Updated: Mar 24
Baseball team plays the waiting game instead of their beloved sport
Old Mill head baseball coach Charlie Chaffin, 52, from Linthicum, had been looking forward to the spring season with the first game April 6 against Arundel High, but right now that’s looking pretty unlikely. His team are the defending state champs from last year, but the disruption caused by the virus is a lot to handle for both players and coaches.
Technically, as of March 21, Chaffin hadn’t heard that the season had been postponed yet, but the writing seemed to be on the wall. While players are itching to get on the diamond, he said their maturity as a team has helped them bear up during the current crisis.
“It starts with the team,” Chaffin said. “I think and everybody was trying to recognize that we were gonna probably be pretty good. I think there's some disappointment. But you know what I'm seeing more than anything is the guys just are trying to get back to work and you know, working out. They want to come here. They want to throw. They want to do all these thing. I think their attitude is when we can play we can play. If that’s in June, that’s in June.”
The team was gearing up for what was a promising looking season, Chaffin indicated. The coach saw 57 students come out for tryouts the first week of March, a rise of almost 30 percent over previous years. By that weekend they were already holding a scrimmage game.
“We've graduated a lot of seniors last year,” he said. “We have core guys coming back though. Mostly they’re 11th graders right now. So I've been, you know, really pleasantly surprised how we started out. I didn't expect this to be this far along this early. But we are.”
He said the team graduated 15 players last year, with a half dozen going on to college ball. This year the team is younger, but he believes its also very talented. He said a main strength is pitching, which he believes to be both very deep and very talented.
“We have a couple of sophomores who are going to be very good,” he said. “They're going to throw hard. They throw downhill and work the bottom of the zone”
The coach said one of those was Myles Fulton a tall, rangie player. Fulton also plays for the football team and surprised Chaffin with how hard he throws. The other sophomore is Cole Fletcher, who has accelerated his pitching skills after playing for the Rawlings A’s travel team last year.
“He's another tall kid, you know, maybe six one,” Chaffin said. “His arm is free, ball gets out of his hand easy. Nobody really knows about them, but they could be really good.”
Chaffin has been coaching with the Patriots for eight years. He came in under former athletic director Craig White.
“When I came here Craig White just treated me amazingly well,” he recalled. “You know, friendly, nice, supportive. He just made it clear that he valued everybody who did this. And I kind of fell in love with the whole high school coaching thing really from day one with Craig White.
Chaffin’s coaching careers goes back further than Old Mill. He coached some college baseball before the Patriots. Before that he got his start in the early 1990s coaching 13 to 15 year olds when he lived out in Oregon.
He first became a player as a 13-year-old himself. He said he was a pretty good player, but that there was more to the game for him than the competition. A couple of his coaches were a big influence on him.
“I felt like I found a home,” he said. “And you know, I come from a broken home...divorced parents and, you know, some rough experiences as a kid with my parents. And so these coaches, it was really to me one of the first times I really felt value as myself. And so that's kind of how, you know my love of baseball started.”
The tradition of Old Mill High School baseball has been strong at least since the tail end of the 1970’s when Mel Montgomery came in to coach. Old Mill has garnered four state championships including last season, Chaffin noted.
“There's always been a solid tradition of baseball,” he said. “There's always been really an emphasis on, on tradition on respect on passion--those types of things. And that's kind of permeated the whole athletic department.”
He does his best to carry on that tradition. One of the main goals of the program, he said, is to turn boys from Old Mill into young men who are accountable and value themselves and their teammates. The coaching staff tries to do that by leading by example, he said.
As he was once mentored by coaches in his formative years, Chaffin said he also tries to extend that guidance through mentorship with his players beyond their high school years if possible.
“My perspective is once you form these relationships, they're lifelong,” he said. “Yeah. So, (if) there's a kid I haven't talked to for 10 years and he calls me up. I hope it's still gonna be there.”
Chaffin also coaches for the Rawlings A’s, the summer travel team, but his day job is in science. Currently he keeps busy writing grants for the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He values education highly and it shows in the goals he has set this year for the team.
His top goal is to have the team reach a collective 4.0 GPA. Last year it was around 3.5, he said. He also wants them to get to at least the third round of the playoffs when the season commences. But most of all he wants his players to develop trust, accountability and a passion for the game.
“If that happens, which for example, it did last year, all the stuff on the field can take care of itself,” he said.
But the stuff on the field requires them to get on the field. For that to happen it may require two other positive traits: patience and unity.
“I'm trying to keep things in perspective too, and I try to help when I talk to some of the guys,” Chaffin said. “I send out emails to the team twice a week right now, to remind them. This sucks. It is terrible. I hope nobody gets sick. I think when somebody does get sick, they're gonna understand why this happened—why we had to do what we did. I hope everybody is OK. There are bigger issues than high school baseball, not many, but there are a few.”