Tim O’Brien, an assistant coach on Hart High’s 1999 CIF champion baseball team, has died, his daughter Jennifer told The Signal this week.
O’Brien, who was 68, died of an undisclosed illness last week in San Diego, according to Jennifer.
Funeral services are planned for Saturday at 11 a.m. at Grace Baptist Church on Copper Hill Drive, across town from where O’Brien assisted legendary Hart High baseball coach Bud Murray for close to a decade.
Murray, who’s been an assistant softball coach at Cerritos College for the last 16 years, said Tuesday that O’Brien became like a brother to him during their time together, which culminated in winning the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 crown in 1999.
“I love that guy,” Murray said of his former assistant, whose tenure at Hart began in rather bizarre fashion.
Roughly nine years before the CIF title, O’Brien’s brother, Mike, called Murray and asked if the coach would add O’Brien, a youth baseball coach, to Hart’s staff because O’Brien had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and didn’t have long to live.
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Then, after about a month of coaching, O’Brien received a second opinion and learned he didn’t have the disease.
“Tim called me and said, ‘Hey, Bud, I don’t have Lou Gehrig’s disease. Do I still have a coaching job?’” Murray recalled. “And I said, ‘Certainly. As long as you want it.’”
That’s not to say, however, that O’Brien received a free ride. He turned out to be a great coach and a valuable asset, Murray said, adding that O’Brien was tasked with coaching first base and teaching base running.
Murray describes his former assistant as a player’s coach and a “piece of work.”
“(O’Brien) always said if someone thought of you as a piece of work they were giving you the highest compliment you can get,” Murray said, “and that guy was a piece of work. He had great humor. He was a player’s coach, and he backed those kids 100 percent. If he had to get on them, he did it in a way that was really good, not demeaning, and he was a prankster.”
One time, O’Brien began placing little rocks on Murray’s normally immaculate infield. Murray threw a fit every day when new rocks replaced the one’s he picked up the day before. An investigation was launched.
Finally, O’Brien confessed to the prank.
“Not a day goes by,” Murray said, “that I don’t think of something he did or said and just chuckle inside.”
Jennifer remembers O’Brien as a great person, father and husband. She said he coached youth baseball in the Santa Clarita Valley for many years.
“He loved coaching baseball, and he loved the kids,” she said.