In six seasons at the University of Oregon, George Horton has resurrected a dormant Ducks’ program and built it into a national power. Horton has led Oregon to the postseason four times during that stretch, including the last three seasons.
Under Horton, Oregon made its first modern-era NCAA appearance in just its second season of existence playing in the NCAA Regionals in 2010. The Ducks topped that effort in 2012 advancing to their first Super Regional, finishing just one win shy of advancing to the College World Series. Horton and the Ducks followed that effort with a school-record 48 wins in 2013 while advancing to the NCAA Regionals. The Ducks were successful once again in 2014, winning 44 games and reaching the NCAA Regionals. The Ducks are one of just eight teams to win 40-plus games in each of the last three seasons. Horton now has 11 40-win seasons as a head coach, including two 50-win seasons.
During his six years in Eugene, Horton has compiled a 224-145-1 record with four 40-win seasons. He has coached four All-Americans, 31 all-conference players, five collegiate national team players and 29 Major League Baseball draft picks.
Horton and his staff have been masterful recruiters during their tenure. The Ducks received eight consecutive (2008-15) top-25 recruiting class rankings as well as boasting four top-10 classes in the last five years (2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014). Many of those recruits have produced immediately for the Ducks with seven (Jake Reed, Tommy Thorpe, Cole Irvin, Garrett Cleavinger, Mitchell Tolman, A.J. Balta and Matt Krook) earning freshman All-American honors in their first season at Oregon.
Since Oregon returned to the diamond under Horton, the Ducks have ranked in the top 35 in the nation in attendance every season with 17 different crowds numbering over 3,000 fans at PK Park. Off the field, Horton’s team has garnered 21 all-conference academic selections.
Horton has built the Oregon program emphasizing fundamentals, pitching, solid defense and timely hitting. UO’s pitching staff has posted an ERA that ranked in the top 20 in four of the last five seasons, including the 2010 staff which ranked third in the country (3.29). Three of Horton’s last four teams have ERAs under 3.00, with the 2013 team finishing 14th in the country at 2.78 and the 2012 team (12th in nation) and the 2011 team (19th) finishing with identical 2.99 ERAs. Last season, the Ducks barely missed that mark, finishing the year with a 3.06 ERA. Each of the last five teams have also finished ranked in the top 17 in hits allowed per nine innings, including the 2012 team which ranked second allowing just 7.15 hits per game.
Defensively, Horton’s last four teams have ranked in the top 17 in the nation in fielding percentage. The 2013 team topped out at third in the country with a .981 fielding percentage, while the 2012 team finished seventh (.978), the 2014 team finished 15th (.976), and the 2011 team was 17th (.976). Manufacturing runs is also integral to the success of Horton’s teams. Playing in a pitcher’s park, Oregon has ranked in the top five each of the last five seasons in sacrifice bunts with the 2010 team (78 sacrifice bunts) and the 2013 team (99) leading the nation. The 2012 team (88) ranked second, the 2011 team (84) was fourth and the 2014 team (87) was fifth.
The 2014 season marked the third straight 40-win season for the Ducks as well as the third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The Ducks earned a trip to Nashville where they kept their hopes alive with an exciting 11-8 extra-inning comeback win over Xavier before ultimately falling to eventual national champion Vanderbilt.
Individually, four Ducks were named to the Pac-12 All-Conference team with two more earning honorable mention. Catcher Shaun Chase claimed first-team recognition after a breakout season in which he tied the Oregon single-season home run record (14), and finished second in the nation in home runs per at-bat (1 HR/10.36 AB). Chase was joined on the first-team by Reed, Thorpe and Tolman. Second baseman Aaron Payne and pitcher Jeff Gold earned honorable mention accolades. Krook and first baseman/outfielder Balta both earned freshman All-America honors. Following the season, the Ducks had five players selected in the MLB draft, with one more signing as a free agent. Reed, selected in the fifth round by the Minnesota Twins, and Thorpe, picked in the eighth round by the Chicago Cubs, highlighted the class.
