The Phoenix Christian Cougars Baseball program won back-to-back AIA 2A Conference state championships in 2017 and 2018 under the leadership of head coach Mark Band, now in his 16th season at PC. To think of three in a row was tempting, especially since the Cougars started the season 19-0 in 2019. Alas, not all ends as planned and Phoenix Christian fell in the quarterfinal of the 2A state tournament, finishing the season 23-4 overall.
Still, the fact that the Cougars have made four straight AIA state tournament appearances more than a little impressive—some may say that Band has created a 2A dynasty.
Band is a Phoenix native who has not wandered far from his roots. After attending Montbello Grade School and Alhambra High School, he continued his education and baseball career at Phoenix College and Grand Canyon University.
Ask Band about his childhood and through a big smile he will tell you about a close community where the summer streets were filled with kids riding bicycles and playing whiffle ball. He fondly remembers his days at Montbello Little League and a PE teacher who mentored a young player into a coach.
Band’s coaching philosophy is simple and his words say it best. “Be the best individual player you can be, be the best team you can be. Always give your best effort, no shortcuts. If you give your best and do your best and somebody else is better than you, then you tip your cap and walk off the field with pride knowing you gave your best.”
At Phoenix Christian, Band does not talk to his players about winning. It is more important to him that his boys leave him with characteristics that will serve them for a lifetime, including respect, morality, integrity, strong character and work ethic.
And he’s often setting that example for his players. Band cuts his own infield grass or successfully organizes parents and volunteers to do all the “little things” like moving dirt or one of many other small seasonal improvements. The attention to small details has paid big dividends, as the program raises nearly 100 percent of its own operations funds on the small central Phoenix campus located at 1751 W. Indian School Road.
Band’s favorite saying can be found on the back of every player’s practice jersey: “Little Things Make a Big Difference.” And through the wins and losses, his players remember his lessons, even after the final pitch.