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Head coach Jim Chester and his new staff took a giant step in 2019 in turning around the Barton College baseball program in just Chester’s second season.
However, Chester, a Pittsburgh native, will not be around to finish the task.
Chester confirmed Friday afternoon that he has resigned his position as the Bulldogs head coach to become the head coach of the NCAA Division I program at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs.
Coaching at the Div. I level for the first time, Chester succeeds Rusty Stroupe as head coach and inherits a program that produced a 25-26 overall record in 2019 and finished 14-13 in the Big South Conference. He begins his new duties on July 1.
“The rumors are true,” Chester said. “This is extremely bittersweet. Wilson has been outstanding for me and my family. I had no intent of making a move. We will never forget our time here.”
“But the Lord opens doors in unexpected ways and this was something my family couldn’t pass up.”
Chester reported he informed as many of his Barton players as possible of his decision last Monday.
“That was a tough thing to do,” he admitted. “ I have got two teams — one team at work and one team at home.”
Assistant coach Anthony Marks, currently involved in Barton recruiting, assured he didn’t see Chester’s departure coming, but commented: “I am excited for Coach Chester. He’s a great coach and a great guy. He deserves it. He’s done great things in his college career.”
Marks remarked that he considers himself too young to seek the position vacated by Chester.
“It has been crazy for me the last week,” he said. “I have loved my time at Barton.”
31 WINS IN 2019
After a 12-36 record in 2018, Chester guided Barton to a 31-20 showing in 2019. The preseason projection to finish seventh in Conference Carolinas, the Bulldogs emerged the runners-up with a 17-9 mark and placed fourth in the conference tournament. The majority of the players are eligible to return next season.
“The absolute time of my life,” Chester described his brief Barton stay. “I thoroughly enjoyed the players and I thoroughly enjoyed working with (athletic director) Todd Wllkinson and Mr. Searcy (Barton president Douglas Searcy). The program is in a good place and I know the next leader is going to do outstanding things.”
Chester emphasized that recruits consider factors other than the coach in their final decision.
“Barton is an outstanding school and holds a lot of values,” he commented. “Barton has a lot to offer.”
Chester leaves Barton with a 348-210-2 career record, including 43-56 with the Division II Bulldogs.
He first became a college head coach at Mercyhurst North East College in North East, Pennsylvania. Chester spent seven seasons at Penn State University, Greater Allegheny (McKeesport Pennsylvania), where his Lions went 239-84-1 and advanced into the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) World Series six of his seven years.
Before Barton, Chester stopped at Div. II Lock Haven (Lock Haven, Pennsylvania) University for 3 1/2 seasons.
At Greater Allegheny, Chester was proclaimed the Pennsylvania State University Athletic Conference (PSUAC) Coach of the Year on three occasions and, in 2011, landed the Chuck Tanner Collegiate Manager of the Year distinction.
Gardner-Webb’s new head coach earned his undergraduate degree In psychology from Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania, and his master’s degree in business administration from Seton Hill University. He is married to the former Lindzey Torok and they are the parents of two children, Marin and J.J.
Chester noted the process of heading to Gardner-Webb originated some weeks ago in “friendly conversation,” adding: “I was lucky enough to get myself into the mix.”
Continued Chester: “It’s a great situation, a great school and an outstanding campus. This is a great opportunity to compete for championships. They have a lot of players back and the recruiting class is staying intact. I have to hit the ground running.
“I have to build relationships from the ground up with players and the program — and that’s always a daunting task.
“But the situation and opportunity is outstanding for my family.”