Good Sports: Chaffee is just like Mayberry for longtime baseball coach Brian Horrell
Jacob Wiegand ~ Southeast Missourian
Good Sports is a weekly feature appearing in the Southeast Missourian and online at Semoball.com. It profiles the life of a person connected to sports and allows readers the opportunity to know the people who are impacting athletics throughout Southeast Missouri in a deeper way. Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Today: Brian Horrell, 50, is beginning his 21st year as head coach of the Chaffee Red Devils baseball team, where he has compiled a 316-178 record (.640). Reared in Chaffee, Horrellís teams have been district champions four times (2019, 2013, 2010, 2001), SEMO Conference champion (2001), and Scott-Miss conference champs seven times (2019, 2018, 2014, 2007, 2002, 2001, 2000). Horrell graduated from Chaffee High School in 1987 and Southeast Missouri State in 1992. He later earned a masterís degree in educational administration from William Woods University.
Iíve noticed coaches in small school districts usually have multiple responsibilities. True?
Hereís my typical day: I start off driving a bus route first thing, then teach two health classes at the junior high. Iím CHS assistant principal, so I spend some time dealing with attendance issues. Then I drive a pre-K bus route before coming back and helping serve lunch. If itís a nice day, Iíll walk outside with the kids. Iím also the districtís transportation coordinator, so Iíll log some time at the bus shed. Then Iíll drive my third bus route of the day. After all of that, I turn to coaching.
Coaching multiple sports?
Yes. High school baseball, high school softball and assistant junior high basketball.
Did you play ball yourself?
I was a middle infielder, shortstop and second base, also a pitcher. Chaffee was Class 1 in those days. I was the top hitter on the Red Devils as a sophomore and senior.
Did you think you personally had a future at the next level?
Well, I did play a year for the SEMO Indians (at that time) but it was hard for me to adjust to becoming a role player in college. I gravitated pretty quickly to coaching.
Jeff Graviett, the Notre Dame baseball/softball coach and athletic director, played for you at Chaffee back in the day. Graviett started coaching high school while still at Southeast. You too?
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Yes, a similar path for me. As a SEMO undergraduate, I started coaching under Bob Coons and in my senior year, the manager was Bruce Qualls. I took over the baseball team from Bruce in 2000.
Is there a Brian Horrell coaching tree?
I can think of three people right off the bat. My first assistant, Jerry Wolsey, is baseball coach with the Kelly Hawks. Joe Bickings, who was an assistant with me for more than four years, is the head man at Oran. Jim May, best known as the football coach at Scott City, was a baseball assistant with me in Chaffee. (Another former Red Devil, Tyson Moyers, who used to be Chaffeeís A.D., is now athletic director at Cape Girardeau Central.)
Spring baseball has just begun, yes?
Yes, the first official day of practice Ė not just for us, but everybody - was Monday. Our season starts March 20. Iím pleased that on rainy days, the district provides us with two nice indoor batting cages.
Youíve had a long run in your hometown.
Iíve had chances to leave, to go to bigger schools. Iíve never been one to jump from school to school, chasing better talent elsewhere. In a small district like CHS, talent comes in cycles. It goes up and down and you weather the storms. The real glue for me is this community. Chaffee is a little Mayberry, you know?
Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show, from the 1960s?
Exactly. (Chaffee is) a hidden gem. Everybody here lends a hand and is willing to help. The community, our boosters and these kids have a special place in my heart. Our baseball team does fundraisers and the town really backs them. We do a fried chicken and dumplings event in the fall and pancakes and sausages in the spring. Tyson (Moyers) had an idea for our team to clean the Catholic Church, just to give back. Our players are doing an Easter egg hunt for children and grandchildren. Just like I said, this is Mayberry.
Whatís your coaching philosophy?
As a younger man, I worried more about wins and losses. Coaching here in Mayberry, I donít expect to get fired if we have a poor mix of Wís and Lís. Donít get me wrong, I want to win but now I understand better what sports are for.
Today, more than ever, sports give youth a chance to interact socially. Kids today text more than they talk. You canít be texting or checking social media while youíre on the field. Sports can develop social skills and personal interaction abilities. Plus, being involved in a sport can allow you to obtain friends for a lifetime.
Any advice youíd give a younger coach, one starting out?
With your student-athletes, and this is not original with me, you have to show Ďem how much you care. Iíd tell someone you can change lives through athletics, change Ďem for a lifetime. Weíve got a platform as coaches to leave an imprint. I like to think of myself as a transformational coach. The FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) chapter at Chaffee, and there is also a great one at Southeast, has helped me with this idea.
Have you seen your philosophy bear any fruit?
I think so. Former Chaffee players, alumni, come back and give their time to youth camps and leagues. Thatís an example. Also, it is gratifying to receive wedding invitations and birth announcements in the mail from boys Ė who became men Ė who played for me.
Speaking of boys who became men, you have a son.
One child, my son, Aaron, who is 29. He teaches in the district and is an assistant for the team as is Shawn Powderly.
Say a word about family, please.
My late mother was one of nine children. Mom worked in a shoe factory. My dad, who was one of five, is 82 and worked in a grocery warehouse. I am the youngest of three. My dad used to tell me as I was playing sports to respect the coach. Heíd say, ďDo it his way.Ē
How long do you expect to keep coaching?
I expect to retire from the classroom before I let loose of coaching. I want to stay involved with youth. One thing tempts me, though. Iíve got a grandchild now who will be three at the end of May. If little Bailey says, ďPaw-paw, I want to go to the park,Ē I think Iíd like to be able to do that. Weíll see. But I tell you, nothing beats being a grandparent.