SAN DIEGO—Rusty Filter has worn a San Diego State uniform virtually his entire adult life, so it is difficult to imagine him wearing anything else.
With that in mind, Filter will likely be as shocked as anyone the first time he pulls on a jersey with Stanford printed across the front.
Filter, the longtime SDSU pitching coach, accepted an offer Tuesday to be the pitching coach for the Cardinal, ending an association with SDSU that dates back nearly a quarter century.
Filter was a pitcher and catcher for the Aztecs during a four-year career from 1987-90. He began coaching at SDSU in 1991 with the Aztecs junior varsity and joined the varsity coaching staff two years later.
“It was an extremely hard decision for me and my family,” said Filter, who is married and has three children. “I felt like it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Filter has passed up other coaching offers through the years, but he does have head coaching aspirations and this seems to be a logical step in that direction. Filter’s stock couldn’t be higher after mentoring college Player of the Year Stephen Strasburg, so this also seemed the right time to make the move.
“It’s another step I’ve got to take in my career,” said Filter, who cited Stanford’s baseball tradition, academic excellence and proximity to family (his wife grew up in Northern California and still has several relatives there) among his considerations for leaving.
SDSU head coach Tony Gwynn said he suspected something like this might happen.
“I wasn’t surprised, honestly,” Gwynn said by phone Tuesday night from Milwaukee, where he was part of the Padres broadcast team. “You knew after a year like we had that he was going to have some opportunities. It was a great offer (from Stanford). I totally get it. He wants to be a head coach someday.”
Gwynn said the consistency shown by the SDSU pitching staff through the years was testament to Filter’s guidance.
“One thing you could always count on is we were going to pitch, and Rusty was a big part of that,” Gwynn said. “It’s tough because we finally have the program headed in the direction we want to go.
“We wish him well. Rusty is going to Stanford, but he will always be an Aztec . . . Now we have to move on.”
At Stanford, Filter joins one of the most successful programs in the nation. The Cardinal has won two national championships and made 14 appearances at the College World Series over the past 28 years.
But Filter also leaves quite a legacy at SDSU. Nearly 60 pitchers have been drafted off the Aztecs’ roster during Filter’s tenure. More than a dozen of them have risen to the upper levels of professional baseball, including current major leaguers Justin Masterson, Aaron Harang and Alex Hinshaw.
The foundation is there for more SDSU pitchers to follow.
“We’ve worked extremely hard and the program is headed in the right direction,” Filter said. “The pitching staff is going to be very good next season and the recruiting class is strong. They’re in good shape.”
Filter, officially listed as associate head for the Aztecs, handled a variety of duties with the program, most notably as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. SDSU assistant coach Mark Martinez also is heavily involved with recruiting, which will soften some of the impact.
Calls and e-mails already were beginning to pour in to Filter as word of his departure began to filter out.
Strasburg was among those to acknowledge how Filter will be missed.
“It’s a sad day in the Aztec baseball program,” Strasburg wrote on his Facebook page.