Riverside-Brookfield High School’s new head varsity baseball coach played minor league baseball for seven years.
Mark Ori, a special education teacher and instructional coach at the school, was drafted by the Houston Astros in 2005 and advanced to AA ball in 2009 before being released in 2010.
The following year, he played for an Independent League team before hanging up his spikes. Ori batted .278 in his professional career and hit 39 home runs in 709 professional games. His best season was in 2008 when he batted .304 and hit 11 home runs for Salem in the Advanced Class A Carolina League.
After finishing his baseball career Ori got a master’s degree in special education from the University of Phoenix. In addition to giving private baseball lessons, he worked as a paraprofessional at Maine South High School in Park Ridge and filled in for a maternity leave at an elementary school before getting hired at RBHS in 2015.
While at Maine South, Ori helped coach the Maine South baseball team with his former coach Bill Milano, who is the brother of current Nazareth baseball coach Lee Milano.
“I’m a baseball junkie,” Ori said.
In October, the RBHS school board unanimously approved hiring Ori to replace Dallas Till as the varsity baseball coach. Till remains on paid leave after being accused in a lawsuit of having a sexual relationship with a student while a teacher and coach at Elmwood Park High School. Till officially resigned as RBHS baseball coach on Sept. 27 after not being on a list of approved stipends last summer.
Ori, 39, had been the RBHS sophomore baseball coach. He said the transition to the varsity level will be easier because knows most of the current varsity players.
“I coached most of these guys when they were sophomores,” Ori told the Landmark in a telephone interview.
Ori was chosen after being interviewed by an interview committee consisting of Athletic Director Brendan Curtin, assistant athletic directors Sandy Czajka and Sam Styler and softball coach Doug Schultz.
“We are excited to have Coach Ori heading up our baseball program” Curtin said in an email to the Landmark. “He is passionate about the sport and coaching Bulldog baseball. Coach Ori is respected by students and staff alike. He has set clear and attainable goals for the program and will serve as a great mentor for our student athletes.”
Ori was one of two internal candidates for the job, but the other candidate dropped out of the running shortly before interviews were conducted. No outside applicants were considered.
He’ll be paid a stipend of $7,140 as head varsity baseball coach. In addition to coaching sophomore baseball, Ori was an assistant football coach on both the varsity and underclass levels for a few years and has served as the assistant athletic director for winter sports.
Ori was a two-time all-state baseball player at Maine South High School where he was also a standout football wide receiver. After being recruited for both football and baseball, Ori decided to go to Northwestern University on a baseball scholarship and became the captain of the Northwestern baseball team.
After his junior year at Northwestern Ori, who was primarily a first baseman, entered the Major League Draft in 2005 and was chosen in the 14th round by the Houston Astros.
Ori said that he is typically an aggressive coach.
“I don’t like to bunt a lot unless we need a run,” Ori said. “I want the kids to learn how to swing the bat and move guys over swinging it, steal bases. I’d rather take a chance that way than giving up an out unless I’m playing for a run early or late in the game. Pitching, same thing, attack the zone.”