Under the Gun: Jim Chester, Barton College
In today’s edition of Under the Gun, we are joined by the head coach at Barton College, Jim Chester. He is in his second year of leading the Bulldogs in Wilson, N.C. and has seen his squad make a tremendous jump in its results on the diamond this spring.
Looking at the numbers from previous stops as a head coach, you have come to Barton with over 300 career collegiate wins. Share with us some of those experiences, your time prior to being a head coach, and maybe who some influences have been in your career.
I am blessed to coach baseball for a living. The opportunity to make an impact in someones life everyday is something you can’t put a price tag on. I wouldn’t change my path to Wilson, NC for anything. I didn’t play on a grass infield till I was about 14-15 years old in Pittsburgh, PA. My first coaching job paid $5,000 and we practiced on a parking lot! I have had the opportunity to have outstanding assistant coaches and players over my 13 years as a head coach. My major influences in my life and coaching are number 1, my father. He taught me the value of faith and work ethic. My college coach Joe Schaly (Thiel College) really encouraged me to get into college coaching. Joe Ranalli was an assistant for me at PSU-Greater Allegheny and has over 40 years of coaching experience still calls me everyday and helps me with every aspect of coaching. I am also very blessed to have a boss who has been in the trenches. Todd Wilkinson was a successful coach at Barton, and he understands what we go through on a daily basis. I also have a wonderful wife who keeps takes care of our family and supports every recruiting trip, game, and the daily grind.
You’ve come to Barton with somewhat of a reputation of turning around programs that might be in need of some rejuvenation. What are some critical aspects to helping a team “rebuild”?
The most important thing to change is the culture. That is easier said than done. Our program relies on three words:
SELFLESS – We believe that the man next to us is more important than ourselves. In everything we do, every decision we make, we are putting our teammates and the program first.
RELENTLESS – We are going to practice at 110%! We are going to play at 110%! We are giving at 110% in the community! We are giving a 110% in the classroom!
BLUE COLLAR – Nothing in our program is taken for granted. We are going to earn everything we get. Entitlement will not be tolerated!
The Conference Carolinas that Barton competes in has some quality programs. How has it been being at Barton College in terms of facing teams week in-week out that can be so challenging?
The league is very good and the programs are well-coached! Mount Olive has been a national force for many years. Belmont Abbey is outstanding, and in the last few years North Greenville has been as good as anyone in the country. We have a daunting challenge week in and week out.
I was very lucky to come from a conference (PSAC) that was equally tough. Playing West Chester (National Champions 2017), Millersville (National Runner-Up 2016), Mercyhurst, and etc the past few years I believe helped my transition into Conference Carolinas.
We have always prided ourselves in playing the most demanding schedule possible, and that will continue as the program evolves.
Of course, the head coach is responsible for the development of the entire program. But everyone seems to have an area of instruction or coaching that may have been a focus as an assistant or even continues as the head coach. What is your area, and what is your philosophy or approach to teaching when comes to helping a player develop?
I really love this question. I got a head coaching job very young (26), and it really didn’t allow me to become a pitching guy, hitting guy, or etc. I enjoy working with infielders, especially 1st Basemen. I always feel that position gets neglected.
Our goal is to get the player to play at a level that they have never played at before. That is not easy, it takes time, hark work, and sacrifice. Again, we demand that our players are SELFLESS, RELENTLESS, and BLUE COLLAR. I was raised that if you put the time in, something positive will come of it. I live that in coaching.
Recognizing how critical the youth levels are to the game of baseball when it comes to continuing or even improving the game going forward, what is a message you’d like to share with players, coaches or even parents in those early stages of the sport?
1. Watch the Game – Take time to watch baseball, coming up is a great time of year. NCAA DI conference championships, regionals, super regionals, and the college world series. The game is played the right way in all of these settings. Players will sacrifice everything to get to Omaha!
2. Know the Rules – I encourage our players and pride myself in being a life-long learner of the game. There are many rules, and the more you know the better the player you will be. Take the time to ask questions about situations. This is not limited to coaches, engage umpires too! They will take the time to explain calls if approached in the right manner.
3. Learn how to Keep Score – This is a lost art! 90% of our players don’t know how to keep a scorebook! This will make you a better player and improve your overall knowledge of the game!
4. Learn how to Bunt and Slash – Take the time an understand the small game package. Know how and when to sacrifice bunt, drag bunt, push bunt, safety squeeze, and suicide squeeze! We like to slash in our program, virtually every year our we have to start from scratch to teach the slash. It is a great play, learn it, and understand how to execute it!
5. Dirtball Reads – Take the time to develop your primary lead, secondary lead, this will lead to a successful dirt ball read. Every base is critical, take advantage of dirtball reads!
6. Play to Win – There is WAY too much emphasis on showcase. I understand the 60, velocity, exit velo and etc are important, but give me a player that plays at 110%, loves his teammates, and understands how to play the game and I’ll show you a winner!
7. Know your Role – Its ok if you are NOT the star of the team! There is importance and value in being a pinch runner, defensive replacement, relief pitcher, and etc.
8. Be Humble – Baseball can humble you….. As quick as you bat flip, do a signature dance on second base, taunt the opposing team on a strike out you can be walking back to the dugout on a strike out, get thrown out at 2B, or having a routine ground ball get on you and make a critical error! Be humble, play the right way, respect the game, and most importantly have fun!
We at Dirtbags Baseball are so appreciative to Coach Chester for his time in taking a moment to let us know more about himself and how the process is going at Barton College. Best of luck to him and his Bulldogs!