2012 All-Rowan County Baseball: South's Chrismon is Coach of Year
By Ronnie Gallagher
LANDIS — Thad Chrismon will tell you that coaching a baseball game can be an emotional roller coaster.
Ironically, the most emotional game for the fourth-year South Rowan head coach came in the one he wasn’t a part of.
On May 3, South’s 3A playoff life depended on Carson beating West Iredell for the NPC tournament championship. If Carson won, the Raiders would squeak in as the fourth seed. If West won, South’s season would be over.
Chrismon had eaten at Gary’s Barbecue, and his wife Angie, who happens to be the school’s athletic director, was reading the ever-changing tweets of the Salisbury Post’s Mike London.
Questions were thrown Chrismon’s way.
“Want to know the score?”
“You going over?”
Finally, in the eighth inning with the score 2-2, Chrismon couldn’t take it any longer.
“I’ll be back,” he said, driving to Carson and standing alone in the right-field corner.
Well, not actually standing. Pacing was more like it.
“I stomped some grass,” he chuckled. “I probably owe them for some seed.”
When it finally ended with a Carson win in 12 innings, Chrismon drove home a happy man.
“It was harder than being in the game,” he laughed.
Chrismon can laugh now because, with new life, he guided his team to an improbable playoff run. While the higher NPC seeds were eliminated, his Raiders were the last team standing. South made it to the fourth round before losing to Weddington, finishing 18-11.
And that effort helped Chrismon to a 2012 Rowan County Coach of the Year award.
The Raiders had been ousted by West Iredell in the first round of the tournament but still worked out, unsure if they’d even be playoff participants.
“It was the two best practices we had all year,” Chrismon beamed. “I told (assistant coach Greg) Yanz, ‘I’d really like to see them play now.’ ”
Carson made that a reality and the Raiders took advantage.
Chrismon did his best work, not with batting or pitching tips, but with speeches about confidence. It was the same speeches he used when his team was mired in a 3-5 season.
“I was thinking, ‘We’re a whole lot better than this,’ ” Chrismon recalled. ‘Something’s missing. Something’s not right. We’re not playing with confidence.’ ”
He made some changes, including bringing up sophomore infielder Eric Goldston from jayvee. But the biggest one was making his players simply relax.
“We talked about fighting through it,” he said. “I told them, ‘Just let go and take your best shot.’ ”
Beating regular-season champ East Rowan was a turning point. Just like that, South won 10 of 12. Then, it lost two straight. No one knew what to expect from the Raiders when they did make the playoffs.
No one, that is, except their coach.
“We’ve got a good bunch of kids,” Chrismon noted.
The season ended with more smiles than tears after beating Marvin Ridge, Asheboro and Hickory Ridge in the first three playoff games.
Like most coaches of the year, Chrismon pointed to everyone but himself when asked how he felt about the award.
He thanked his assistants: Yanz, Brett Stirewalt and Bubba Morris. He gushed about those players who believed in the coaches and themselves, winning 15 of their last 20 games.
Chrismon has had his share of winning, whether it was at Apex High or at North Carolina, where he still holds the ACC record for career saves (41) and is tied for the season saves mark (18). But nothing he has done compares to this.
“The community was really proud of the kids,” Chrismon said. “The school was bouncing, proud of them. We root for every team in Rowan County and it was good to see people from other areas support these kids. They were getting pats on the back.”
Save a pat on the back for the coach, too.