From a young age, Mark Cummins knew he wanted to be a teacher and coach.
And for 37 years, Cummins has served in both of those capacities at Live Oak High. The 60-year-old was honored in a ceremony before the Sept. 23 El Toro Bowl for his induction into the Live Oak Athletics Hall of Fame.
Cummins found out about the honor on Sept. 16 when Live Oak senior baseball and football standout Landon Stump innocuously asked Cummins if he could do a video interview for the daily student announcements regarding his retirement as a teacher upon the completion of the 2022-2023 school year.
Stump started the interview before Live Oak Athletic Director Mike Gemo jumped in to tell Cummins that he would be honored at the El Toro Bowl for his induction into the Hall of Fame. Acorns’ field hockey and softball coach Sarah Porras along with other students were there to show their support and appreciation.
“I was grateful for the acknowledgement,” Cummins said. “It’s been a great time here and I appreciate the recognition. I was very surprised, but my family knew about it already.”
Cummins is in his sixth season as the girls tennis coach and will start his 12th year as the coach of the boys golf team in the spring. He has an accomplished and extensive resume, including 25 years as the school’s baseball coach, 15 years as the junior varsity football coach and 14 years as the athletic director. He coached baseball and football concurrently, making for a busy schedule.
“One year I even had to fill the spot as the JV boys water polo coach,” he said. “I never got in the pool, but I still coached.”
Raised in Monterey, Cummins developed a love for sports at an early age. His late father, Larry, was a teacher and coached baseball and basketball at Monterey Peninsula College for over 30 years and is in the California Community College Athletic Association Basketball Hall of Fame.
Mark’s brother, Mike, has coached baseball for 40 years and is currently the head coach at Cal State East Bay in Hayward.
“I grew up around sports and was the bat/ball boy for whatever sport was in season,” Cummins said. “I learned a lot from my dad, and it was just a great upbringing.”
Though he coached a half-dozen sports, Cummins is best known for guiding the baseball team to a 2008 Central Coast Section Division III championship victory. It remains the only time the Acorns have made a CCS title game appearance.
What made the 2008 championship extra special was Cummins’ son, Matthew, threw a complete game as the Acorns edged Santa Cruz, 3-2. Incidentally, Matthew was inducted into Live Oak’s Hall of Fame before his dad was.
“I had to wait,” Mark said with a chuckle.
Cummins has earned several accolades, including CCS Honor Coach in baseball and golf, State Coach of the Year in 2021-2022 and induction into the California High School Coaches’ Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. His baseball jersey No. 17 is retired and he accumulated 465 wins.
Gemo said Cummins’ impact has been unparalleled.
“You can’t speak of Live Oak athletics without speaking of Mark Cummins and what he did in all his years here,” Gemo said. “From the CCS baseball championship to being the AD to growing this school to the high level of student-athletes we expect here, it’s all because of him. When I took over as AD (13 years ago), he was here for me and helped guide me. It was great to have that guy as a mentor and someone you can look up to on campus.”
Cummins’ goal for every student-athlete he coached was simple.
“I wanted to make sure their playing experience was the best possible, whether it was me doing extra work around the field so they could have a positive experience,” he said. “Not everyone goes to the MLB, but they all go on to be fathers and figures in the communities. You wanted to instill in them that that was the most important thing.”
What impacts a coach the most is seeing their former players return to the area with a spouse and children of their own.
“It’s very touching. My grandson was playing Pony Baseball last spring and I saw a lot of my former players coaching their teams,” Cummins said. “It’s a really great feeling knowing you helped them along the way a little bit.”
Even though Cummins is retiring from teaching, he’ll stick around to coach the boys golf team beyond this school year. After all, Cummins still enjoys competition and building student-athletes up and instilling in them values and habits that will last well beyond high school.
“My first dream was being a MLB baseball player,” he said. “That fell short so the next best thing was teaching and coaching it.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]