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As a college player, O'Connor began learning to be a college coach, developing the diligence that helped turn Virginia into a powerhouse.

“I looked at my college experience and the success we had there and what I learned there to manage a team and organization to have success,” O'Connor said.

The demeanor that made people think O'Connor might someday lead meetings in a boardroom later drew recruits to UVa.

“I just love how he’s real professional,” said Chris Taylor, whose two-RBI single Monday was the Super Regional winner. “The way he runs our team. … I came to a practice and the way the practice was run, everything was so high intensity. It seemed like something I wanted to be a part of.”


When he was 23, O'Connor moved away from the Greater Omaha area, but had it in his head that one day his teams would be annual visitors. Underneath the polite, sometimes soft-spoken exterior was a competitor with a drive that wouldn’t fail.

“He’s a clean-cut, good-looking guy,” Hendry said. “When he was younger he didn’t look like the tough guy that he really was.”

Paul Mainieri saw that toughness when he was hired to take over the Notre Dame program before the 1995 season. O'Connor was barely older than the Fighting Irish players, but Mainieri put him in charge of the pitching staff.

“A year after college I had him as my No. 1 assistant at Notre Dame because I could see there was something special about him,” said Mainieri, now at LSU. “Not only was he inordinately mature for that age, he had a total grasp and understanding for an entire team to win.”

Notre Dame won five straight Big East titles and made it to the College World Series in 2002. O'Connor turned down at least four head coaching offers before Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage called in 2003.

“I told Craig if he hired Brian O'Connor his reputation as an athletic director would be made,” Mainieri said. “I think I was pretty prophetic about that.”

Virginia never had sustained success and a few years before decided against a proposal of cutting baseball scholarships and making it little more than a club sport, instead deciding for a push to become one of the game’s premier programs.

O'Connor had a plan to make it happen, but it required winning the full support of the university and the Charlottesville area.

“When Coach O'Connor first got here he told the administration we were going to do it and when we did they needed to be ready to respond,” Cavs pitching coach Karl Kuhn said. “That when was our first year when we had a very good record and was able to host [an NCAA regional].”

Today, Davenport Field hardly resembles the stadium it was in 2003. The original grandstand held 1,500 fans, but now seating stretches around the outfield to accommodate sell-out crowds of 5,050. Underneath the seats are modern clubhouses, an indoor hitting area and, perhaps most importantly, a film room.

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