The 2013 season marked the second straight season the Ducks battled for the Pac-12 title into the final weeks of the season. Oregon fell just short of claiming its first Pac-12 title, finishing second with a 22-8 league record. The Ducks earned the No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament and hosted regionals at PK Park for the second straight season falling to Rice in the championship game.
Individually, nine different Oregon players earned postseason honors with Ryon Healy and Jimmie Sherfy leading the way with All-America recognition. Sherfy was named a first-team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and Louisville Slugger second-team All-America, while Healy claimed third-team ABCA/Rawlings accolades. Sherfy and Healey were joined by J.J. Altobelli and Thorpe on the Pac-12 All-Conference team, while Irvin and Brett Thomas claimed honorable mention honors. Irvin, Cleavinger and Tolman all claimed spots on freshman All-America teams.
The 2012 baseball season was a magical one for Horton and the Ducks. Oregon finished 46-19 overall and went 19-11 in the Pac-12, good enough for third in the conference. After putting together a 42-17 regular season, the Ducks hosted the NCAA Regionals in Eugene, where they knocked off Austin Peay twice and Cal State Fullerton to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals. In the Super Regionals, also played in Eugene, Oregon fell to Kent State and was one victory shy of advancing to the College World Series. Five Ducks were named to the Pac-12 All-Conference team and Sherfy garnered second-team All-America honors.
In turn, Horton added to his two National Coach of the Year awards when he was named the 2012 Field Turf NCAA Division I Coach of the Year in January 2013.
In 2011, the Ducks’ 33-26-1 record did not allow for an NCAA Tournament bid despite the club getting hot late and finishing with a 10-3-1 record in its last 14 games as well as posting series wins over tournament teams Stanford, Arizona and Oregon State. Despite the disappointment of missing the postseason, Oregon witnessed a record eight players drafted, including first-round selection Tyler Anderson. Anderson was Oregon’s first first-round draft pick and All-American since 1972.
Under Horton’s watch in 2010, Oregon improved its record from 14-42 (2009) to 40-24. The 22-game improvement was the second-best turnaround in the country since the NCAA began tracking the stat in 1998. Horton also recorded his eighth 40-win season, and made his 12th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, taking the Ducks to the Norwich Regional as the No. 3 seed and reaching the final game against 10th-ranked Florida State.
Following the season, Oregon had four players taken in the 2010 MLB Draft, and a fifth sign a free agent contract. The Ducks were also ranked in four out of five final national polls. In order to reach the postseason in just their second year since reinstatement, the Ducks made massive improvements following Horton’s lead; improving their batting average from .227 to .292, improving a 5.07 ERA to 3.29, more than doubling its run total from 158 to 376, and nearly doubling extra-base hits from 84 to 164.
The Ducks finished 2010 with a 9-6 record against ranked teams, a 3-3 record against the nation’s No. 1-ranked clubs, and won five Pac-10 series, finishing the year with a 13-14 league record that tied for fifth in the conference.
In 2009, the Ducks 14-42 record reflected a first-year program, but Oregon did have monumental wins with a 5-3 season-opening victory at Saint Mary’s, and an electrifying 1-0 victory over defending 2008 College World Series champion Fresno State in the program’s first game at PK Park.
Enthusiasm around the program’s rebirth was lofty in 2009. A total of 57,704 fans came to PK Park as the Ducks had three official sellouts and averaged 2,404 fans per game
In 17 seasons as a Division I head coach, Horton has coached 19 players that ascended to the major leagues, 25 All-Americans, two national players of the year, five conference players of the year, seven conference pitchers of the year, 60 first-team all-conference players, 16 players who were chosen for the collegiate national team, four first-round draft picks and 114 MLB Draft picks.
When then Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny announced the reinstatement of the University of Oregon’s baseball program in July 2007, the reaction among Duck supporters and baseball fans in the community was one of resounding excitement and anticipation. That level of emotion shot through the roof when Horton, a former College World Series championship skipper and two-time National Coach of the Year, was announced as Oregon’s new head coach on Sept. 1, 2007.
Horton, who spent 11 seasons at the helm of national power Cal State Fullerton and led the Titans to the 2004 National Championship, is the Ducks’ 12th baseball coach in school history and it’s first since the program was discontinued following the 1981 season.
