Don Furnald, who was hired as Etiwanda’s head baseball coach Thursday, spoke today about trying to spark an Etiwanda program that has one winning season in its last six and hasn’t made the playoffs since Brice Sunderland become the athletic director in 1997.
“The biggest expectation is to change the culture of the program,” Furnald said. “We’re trying to bring in a whole new program. It’s not like since I’ve been an assistant I’m going to come in and run the same program.”
Furnald, 30, doesn’t think the Eagles are far from being a playoff team.
“It feels like we’re right on the brink,” he said. “We want to be right in the mix in the Baseline League and that’s where we were last year. We’re trying to increase the positivity of Etiwanda baseball. We’re trying to build a tradition. We haven’t had that in a while and we’re trying to start that now.”
Before he joined the Etiwanda coaching staff in 2006, Furnald was an assistant baseball coach for two years each at Rancho Cucamonga, from which he graduated in 1998, and Anaheim Fairmont Prep.
Furnald accepted a scholarship to Cal State Fullerton to pitch and play outfield but transferred to Cal Poly Pomona in 2000 after red-shirting his freshman season. After two years at Cal Poly Pomona, he was selected in the ninth round of the Major League Baseball first year player draft by the Atlanta Braves. He played two seasons, reaching the Single-A level, before the Braves released him. After a short stint in an independent league in St. Louis, Furnald joined the Rancho Cucamonga coaching staff in 2002.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for a coach to grow with our program and this is a young coach who has been part of our district for a long time,” Etiwanda athletic director Brice Sunderland said. “We have full confidence he will be with our program and see it into an exciting time.”
Etiwanda posted a .500 record last season and finished a game out of third place in an effort to gain a coveted playoff spot in the Baseline League. After the baseball team’s last winning season — 14-10 in 2007 — the Eagles collected just five league wins combined in 2008 and 2009 prior to last season. The Baseline League isn’t getting any easier seeing as Glendora, the defending CIF Division 2 champions, joins the league this school year.
“We have some kids getting recruited by Division I programs, so we have the talent to compete,” Furnald said. “I have an old school mentality that I want the kids to be able to do everything from bunting to stealing bases. We’re going to be aggressive and we’re going to hustle.”