Chester reflects on his Cartersville years, looks ahead with Buford
After 21 seasons and six state championships at Cartersville, baseball coach Stuart Chester surprised many two weeks ago when he revealed he was leaving the Canes’ program to take the identical position at Buford High School.
The Buford job came available when Wolves’ coach Tony Wolfe — who compiled a 448-178 record and two state titles in 21 seasons — stepped aside to become Buford’s assistant athletics director.
Wolfe, who played a role in the selection of Chester as his successor along with Buford athletic director Dexter Wood, went head-to-head with Chester’s teams in 2014, 2015, and 2016 in the state playoffs and both coaches have expressed mutual respect for one another over the years.
Chester, 52, has compiled a 563-148 career coaching record with 532 of those wins coming with the Canes. The Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Famer shared Monday night that he had received a whirlwind of offers and opportunities over the past few months.
“The last five months have been a little crazy,” said Chester. “During the Christmas break I had an opportunity to take the football job at Hart County. Then in March I was offered the head baseball coaching job at Rome High School. I turned that down on a Monday and Thursday of that same week Buford called. The entire discussion with Buford took about two weeks.”
Chester, a Dawsonville native, said he has been nothing but impressed with the people at Buford. “I was no different than any other person looking at Buford from the outside,” commented Chester. “You see the facility and all the championships... but honestly the people there are better than any of the things we see on the surface. They also made me feel very appreciated and special.”
At Cartersville, Chester guided the Canes to state championships in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2009, and 2013. His teams amassed 14 region titles, made 17 state quarterfinal appearances, 10 semifinal appearances, and eight appearances in the state finals.
His new program at Buford has also been highly successful, but not to that degree.
The Buford program has three state titles — winning Class B in 1977, Class AA in 2011, and Class AAAA in 2015.
Chester is currently in the process of developing his coaching staff and understands he is taking the helm of a program that has to replace some valuable losses in personnel.
“I am currently working on my coaching staff,” noted the new Wolves’ skipper. “There are some guys remaining from last year. Casey Laws and Trent Adams are great coaches and outstanding men. I also have a couple positions I am trying to fill.”
“As far as returning players and upcoming season,” noted the veteran coach, “I think it will be a little bit of a rebuilding year. Graduation took 100 innings pitched as well as about 75 RBIs. There is some young talent but not much experience.” he concluded.
Obviously, Cartersville will always be a special place for Chester.
“There are so many special moments at Cartersville it's hard to pick just one. I guess as far as a win it would probably have to be the first state championship at Calhoun. However there are so many special moments from team meetings in the locker room that fans, parents, and others never see or know about. It's special when players lean on you for advise and make changes in life that have nothing to do with baseball,” he reflected.
The coach who led the Canes to state and even national prominence in recent years, is thankful for his Cartersville experience.
“I would like to thank Cartersville, the Dugout Club and all the players who have made an impact on my life and my family. I am forever grateful and will miss so many close friends,” Chester closed.
Cartersville thanks you too coach.
Family: Wife Jessica; sons Ryan, 24, and David, 21, and daughters Laura, 19, Sarah, 15, and Abbey, 12
Career record: 563-148
Education: Graduated from Dawson County High School in 1983; graduated from North Georgia College in ’88; earned Masters degree from Jacksonville (Ala.) State University in 2004 and a leadership degree from Lincoln Memorial College in 2006
Background: Played in high school at Dawson County and in college at DeKalb Community College and Augusta State College; earned his degree at North Georgia after his playing days ended; high school coaching experience started as assistant at Cherokee and Pickens County in the 1980s and ‘90s; became head coach at Pickens in 1994; spent the last 21 years at Cartersville, where he was an assistant one year before becoming head coach in 1997; led the Purple Hurricanes to six state championships; named to the Georgia Dugout Club’s Hall of Fame in 2014