At North Marion, Randy Brack has built a diamond trying to withstand the test of time
The 68-year-old coach is fighting waning attention spans with quick play and one beautiful baseball field.
AURORA — Randy Brack admits he’s a little scared about the future of baseball.
Don’t get him wrong, the present at North Marion is still awfully good. The Huskies open up the 4A state playoffs on Wednesday against Tillamook. And at 22-4, this school of about 600 students sandwiched between Canby and Woodburn has a decent shot at winning its first state title since Brack was a shortstop in 1971.
“When I was in high school we were OK in football and struggled at basketball,” Brack said. “But when you’d take those same group of guys and put them on a baseball field, we’d win.”
In 35 seasons across three different stints, Brack has won 600-plus games at North Marion, coached two future big leaguers and developed Bob Brack Stadium into one of the true baseball gems of the West Coast. Brack spends hours every day maintaining this grass field in farm country with sunken dugouts, covered box seats behind home plate and an indoor hitting facility along the first base line.
He does some of his best thinking when he’s behind the push mower in the infield — or driving the mower in the outfield. Lately, the pace of the game has occupied his thoughts.
At 68 years old, Brack’s trying to get things moving.
“Baseball is a tough sell. It’s a slow-moving sport and kids don’t like slow-moving things,” he said. “Good players are going to continue to play, but I’m honestly worried about the ones who make or break your teams — the 7-8-9-hitter, the kid that can pinch-hit and do something for you — I’m afraid we’re going to lose those guys because the games are too slow.”
Brack’s players hustle. They run to their positions. They run out ground balls. They extract as much action as possible out of a sometimes sedentary sport. But when Brack started coaching at North Marion in 1979, baseball didn’t have to fight lacrosse and cell phones for attention. Heck, it barely had to fight against football and basketball, which have both developed into successful programs at North Marion.
He’s probably going to keep losing kids, he figures. One of the only ways he knows how to fight against that is keeping meticulous care of the field.
“This is important to me. It’s meaningful,” he said. “They know I’m putting time in making field preparations and making it look good. It makes them feel proud.”
The football field used to run through the outfield. When North Marion built a new stadium for gridiron, Brack moved part of the football grandstand behind home plate. They added stadium lights and a press box over the years, and the entire playing surface got an overhaul when Brack returned for the third time in 2009. That’s paying dividends here in 2022, where the field’s drainage has allowed the majority of the home schedule to be played despite record rains this spring.
“We never made it to Estacada,” Brack said. “But they came here three times.”
The field isn’t short on notoriety. In 2011 it was voted the best field on the West Coast by the National High School Baseball Coaches Association. In 2015, it was the runaway winner in an OregonLive poll on best Oregon baseball fields. Brack loves seeing the reaction of visiting teams coming to play.
“It makes them play better and it means that we have to play that much better,” he said. “I mean, I think we’d be pretty jacked up and ready to go if we took this group to go play in Yankee Stadium.”
The stadium is named after Brack’s father, Bob Brack, once a farmer who owned multiple area businesses at the time of his death in 1993. Randy Brack got to coach both of his sons on this field, and it was the encouragement of his wife Cindie that persuaded him to return to North Marion after he left the first time in 1981 and again in 2003. He coaches now with sons Tucker and Ty and occasionally lets them have a go on the mower.
“I get a little bit carried away sometimes with how I want it to look in my mind,” Brack said. “They’ll tell me that there’s no other places that we go that look like this, yet I’m still worried about a blade of grass over there.
“They tease me about it — but I won’t feel good until I go over there and cut that blade of grass.”
North Marion faces Tillamook in the first round of the 4A state playoffs at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at Bob Brack Stadium.
— Tyson Alger
Thank you for reading The I-5 Corridor, produced right here in St. Johns, Portland. Consider a free subscription for future unlocked stories or become a paid subscriber for access to all stories and podcasts.