Harlow Loved Every Part Of Being High School Baseball Coach

Bruce Hefflinger
PBR Ohio Senior Writer

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Harlow Loved Every Part Of Being High School Baseball Coach

BROOKVILLE - The plan was to coach for one year and that would be all. More than 40 years later, Chuck Harlow has retired as a head baseball coach during a career that included stints at New Lebanon Dixie, Northmont and Brookville.

“I was coaching football and two weeks into the season I was asked by Terry Dickten to coach JV baseball,” reflected Harlow, 22 years of age at the time. “I said I’d do it for one year.”

Two years later, in 1981, Harlow became the varsity coach at Dixie.

“We had a 36-35 record in three years, not much to write home about,” Harlow said of his time with the Greyhounds.

Still, it was a valuable learning experience.

“Terry Dickten was a great mentor for me,” Harlow noted. “Any time the JVs weren’t playing a game I’d take them out to the field and practice, as long as I could make it on time for the varsity to help coach. I thought it would be only for home games, but he wanted me to help coach even when they weren’t at home.”

His next stop after Dixie was much longer.

“I remember one day I was driving home and saw Northmont was playing Butler and I stopped to watch,” Harlow related. “When I was there the AD (Ralph Ramsey) asked me how it was going and if I was interested in coaching there. They had a teaching opening, the baseball coach resigned and I ended up taking over.”

For the next 34 years Harlow was in charge of the Northmont program, with a record of 678-303.

“I never thought I’d coach that long,” Harlow admitted. “I always thought I’d coach for five or 10 years at the most. I thought I’d be a high school principal, but once I started coaching and teaching it just got better and better.”

There was a lot to learn along the way.

“When I first started I thought it was all baseball,” Harlow explained. “After a while I realized it was all about the kids and what makes them go. We were not different from others baseball-wise, but what I learned the most was to surround yourself with good people if you’re going to have success. I was blessed to have great assistants.”

Adjusting to the changes in athletics is another thing that Harlow had to do as a head coach.

“The kids haven’t changed much but social media has changed things,” Harlow said. “Parents have also changed tremendously. A lot are friends with their kids instead of authority. You used to get into it with kids and change their behavior, but it’s more difficult these days. We had success because kids bought in.”

Haircut rules and being clean shaven were among the regulations demanded back in the day.

“The game hasn’t changed much, other than when we started there were no pitch counts,” Harlow reflected. “Kids just threw. It’s totally changed with the pitch counts. But I didn’t need it. I had common sense.”

Harlow points to five core values he tried to bring to his players.

“Toughness, being mentally tough means you can focus on what’s in front of you right now,” Harlow said. “Secondly, try to outwork everybody. These are life skills. Third, unity. Always we before me. Fourth, grit. That stick-to-itness no matter what, just grind away. And fifth, gratitude. Be grateful to be in the position you’re in and to have the opportunity to play baseball and have parents supporting you.”

There are a lot of highlights during a coaching tenure that concluded with three years as head coach at Brookville.

“Winning league championships was a great thing and winning sectional and district championships also,” noted Harlow, who was head coach for 13 league, 16 sectional and five district titles.

But winning was far from everything when it comes to memories as a coach.

“Last year we were losing and not very good at all the first four weeks,” explained Harlow about a team that finished the season with a 14-17 record. “But the last three weeks we were pretty good. We knocked off the number four seed Versailles and then the number five seed Indian Lake.”

A 13 seed entering the tournament, Brookville then met up with Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, which would go on to win the Division III state championship.

“We had no hits but went up 2-1 on a strikeout,” Harlow said in looking back at the district final game. “There was an overthrow to first and we had guys from second and third score so we were up 2-1 on no hits. We ended up losing 3-2 on a squeeze.”

Another memory is one that is easy to relate to for any coach.

“When you go to an ex-players' wedding or you see them 10 or 15 years later and they say, ‘hi coach,’... that’s cool,” Harlow said.

Admittedly, retiring from coaching was not easy for Harlow, who coached football for seven years, golf for 10 and basketball for 17 in addition to his time as a baseball mentor.

“I had a lot of great experiences coaching,” Harlow related. “I know I’ll miss the kids, after all you spend a lot of time with them. You don’t only remember the best players, there’s the 15th guy on the bench who’s the best teammate on your team. There are a couple of them I’ll never forget.

“I’ll also miss practices. I just love baseball and I loved doing it.”

While no successor has been named to take over at Brookville, Harlow does have some advice.

“Be yourself and enjoy it,” Harlow said. “Stick to your values.”

As for a memorable game, Harlow reflected on a regional contest against Mason in May of 2013.

“Mason was unbeaten and we played them at UC,” Harlow explained. “I remember saying to an assistant, ‘you think Mason has ever been behind?’ I said I was gonna squeeze in the first inning. We went on to win 4-1.”

Andrew McDonald was on the mound for Mason that day while Tom Stoffel pitched for Northmont. Ironically, they went on to be roommates playing for Virginia Tech.

“I also enjoyed my relationships with other coaches and umpires,” Harlow said. “I met so many friends as a coach, it’s unbelievable. A lot of good friendships developed. I just loved it all. Even when a kid made a great play against us, I loved it.”

As for the future, Harlow looks ahead with both joy and contentment following a career that ended with an overall record of 743-366, the 10th most number of victories in the history of Ohio high school baseball (Don Thorp, Hebron Lakewood, is currently first with 846 wins from 1973-2010).

“I plan to spend more time with my family,” Harlow related. “I have one grandchild and I plan to spend more time with her.”

But life will not go on without baseball still in his blood.

“I’m gonna miss it, no doubt,” Harlow said. “I’ll turn into a spectator.”

A fan of the game, as well as a coach, the 64-year-old is happy to have been part of a career that included 35 consecutive winning seasons.

“I hope people say we did it the right way,” Harlow said about his legacy as a coach. “I feel pretty good about what we were able to accomplish.”

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