You can barely see Cal's softball stadium from Centennial Boulevard, as it's hidden behind a village of temporary football offices put up during the Memorial Stadium renovation.
That makes a lot of sense for a coach that, despite near-unprecedented success, has managed to remain mostly unknown.
Diane Ninemire leads the Bears into their 11th Women's College World Series appearance Thursday against Alabama. Ninemire has taken Cal to the NCAA tournament in each of her 23 seasons as Cal's coach and is 10th on the Division I all-time list with 1,058 wins. She was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009.
Softball doesn't have as high a profile as other college sports such as football, and men's and women's basketball, but even among the softball community, it seems Ninemire hasn't received her due.
"I personally think that Diane Ninemire is the most underrated colleague in our sport," said longtime UCLA coach Sue Enquist, who led the Bruins program for 18 years before retiring in 2006. "When I think of Diane Ninemire, I think of sustainability. Cal is in the mix every year. There is one constant in that program, and it's been Diane Ninemire."
Ninemire led the Bears to the national championship in 2002, the first national team title for a women's program at Cal. She's also produced 38 All-Americans, including Olympians Michele Granger, Gillian Boxx and Vicky Galindo.
Ninemire's accomplishments are magnified because Cal's facilities aren't on the same level as most of the top programs around the country. Levine-Fricke Field doesn't meet the NCAA criteria to host postseason games, and the Bears lack top-notch locker rooms and offices, although that will be improved with Cal's new Student-Athlete High Performance Center scheduled to open in the fall.
"You see their field and compare it to any other Pac-10 field, and it's amazing to think about what she's been able to accomplish," said Galindo, who now is the head coach at West Valley College in Saratoga and also plays for the National Pro Fastpitch's Chicago Bandits. "Coach Ninemire has great academics, but what else does she have to offer except her as a coach and what she has done? She is very underrated."
Ninemire is hoping Cal's facilities are upgraded in the near future, and athletic director Sandy Barbour says softball will be a top priority once the Memorial Stadium project is complete. Ninemire admits there have been times when she's thought about pursuing other jobs, but Cal's academic reputation is what keeps her in Berkeley.
"The one thing I've loved the most here is to know that the players are getting the finest education they could possibly ever get," Ninemire said. "This is the only place you can be No. 1 in academics and win a national championship."
Winning a second national championship would certainly boost Ninemire's notoriety, and she hopes it could prompt more interest from private donors to help improve the program's facilities. Expanding Levine-Fricke's seating capacity from the 500 it currently holds would help the Bears to host postseason games, which in turn would also give Cal more television exposure.
"She doesn't toot her own horn. She's not wired that way," Enquist said. "When you don't have a huge stadium to create a huge following, you don't have a huge voice."
TOP NCAA SOFTBALL COACHES
The top 10 coaches on the all-time wins list in NCAA Division I history:
1. Margie Wright (Illinois State, Fresno State)* 1,421
2. Mike Candrea (Arizona) 1,272
3. Yvette Girouard (La-Lafayette, LSU)* 1,265
4. Gayle Blevins (Indiana, Iowa)* 1,245
5. Carol Hutchins (Ferris State, Michigan)* 1,232
6. JoAnne Graf (Florida State) 1,218
7. Elaine Sortino (Massachusetts)* 1,129
8. Eugene Lenti (DePaul)* 1,102
9. Joyce Compton (Missouri, South Carolina) 1,066
10. Diane Ninemire (Cal)* 1,058
NCAA softball World Series
At ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City
Cal (44-11) vs. Alabama (51-9), 10 a.m. TV: ESPN2