During his tenure with the Titans, Horton compiled an overall record of 490-212-1 (.698) and oversaw six appearances in the College World Series, including back-to-back berths in 2006 and 2007 as well as 2003 and 2004. He was named National Coach of the Year by Baseball America in 2003, and garnered the ABCA and Collegiate Baseball National awards following his squad’s title run in 2004.
Horton was also a five-time Big West Conference Coach of the Year, most recently earning the hardware in 2006 on the heels of his third 50-win season at the Division I level.
The Cal State Fullerton graduate spent six years as an assistant coach at his alma mater under legendary college baseball coach Augie Garrido before succeeding him in 1997. Horton was the current Texas skipper’s associate head coach, helping CSF to the 1995 National Championship. Prior to joining Garrido’s staff, Horton spent six years as the head coach at Cerritos College, compiling a junior college record of 226-53 (.810) from 1985-90.
Horton’s teams have reached a No. 1 ranking in national polls in part(s) of the 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 seasons. Entering the 2015 season, Horton’s .666 winning percentage ranked 13th among active Division I coaches (minimum five years).
Horton, who is one of nine men to have appeared in Omaha as a player (1975) and a head coach, has seen 114 players selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Draft, including 11 in 2003 and 14 in 2005. From 1997-2007, 10 of the MLB draft classes contained at least five of Horton’s players. In addition, 26 former Titans ascended to the Major Leagues during Horton’s 17 years at Cal State Fullerton.
Southpaw Ricky Romero (Toronto, 2005) became the third first-round pick taken under Horton’s CSF reign, joining Chad Cordero (Montreal, 2003) and Adam Johnson (Minnesota, 2000) on the list of players taken in the opening round of the Major League Amateur Draft. Other standouts taken in the draft include Aaron Rowand, who was a “sandwich” pick going between the first and second rounds in 1998; Shane Costa, a second-rounder in 2003; and battery mates Kurt Suzuki and Jason Windsor, who were taken in the second and third rounds, respectively, on the first day of the 2004 draft.
In 2007, Horton’s Cal State Fullerton team recovered from an up-and-down regular season to sweep through the NCAA regional and super regional rounds and land a spot in the CWS. The Titans drew eventual champion Oregon State and UC Irvine in Omaha, falling by one run in each contest, including a 13-inning crusher to the Anteaters.
No team in baseball had a better pitching staff than the Titans in 2006 when they led the nation with a 2.73 ERA en route to a 50-15 ledger. The Titans’ success in 2006 featured an 18-3 league record to give CSF its third straight conference crown.
Horton’s streak of coaching consecutive conference players of the year reached four as Justin Turner joined Sergio Pedroza (2005), Kurt Suzuki (2004) and Shane Costa (2003). He also looked after three straight conference pitchers of the year in Wes Roemer (2006), Ricky Romero (2005) and Jason Windsor (2004); and had two players in four years (Roemer in 2006 and Suzuki in 2004) earn national player of the year recognition.
In 2005, Horton narrowly missed a fifth trip to Omaha as Arizona State defeated his squad, 9-8, in the third and final game of the Fullerton Super Regional.
2005 marked the year Horton molded the largest Major League draft class of his coaching tenure, as 14 players were selected in the first-year amateur draft. The 2005 draft class included No. 1 draft pick in Ricky Romero.
Horton added the most impressive credential to his resume in 2004, bringing home a national title. In his eighth year as a Division I head coach, Horton led CSF past the Texas Longhorns and his mentor Garrido, 3-2, in Omaha.
After a mediocre 15-16 start in 2004, Horton enlisted sports psychologist Dr. Ken Ravizza to clear the heads of the slumping troops. In storybook fashion, the team went on to finish an all-time best 19-2 in the Big West and win 27 of their next 32 games to reach the series.
Horton scripted a brilliant season in 2003, guiding Fullerton to a 15-1 start and leading the team to a program-best record of 31-3 at home. After sweeping through the home regional, the Titans beat Arizona State - the top offensive team in the country - in a super regional to advance to Omaha. Fullerton got off to a 2-0 record in Omaha before losing twice against Stanford, which headed on to the championship series.
