May 20, 2009
Danny P Smith -
Chuck Box and Brad Mitchell might not have won state championships as high school baseball players, but they have made up for it as coaches.
Box, a graduate of former Caldwell High School in Columbus, won his third consecutive Mississippi Private School Association Class AAA state title at Jackson Prep on Saturday, while Mitchell, from Starkville, led Ackerman High to its first Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A state championship on Monday.
Winning championships is nothing new to Box, who earned a state crown at Itawamba Community College in 1999 and a conference title at Freed-Hardeman University in 1997.
Box said winning championships never gets old and he was glad to see Jackson Prep achieve a three-peat by defeating Pillow Academy 2-0.
He credits an "amazing" senior class that won 89 games in three years.
"Those guys will probably go down as one of the best groups to ever play here," Box said. "To be able to validate that with a state championship was really nice."
Jackson Prep (29-7) overcame the loss of its No. 1 and No. 3 pitchers for stretches this season.
"It was a challenging year and a different path, but we still got there, and it was a lot of fun," Box said.
While Box has become a regular at winning titles, Mitchell has helped build Ackerman (28-9) to a championship level in three years.
The Indians were 16-11 in his first season and reached the Class 2A North title series in his second year.
That improvement fueled the fire for what happened this season.
"They got that taste in their mouth and just came back ready to work this year," Mitchell said. "I felt like we had a chance from the get-go. We started out slow and lost some close games and lost some by big margins before spring break. After spring break, we got hot and started winning games, inning by inning, and everything took care of itself."
Mitchell played at Starkville High for coach Danny Carlisle from 1993-97.
Carlisle followed Ackerman''s championship run and is proud of Mitchell.
"It is just a great accomplishment," Carlisle said. "It couldn''t happen to a better guy."
Mitchell told Carlisle he wanted to be a coach and Carlisle encouraged him to follow his dream. Carlisle knew Mitchell would make it because he loved the game. He saw a little bit of Mitchell in the way Ackerman went about the game on the field.
"They know the game like he did," Carlisle said. "They had a play at shortstop where (the player) fielded the ball and didn''t really have a play at first base because it was a slow roller, then got the guy in a rundown at second. That''s something Brad would do. You try to teach them and, hopefully, one day you see it working out like that."
Mitchell hasn''t forgotten where he comes from and values his relationship with Carlisle.
"I''ve build a great relationship with him, and it was a great place to play," Mitchell said. "I learned a lot of things from him. We still talk two or three times a week. We still bounce ideas off each other, mainly me bouncing ideas off him."