Campbell named to Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame

DUNWOODY— The resume speaks for itself.

More than 400 wins on the baseball diamond and more than 200 victories on the softball field.

Throw in a collection of region titles and trips to the state tournament in both sports and former Henry County coach Chuck Campbell is the kind of man schools across the county would want running their program.

Campbell left a paper trail of honors during his coaching career, including twice being named Coach of the Year.

He also took his teams to the state playoffs several times in both sports.

More than 100 athletes also signed letters of intent to continue their playing careers in college.

Add to it all the lives he touched along the way, and it's easy to understand why Campbell remains a popular figure in high school baseball circles six years after he coached his last game for the Warhawks.

Saturday morning during the annual Georgia Dugout Club's convention, the former Warhawks coach earned a spot in the Georgia Dugout Club and Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Perhaps nobody shared the coach's highs and lows over the years more than his wife Joan.

"He was a year-round coach," she said. "He always cared about his players even when it wasn't baseball season. It warms my heart. This is just a special day. Even after he retired, he tried to get his players into college."

It was a family affair on Saturday as his two daughters Rebekah and Rachel were also there to share in their Dad's special day.

Campbell was around long enough to watch McDonough go from a small city of 40,000 people to nearly 200,000 when he stepped down in 2004.

"When he took over the program in Henry County, there were more dirt roads than paved roads," said Troy Baker, who gave the induction speech that ushered Campbell into the Hall of Fame on Saturday. "Of course, Henry County is a booming metropolis now."

Baker saw both sides of Campbell's career. First as a player, then as an assistant coach. Once Campbell decided to retire, it was Baker who stepped in to replace the baseball legend.

Baker had been one of Campbell's assists at Henry County, but left for a year when he was named the head coach at rival Eagle's Landing. It was Campbell who wanted Baker to replace him.

"When I found out that I was going to get the job, it was the happiest day of my life," Baker said. "We kind of kept it in the family. He is getting what he deserves, he's a fantastic man. This is my extended family."

Campbell's career wasn't always full of great highlights. There were plenty of near misses along the way, so despite having rosters full of talented players, Henry County missed out on the playoffs several times during the coach's early years, especially since only one team made the playoffs in each region back then.

Finally in 1995, the Warhawks broke through.

"Chuck turned Henry County into a perennial power and we could count on us going fairly deep. in the playoffs, Baker said.

Baker remembers how the coach was demanding, but always had the best interest of his players at heart.

"If he had to, he'd get them back on track and get them back in line and help them refocus on their goals. He cared about education, cared about kids, if they didn't do things right, it didn't take long for Chuck to set them straight," Baker said.

Campbell admits sometimes when it came to his success, it was just a matter of being at the right place at the right time,

Some of his great players played on the Warhawks' current field, others played at the old field across the street that has long since been paved over and is now the county's school bus depot.

In 1999 Jarrett Warren transferred to Henry County. Campbell remembers Warren asking him if he could play with the school's summer league program and the coach agreed to give him a tryout. The rest could be an entire chapter of Warhawk baseball history.

Warren smashed a home run off the light pole in one his first at bats. Then he a hit home in his second at bat.

Campbell remembers looking over at his long-time friend and assistant coach Jerry Smith with amazement.

"We just didn't know what we had," Campbell said. "It turns out we had just landed us a great player."

Warren went on to play baseball at the University of Georgia, but not before smashing 34 home runs for the Warhawks.

A year before he stepped down, Campbell had probably one of his best teams as pitchers Mike Rozier and Jason Laird gave the Warhawks a solid 1-2 punch. Then there was freshman Jason Heyward.

"All the scouts that year came out to watch Rozier and Laird play, but I remember telling them they would be back in a year or two to see Heyward," Campbell recalled.

Heyward just completed his rookie season with the Atlanta Braves last year and is expected to be the Braves' right fielder for years to come.

The Warhawks didn't win the state title in 2004. Campbell stepped down after the season, Rozier and Laird moved on to the pro ranks and Heyward helped Warhawks to the state crown the next year in Baker's first year.

But Baker is grateful for what he learned from watching Campbell over the years.

"He has amazing baseball mind. He is able to recall things about games and situations without looking back at scorebook or notes," Baker said.

Smith calls Campbell his best friend and has been along for the ride both on the baseball field and softball diamond.

"He kind of talked me into working with him in softball, but we have been together for a long time. He knows so much about baseball," Smith said.

Through his coaching career, Campbell was smart enough to know that you had to have a different temperament when it came to coaching girls on the softball field.

"Both my daughters, Rebeka and Rachel played for me, and they still talk to me," he joked. "I learned early, you had to approach things a little bit differently with girls. All that yelling didn't work."

Campbell sort of learned about softball as he went along. When he didn't help with one of his pitchers, he sent them to see Dan Wallace, one of the top private softball pitchers in the state, who just happens to live in Henry County

In addition to Baker, Campbell helped other young coaches along the way.

"He is the guru of baseball coaches in this area," said former Henry County pitching coach Parris Bird. "He definitely helped my career along in Georgia."

Kenny Wesley has known Campbell since the 1970s when the two lived in the same neighborhood. Wesley played on one of recreation teams and later the former coach helped him play at East Tennessee State.

Wesley later helped coach with Campbell at Henry County. These days, Wesley is the pitching coach at Southwest Georgia Academy.

People down there haven't all meet him, but they know him, because I have taken so much that he taught me with me. I owe my whole baseball life to him.

Campbell is staying busy in retirement. The former Warhawk coach divides his time between living near Vero Beach, Fla and his home in McDonough. The long time Georgia Tech fan has kept his season football tickets and plans to make all the games in the fall.

He will also be here for several Braves' games this summer.

As for right now, he is looking forward to the start of spring training.

"There are several camps close to where I live," he said. "I am looking forward to spending my first spring training in Florida."