By Doug Gorman
It's another baseball season and Henry County's Chuck Campbell and Eagle's Landing's Troy Baker are busy trying to lead their teams to the state tournament.
Staying focused on baseball just goes with the territory when somebody makes his living as a high school coach.
But Baker and Campbell are also two long-time Georgia Tech fans who will be closely following the Yellow Jackets' trip to the Final Four starting Saturday in San Antonio.
The Yellow Jackets have kept fans on the edge of their seats through four NCAA tournament games, including Sunday's overtime win against Kansas.
Baker began his coaching career as a member of Campbell's staff before moving to Eagle's Landing for his first head coaching position this season.
But their friendship goes beyond baseball. The two are die-hard Georgia Tech fans who tailgate and attend football games together in the fall.
Campbell and Baker are part of a group of fans from Henry County who have cheered on the Yellow Jackets' football fortunes from high atop of the West stands at Bobby Dodd Stadium for many years.
Henry County assistant baseball coach Jerry Smith is also part of the group.
"Jerry bought an extra ticket (in the early 1990s) and invited me to go," said Baker. "The next year I bought my own ticket and have been part of the group ever since."
"We have one group of Henry County fans in one row, and another group of fans right in front of us, so we have a lot of fun," said Campbell.
Baker remembers cheering for Tech when most everybody else was a Georgia fan.
"Back when Pepper Rodgers was coaching at Tech, my dad would be listen to Larry Munson and Georgia games," Baker said. "I would change the station to Al Ciraldo and Tech."
Campbell's ties to Georgia Tech goes back even further.
"I can't remember a time when I wasn't a Tech fan," said Campbell. "I've been cheering for the Yellow Jackets ever since I was born."
The Henry County coach had two uncles who played football at Tech under legendary coach Bobby Dodd and Campbell vividly recalls his first trip to Grant Field in 1962.
Campbell watched as Georgia Tech upset a Joe Namath-quarterbacked Alabama squad 7-6.
Campbell later ushered at Tech football games as a member of the Boy Scouts.
One year, the Explore Scouts from Atlanta accompanied Georgia Tech to the Gator Bowl.
"We had to usher at the game, but it was a pretty good tradeoff," Campbell said.
Baker and Campbell also follow the Yellow Jackets basketball team with just as much passion.
"I had some flashbacks Sunday," said Baker. "It reminded me of some of those (Bobby) Cremins-coached teams."
When Campbell and Baker talk of their favorite players to ever don a Tech uniform they both mention point guard Mark Price, one of Cremins' first recruits.
They also mention a sometimes forgotten player Scott Pettway off of those early Cremins' teams.
"Pettway was just a hard worker who got the job done," said Campbell.
They also fondly recall the likes of Kenny Anderson, Dennis Scott and Brian Oliver, players off the only other team to go to a Final Four in the 1989-90 season.
Campbell used to share one basketball season ticket with a fellow Jacket fan, taking turns going to the games, and Baker has managed to scrape up a ticket to a basketball game every now and then.
However, the overlapping high school baseball season has made it tough for Campbell or Baker to attend many basketball games this season.
Still, they are excited about what head coach Paul Hewitt has done to put Tech back on the college basketball map.
"This team has overcome some adversity," Baker said. "Nobody gave them much of a chance early after (Chris) Bosh left for the NBA."
Campbell is confident the Yellow Jackets can beat Oklahoma State Saturday to move on to the championship game.
"I think they will win Saturday, " Campbell said. "I'm not sure what will happen after that, but it's been a great year."