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Chandler's return is good news for many

January 30, 2003|by ANDY MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

It was a story I really did not want to write - but one I hoped I would communicate well.

That's what Greg Chandler - the leader of one of the area's most tradition-rich sports programs - deserves.

Ever since the longtime Waynesboro baseball coach told me last fall that he was ready to resign, I knew the assignment was coming.

Too soon in my opinion - one I know I shared.

In his 15 seasons as the Indians' skipper, Chandler has gone 253-80 with eight league titles, a pair of District 3 crowns and six appearances in the PIAA state playoffs. And he's just 40 years old.

But with a wife and 17-month-old daughter at home and a bleacher full of second-guessers at work, who could blame him?

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"I was bagging it," said Chandler, who caught an unfair amount of criticism from parents and fans during Waynesboro's 3-5 start last year. "I had my letter written and everything."

However, the same way he transformed the Indians into another state-tourney qualifier last season, Chandler's mind finally changed a few weeks ago. He's now set to guide the Indians, who've never had a losing campaign under his helm, for a 16th straight spring.

"What ended up happening last season," he said, "was that we put some guys on the bench for a while and let them steam a little bit."

Just like Chandler did this offseason.

"I was steaming for a little bit and pulled myself away from the heat of the fire," he said. "And I realized I just had too much going. It was too good of a thing to just walk away from."

Chandler said his wife, Marcy, was a major influence in his return. When their phone started ringing off the hook over the holidays with ex-players just calling to chat, it became pretty apparent that he was more than just a coach.

"Greg Chandler has given a lot of opportunity to a lot of people. A lot of guys have gone off to college because of him," said Waynesboro assistant coach and former Indians star Greg White, the older brother of Tampa Bay Devil Rays minor leaguer Matt White. "He's one of those ultimate motivators, and that's directly related to respect. He has the utmost respect for his players, and they have the utmost respect for him.

"Growing up, Matt and I went to the games and were inspired to play for him. That's been the case for a lot of people."

Regardless of how much success he continues to inspire, Chandler knows the negative criticism will never go away, at least not when his team struggles.

"That's high school sports these days. The whole coaching profession is taking its licks," said Chandler. "We've been very successful. But if you start to lose, people start to doubt you."

While it seems pretty tough to doubt what Chandler's built, apparently it's even more difficult to leave behind.

"It's hard to just walk away from something you feel responsible for building," said Chandler.

Especially when the project's not finished.

"He's still at the top of his game, and I think his best coaching days are ahead of him," said White. "We believe in what we do because of him."




Andy Mason is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at andrewm@herald-mail.com

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