Barton tabs Chester as next baseball coach

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The Barton College baseball program has identified its next leader.

Jim Chester, who owns over 300 victories as a college head coach, was officially announced as the Bulldogs’ new dugout boss Wednesday afternoon.

Chester replaces Josh Simmons, who resigned in September to pursue other professional interests.

Most recently the head coach of Lock Haven (Pennsylvania) University, Chester gradually improved a Bald Eagles team that won 13 games the year before his arrival in 2014. The team went 21-28-1 in 2016 before amassing a school-record 32 wins last season, helping the Bald Eagles attain a regional ranking in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region.

“I am thrilled that Jim Chester has accepted the position of head baseball coach at Barton College,” Barton athletic director Todd Wilkinson said in a prepared release. “Coach Chester has a proven record of success in all areas of running a successful collegiate baseball program. His passion for the game of baseball and his relentless effort towards making Barton College baseball his destination job were hard to ignore.”

For Wilkinson, Barton’s longtime former baseball coach, this hiring process carried a bit more weight.

“All hirings are extremely important, but this search was personal to me,” Wilkinson said. “The opportunity to hire a person with Jim’s qualifications at this time of the year is truly exciting.”

Chester compiled the bulk of his collegiate record at Penn State University Greater Allegheny, where he went 239-84-1 with the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Lions. He earned Pennsylvania State University Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors three times with the Lions and earned the 2011 Chuck Tanner Collegiate Manager of the Year award. Under Chester, the Lions made six USCAA World Series appearances in seven years. In his first season, Chester took over a winless team and put it in the USCAA World Series, including a national championship appearance in 2013.

“Coach Chester checked the two primary boxes of what I was looking for in our next head coach — head coaching experience and an expansive recruiting network,” Wilkinson said. “We are in a tough league (Conference Carolinas) and region (Southeast), and these attributes are necessary for success. Barton competes yearly against some outstanding coaches and programs, and Jim’s experience and recruiting connections will present the opportunity for our baseball program to compete at a high level. Nixon Field is one of the top NCAA Division II baseball facilities in the country, which will be a good start in recruiting to Barton College.”

Chester’s overall record at his three head coaching stops is a combined 305-154-2.