Horton’s team finished as the consensus No. 3 team in the nation for the second time in three years. For his efforts, Horton was named the National Coach of the Year by Baseball America. He was honored in December at the 2003 Baseball Winter Meetings in New Orleans.
Horton’s CSF squad also made the trip to Omaha in 2001, when they 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 in between. His team still finished No. 3 in all three national polls.
Under Horton’s eye, the 2001 squad became the first team ever to sweep a three-game series against Miami (the eventual national champions) on the Hurricanes home field.
His 2000 team, the unanimous preseason pick to win the conference and the consensus No. 2 team in the country, was the Big West co-champion and hosted a regional for the first time.
In 1999, Horton’s Titans went 25-5 to win conference crown by four games. They swept three games at the Notre Dame Regional and then triumphed in three games in the super regional at Ohio State to qualify for the College World Series, where they went 1-2.
In 1998, the Titans posted the best record in the conference at 25-5. They placed second at the LSU Regional, going 3-2 with a pair of losses to the host Tigers.
In Horton’s debut season in 1997, Fullerton 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 tournament at home to Pacific ace Dan Reichert, but came back to win four games in a row. They swept a doubleheader on the final day against host Long Beach State to capture the automatic NCAA tournament bid.
Horton’s Division I head coaching career began 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 and over the next six seasons helped lead the Titans to a 264-99 record and three trips to the CWS, where they won the 1995 crown with a 57-9 season.
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 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 with the 1999 New York Yankees. Another Horton product, Brent Billingsley, made two appearances for the Florida Marlins early in the 1999 season.
During his 17 years as a Division I head coach, Horton has witnessed 19 of his former players ascend to the Major Leagues. Those players include; Ricky Romero (Toronto, 2009), Justin Turner (Baltimore, 2009), Kurt Suzuki (Oakland, 2007) and Jordan DeJong (Toronto, 2007). Also in that group includes three players that made their big league debuts in 2006; Reed Johnson (Los Angeles Dodgers), Mark Kotsay (Chicago White Sox) and Aaron Rowand (San Francisco).
Nevin and Kotsay were both Golden Spikes Award winners, national players of the year, No. 1 draft picks, College World Series MVPs and U.S. Olympians. Brian Loyd and Jason Moler - also tutored in part by Horton - were Olympians while Kotsay was chosen as the college player of the decade (1990’s) by Baseball America. Twenty U.S. National Team members have also been pupils of Horton’s, with Nevin (1991) being the first, and Thorpe (2013) becoming the latest to don the red, white and blue.
Horton began his head coaching career at Cerritos College in Norwalk, Calif., 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 and 1990).
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, Naulty and Olympian Bret Barberie.
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 (AK) Goldpanners (1981 and 1983) and the Hutchinson (KS) Broncs (1982). Among those who played for him on those summer teams were Shane Mack, Oddibe McDowell, Joe Magrane, Dan Plesac, Phil Stevenson, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.
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 earned 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.
In 1994, Horton was inducted into the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He also was inducted into the Downey High School Hall of Fame in May of 2003 and was honored in 2005 with the Orange County Manager of the Year Award, given by the Orange Coast Chapter of the Society for Advancement of Management.
Horton earned his bachelor’s degree from Cal State Fullerton in 1978 and a master’s from Cal Lutheran in 1980.
He and his wife, Francie, have four daughters: Michele, Heather, Loyal and Rebecca, and seven granddaughters: Angelica (15), Alyssa (13), Kailey (12), Kendall (11), Samantha (6), Calise (4) and Dakoda (10 months).
HORTON'S CAREER COACHING RECORD
Coaching Honors: Field Turf 2012 Division I Coach of the Year
Coaching Honors: Big West Conference Coach of the Year: 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006; Baseball America Coach of the Year (2003) Collegiate Baseball Coach of the Year (2004), ABCA National Coach of the Year (2004).
Coaching Honors: South Coast Conference Coach of the Year: 1985, 1987, 1989, 1990; National Junior College Coach of the Year: 1985, 1987, 1989; CCCBCA Coach of the Year: 1990