Steve Chapman has spent his coaching career teaching high school baseball players a game that will provide more frustration than elation, and he’s pretty darn good at it.
Chapman, Calallen’s veteran baseball coach, was denied a chance to win the 1,000th game of his legendary career on Thursday afternoon. Friday morning, Chapman and the Wildcats were back practicing to prepare for the next game, a District 30-5A North Zone match-up with neighborhood rival Tuloso-Midway.
The milestone of reaching 1,000 was far from his mind. The priority was getting the Wildcats re-focused after a frustrating 6-0 loss to Carroll, showing the 62-year old’s continued desire to win.
“My whole priority right now is trying to get this team ready to compete in our district … our district is so tough it’s unreal,” Chapman said. “It’s a great accomplishment — no doubt about it — and one of these days I’ll probably look back on it and think it was important and it was a good accomplishment. But right now, my whole thought is I’m preparing for our district ballgame on Tuesday and being able to compete in our district.”
Chapman’s intense desire to win, plus his commitment to the game, has helped to put him in rare company in high school baseball coaches not only in Texas, but in the nation.
The 1,000th win may come Tuesday or later, but it will eventually come and he will become the 22nd coach in the United States in high school baseball to win 1,000 games. The Hallettsville native and three-time state championship winning coach has cemented his place in Texas High School sports history.
Chapman built a baseball program from nearly the ground up when he took over at Calallen in 1983 as a young coach. The Wildcats played at a field at the Oil Belt Little League complex before the field that bears his name was built.
He has been unwavering in his style of setting expectations, being a disciplinarian and focusing on fundamentals that has provided the basis for his three-decade career at the Northwest Corpus Christi school.
His first season in 1983, the Wildcats were 12-11 and it is the closest he has had to a losing season in his career. Since starting at Calallen, Chapman has coached in 1,226 games and won 999 of them.
Only one other coach in Texas has surpassed 1,000 wins and that was the legendary Bobby Moegle at Lubbock Monterey. Moegle won 1,115 games in a career that stretched from 1960 to 1999.
“When I first started going to Waco to the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Clinic, if I could ever eavesdrop on listening to him talk, I would do it,” Chapman said. “He doesn’t know me and I don’t know him, but I know who he is because I had friends that played for him. I knew who he was and knew what kind of program he had and the person he was.”
Former and current players say playing for Chapman can be intense and current Wildcat Colton Duff said it can be a “rollercoaster.”
But what they all agree on is that Chapman has an intense desire to win, which is complemented by an ability to mentor players.
“It was pretty intense and he was a disciplinarian,” said Jason Duke, who played for Calallen from 1991 to 1994. “If you screwed up, you were going to know about it. But he was also the first guy to pat you on the back and explain what you did wrong and what you did right.”
Chapman’s success is best defined by a 19-year run — from 1993 to 2011 — at Calallen. In those 19 seasons, Calallen won three state championships (2000, 2005 and 2008), played for five more and qualified for the state tournament 12 times.
The Wildcats won 30 or more games 15 times and once had double-digit losses. And those seasons were complemented by stellar seasons from schools such as Moody, Carroll, Sinton and Robstown that helped to bring attention to high school baseball in South Texas.
“Baseball is a game of failure,” is an often-used cliche to describe the game that for men such as Chapman is a way of life. But it is how the failure is managed and how to take advantage of the successes that can define a career.
Chapman said players know they are going to fail, but having an attitude of “It’s alright to fail,” can make a difference for a baseball player.
“You make them understand they are going to fail more than they succeed, but yet still they’ve got to keep trying harder than they ever tried when they don’t do it,” Chapman said.
Former player Jeff Quillin is the head baseball coach at Bandera and every day uses lessons Chapman taught him at Calallen.
“There is a work ethic and his expectations from players that I’ve really tried to do on my side of being a coach,” said Quillin, who was a freshman on the Wildcats’ 2000 state championship team. “It’s being that guy who sets rules and sets expectations — and you either reach them or you don’t — and if you don’t, you are not going to play very much.”
Chapman has made his mark on a school, community and in South Texas in a sport this area loves even more than football.
“We’ve had successful coaches with Castillo, (Hector) Salinas and (former Robstown coach Steve (Castro) and you can go down the list of guys that put South Texas baseball on the map,” Duke said. “He’s another one of them. All those guys had a hand in that success and everybody knows the state tournament goes through Corpus. Everybody can take pride in it.”