After college I got to play professional baseball for four years. In between, I was coming to graduate school here. So, I was working on my master degree and after the season ended there would be some time where school wasn't in session and the coach asked me if I wanted to work on the field. I started by just turning on sprinkles, but then it moved on to he would tell me, 'Esquer, can you mow it for us?'"

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Nearly 30 years later, that same coach Mark Marquess would advocate for Esquer to take the helm of Stanford Baseball.

Esquer coached 18 years at UC Berkeley where he was the 2011 National Coach of the Year. In 2017 he went back home to Stanford.

LUZ PENA: "This is where you used to sit when you used to be a player here and now you are the head coach."

DAVID ESQUER: "It's pretty surreal to be in charge of the program that has had the success that we've had under coach Marquess and having him really stand up for me as well when he decided to retire."

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Esquer has been Stanford's baseball head coach for six years and already has the highest winning percentage in school history. Every win is celebrated with a selfie.

"We've been to the college world series the last three years in a row, which is something no one had done," Esquer said.

LUZ PENA: "You had a lot of success this year with several of your players getting drafted?"

DAVID ESQUER: "Yes. We had, I think nine players drafted. All of them signed. Many in very high rounds. Tommy Troy was a first round pick. We had the Player of the Year of the conference, Alberto Rios."

LUZ PENA: "A Latino. Talk to me about that."

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DAVID ESQUER: "Oh just one of the greatest stories in college baseball. He was much like me. He was a non-scholarship player. He had to wait his turn. He waited for two years. He didn't play much. This is the first year he played full time. He was the Player of the Year in the conference. He was drafted by the Anaheim Angels in the 3rd round. Signed for a very good bonus, and he is out playing professional baseball right now."

LUZ PENA: "Did you see yourself reflected in Rios?"

DAVID ESQUER: "You know a little bit, just about the about of time he had to wait. I did not see myself in the way that I was not the Player of the Year in the conference."

LUZ PENA: "And you did not get the bonus."

DAVID ESQUER: "That is right. I did not get the bonus but I was certainly glad to witness it and hopefully be a little part of it."

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A sense of family is what he strives for his team.

"I learned the lesson that treat your family like friends and your friends like family. The camaraderie bleeds over into the team," Esquer said.

Hard work and perseverance are the pillars he has built his career on and this field has witnessed every step.

"I don't think anyone could've ever seen it. I'm sure the coaches at Stanford didn't think that the 'Mexican shortstop from Salinas' would eventually be taking over the program," Esquer said.

LUZ PENA: "What do you see when you see this field?"

DAVID ESQUER: "I see a place where kids are going to grow up. How a bunch of players in their own little world will learn the habits that will teach them to reach for excellence."

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