North Suncoast baseball: Wildcats coach's lessons extend beyond the field

Wesley Chapel shortstop Geoff DeGroot, above, says coach Chuck Yingling makes a special effort to treat each player as an individual and imparts his life experiences into his coaching.

JOHN C. COTEY | Times

Wesley Chapel shortstop Geoff DeGroot, above, says coach Chuck Yingling makes a special effort to treat each player as an individual and imparts his life experiences into his coaching.

WESLEY CHAPEL

Chuck Yingling keeps a regimented schedule even as a retiree. Most days begin by taking his grandchild to elementary school before heading to Wesley Chapel to check on his baseball players. The 60-year-old stepped away from the education business in 2005, but he's still quite the teacher. He harps on grades, hosts study halls and demands weekly progress reports.

As athletic director Steve Mumaw puts it, Yingling and most of the Wildcats' coaching staff are on the field for one reason.

"We're out there for the genuine interest of the kids," Mumaw said. "We're not trying to build resumes."

In fact, the camaraderie and confidence among coaches is certainly one reason the Wildcats have enjoyed recent success, including the program's first winning season at 24-3.

Yingling and company (assistants Mumaw, Tommy Dominguez and Charles Yingling II) have guided the program to back-to-back district titles, three straight playoff berths and the program's first playoff win Tuesday (5-2 against Nature Coast).

Tonight, they'll go for another playoff win at home against Hernando.

For players such as catcher Justin Frost (an Alonso transfer last year), these seasons have been a lesson in balls, strikes and life from men they respect.

"It's almost like listening to two pros," Frost said, referring to Yingling and Mumaw. "They're always trying to tell you what to do and help out."

Yingling won two state titles at Tampa Catholic and was a pitching coach at Jesuit. He even coached Hillsborough County coaching icon John Crumbley at Leto. Mumaw was a pitching coach for the San Francisco Giants and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Yingling's interest in baseball spawned during childhood. He recalls growing up four or five blocks from the home of the Tampa Tarpons (once a farm team of the Cincinnati Reds) and gaining free admission to games as a member of the knot-hole gang. He knew he was bound to be in education, and he became a physical education teacher and also taught basic math.

Today, he speaks fondly of the time retirement allows him to devote to baseball and his players. And in that aspect he is able to teach both the game and life lessons.

"Say you make a mistake in school, he'll sit there and talk to you about it for a long time," shortstop Geoff DeGroot said. "… He tries to get through to you as a person, not just a baseball player."

Yingling's methods involve a hands-off approach, allowing his assistants to teach things their way. He also ties his experiences in with the lessons of the day.

"Most of his stories are for our benefit," DeGroot said. "They go along with what we're talking about, like arm strength, for example."

Of course, Yingling points to his players as the reason for success. In turn, they've bought into Yingling's lessons on small ball and his sermons on the value of runs. The Wildcats have played 12 games decided by three runs or fewer, including the past four.

How long Yingling's tenure will last is anyone's guess. Mumaw recently told him it's possible all off-campus coaches will have to reapply for their jobs, an evaluation process of sorts.

Mumaw has told Yingling, on a personal level, he would like him to stay around until his youngest son, currently in seventh grade, graduates from Wesley Chapel.

"I enjoy it, I'm healthy," Yingling said. "The doctor recently said don't come every six months, come every year. You're wasting my time. … (Coaching at Wesley Chapel is) more like it was 20, 30 years ago when it was a family environment. I actually really like it."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or (813) 421-3886.

. Up next

Region semifinals

Games at 7 tonight

4A: Hernando at Wesley Chapel

2A: Bishop McLaughlin at Lakeland Christian

North Suncoast baseball: Wildcats coach's lessons extend beyond the field 05/06/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 6, 2010 9:25pm]

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