It was a beautiful day at Orange Park in South San Francisco Monday as Brandon Ramsey led his Riordan varsity baseball team into the visitors’ dugout at Bob Brian Field.
It was a homecoming of sorts for the South City native, who grew up a five-minute drive from Orange Park. The former Serra star is in his seventh year as a baseball coach, but having spent two years as a coach at Skyline College, after managing the El Camino frosh-soph squad for four years, this is Ramsey’s first year working outside of San Mateo County, and his first season at the varsity helm in taking up with Riordan.
And stepping onto Bob Brian Field evoked fond memories of the first time Ramsey ever met legendary South City baseball coach Bob Brian.
“I came out of high school [after my freshman year] and I was supposed to play in Colt League, still with the shorter bases,” Ramsey said. “And I wanted to play up with the 90-foot bases but they wouldn’t let me. So, me and my dad came here — and this is when Bob Brian used to be out here … and [was running his American Legion team on the big diamond] — and I went on to [the Little League field across the outfield] and started hitting baseballs all into their practice. Bob Brian walked out and started saying: ‘Hey guys, you can’t be doing this. You can’t be playing out here.’ And my dad’s like: ‘Hey, my son doesn’t have anywhere to play.’ And he’d just watched me hit, and he’s like: ‘What do you mean he doesn’t have anywhere to play?’”
That was the start of Ramsey’s prestigious baseball career. He’d go on to be a baseball and football standout at Serra, where he still owns the Padres’ all-time single-season hits record of 54. He went on to win All-Northern California honors at Skyline before graduating from Lewis-Clark State in Idaho two years later.
When he returned home from school though, a coaching career was the furthest thing from his mind. Having put himself through school, Ramsey was more concerned with getting to work to pay off his college debt. Born from three generations of Pennsylvania iron workers, the first-gen Bay Area native figured himself for a blue-collar life. But that’s when he got a call from then-El Camino manager Carlos Roman.
Roman pitched Ramsey a job opportunity to take over the Colts’ frosh-soph team. Ramsey initially declined. But Roman told him to take some time to think about it and, two weeks later, Ramsey called Roman back and accepted the position.
“It was a great opportunity to work under [Roman] … a guy who’s been there forever,” Ramsey said. “He taught me a lot just being there and watching him run things. ... That was a good first place for me … and I haven’t looked back since.”
After two seasons spent getting his feet on the ground at El Camino, Ramsey enlisted another former Serra Padre as his pitching coach — Al Orozco. The tandem went on to lead the Colts squad to a Peninsula Athletic League frosh-soph title in 2011 before Ramsey left to take a coaching position at Skyline and Orozco departed to join the varsity staff at Serra.
However, the two have reunited this season, as the first person to whom Ramsey extended a coaching job after being hired at Riordan last August was Orozco.
It was Orozco who initially alerted Ramsey to the Riordan job. But the former Serra standout — who bleeds blue and gold — never imagined he’d be going along for the ride.
“He was kind of tentative at first … so I just kept getting on his butt about it,” Orozco said. “And finally he applied and it worked out for him. Then he asked me and I was like: ‘You’re putting me in a pickle right now. It was my intention for you to get the job, not for me to leave Serra.’ It was a very tough decision because I went to school there, I’m a Padre all the way … but, you know, I’m always with my friends. So, we’ve had a good relationship since El Camino, and we’ve always talked about dominating somewhere. And this is a good opportunity to start from the bottom and build something together.”
Since the hire of Orozco, Ramsey has tooled a coaching staff, throughout the three tiers of Riordan baseball, of which he is quite proud. Another former Serra player, Jimmy McCarthy, rounds out the varsity staff. Adam Hicks is heading up the junior-varsity squad, with Nick Paton serving as pitching coach. Brian Ghilarducci is managing the freshman team with coaches Al Mattis and Jose Ramirez.
And while the varsity squad has a long way to go from its 3-11 finish in the West Catholic Athletic League last season, the Crusaders are off to a 3-2 overall start this season after a 9-0 win at South City Monday.
“I don’t want to say we’re building from the ground up, but we are building,” Ramsey said. “And we’re on a constant effort to build this program every day.”