Byline: Dave Miller Daily Herald Sports Writer
For a coach about to retire, Sevan Sarkisian sure has a sharp mind.
Sarkisian, known as "Sark" to his friends, remembered how he became the College of DuPage softball coach as if it was yesterday. He was, of all things, umpiring a game at the college when athletic director Herb Salberg dropped by and started to chat with his friend.
"I got this terrible team and you're out here umpiring," Salberg said to Sarkisian in mock disbelief. "You're going to be the coach next year."
Sarkisian thought Salberg was kidding. He wasn't.
In 1984, Sarkisian became a coach for the first time and guided the COD softball team, which finished 4-22 the season before, to an 18-4 record. Little did he know he was just getting started.
Including this year's 36-7 squad which plays at noon today in the semifinals of the Region IV state tournament at COD, the Chaparrals have enjoyed 13 consecutive winning seasons under Sarkisian.
"I was kind of a student of the game, but really I came with no coaching experience," Sarkisian said. "I think if anything it shows if you're willing to work a little bit you could be fairly successful."
Sarkisian is the fifth winningest active junior college coach in the country with a 385-101-2 record - a .773 winning percentage.
In six of the last eight years, the Chaps won the North Central Community College Conference championship, and reached the national tournament in 1990, '91 and '94.
Truth be told, Sarkisian would like to coach forever. But a heart attack suffered during last season caught his attention. At 61, he knew he could no longer postpone the inevitable.
"It's just a good time to go," he said.
A self-described "dinosaur," Sarkisian wears the tag of old-timer as a badge of honor.
He grew in the '40s and '50s a half-block away from Wrigley Field where he chased batting practice home run balls hit on the street ("I still got about 20 balls that I collected with Ford Frick's autograph on them.") and developed an affinity for Stan Musial and the St. Louis Cardinals.
His lifelong interest in baseball prepared him well for his late start into the coaching ranks.
Another secret behind Sarkisian's success is his recruiting. He has an eye for talent and pounds the pavement in pursuit of potential Chaps. Sarkisian has been a fixture at area high school and summer games, jotting down information in a pocket notebook.
Unlike a Division I coach, Sarkisian must replace half of his roster every year.
"I owe a big debt to the high school coaches and the summer coaches," Sarkisian said. "They've helped me with sending me some great players and I appreciate that. No coach can do it alone."
That's where Sarkisian's best friend, Bob Barron, enters the picture. Barron, formerly a shortstop in the Baltimore Orioles chain and a hall-of-fame fastpitch softball player for the Aurora Sealmasters, assisted Sarkisian from 1986-94.
The two met at
COD when Sarkisian began teaching at the college in 1970.
"We were always talking ball and I asked him if he would be interested in helping coach the team," Sarkisian said. "That was the smartest decision I ever made. He knows more about hitting than anybody I ever talked to.
"He was just terrific. …