Staying green while chasing gold

Boys baseball coach Charlie Stumpff discusses his coaching journey, relationships with players and his thoughts on this year's senior class.

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Staying green while chasing gold

Head coach Charlie Stumpff observes the game from his position as third base coach during a game against Liberty on June 3.

Head coach Charlie Stumpff observes the game from his position as third base coach during a game against Liberty on June 3.

Alyssa Skala

Head coach Charlie Stumpff observes the game from his position as third base coach during a game against Liberty on June 3.

Alyssa Skala

Alyssa Skala

Head coach Charlie Stumpff observes the game from his position as third base coach during a game against Liberty on June 3.

As Charlie Stumpff untied his cleats for the final time as a high school baseball player he was quickly presented with two life paths: get a desk job or work as a high school baseball coach and teach PE.

It was a simple choice for Stumpff, who had grown up in the baseball-rich town of Norway, Iowa and received mentorship from Hall of Famers Jim Van Scoyoc and Harold Primrose.

“The older I got you find that playing is the best, and coaching is about the next best thing you can do,” said Stumpff. “You get to be involved in games, you still get those highs and lows. It was just a natural fit.”

Stumpff’s coaching career began at Northeast Hamilton, a school with a graduating class of about twenty students, where he lead his squad to a state tournament birth in 1991. Later that year, Marv Reiland would name Stumpff as head baseball coach at Iowa City West.

In his 27-year tenure with the Trojans, Stumpff, now a Hall of Famer himself, has amassed 682 victories and 11 state tournament appearances. Despite reaching the title game in five of those appearances, there’s one achievement Stumpff is yet to obtain: state champion.

Owen Aanestad
Head coach Charlie Stumpff returns to the dugout after meeting with his players during a pitching change in a game against Linn Mar on May 31.

“I think I get a pity party because we’ve been runner-up five times,” said Stumpff. “The last game that you lose is always hard, but then you look back and say the experience was pretty cool.”

It’s those experiences that keep Stumpff coming back every year. Coaching high school baseball has allowed Stumpff to stay young at heart while creating lifelong relationships with his players.

“Even though I’m way older than the guys I’m coaching now, my guys still come back and look me up,” said Stumpff. “You develop friendships with the players. I think athletics gives you that unique situation in developing friendships.”

For what Stumpff’s current players lack in age, they more than make up for in experience and cohesiveness.

Owen Aanestad
Owen McAreavy ’19, Noah Aanestad ’19, Nathan Wilkinson ’19 and Nick Biancuzzo’19 run into the dugout during their game against Linn Mar on May 31.

Stumpff has relied heavily on his group of 13 seniors, who have accounted for anywhere from seven to nine of the available lineup spots for the Trojans this summer. Most of the group has been playing together since they were eight years old, and their team chemistry has allowed for an easy transition to high school ball.

“We’re a pretty experienced group,” said Noah Aanestad ‘19. “We know each other pretty well and have been playing with each other for a long time.”

Stumpff has built his program on the foundation of personal connection. He wants his players to see him as their coach first, but also someone they can talk to about life outside of sports. The boys have since become accustomed to the jokes and riffs that Stumpff regularly dishes out in an attempt to keep things light-hearted.

Alyssa Skala
Head coach Charlie Stumpff talks with his players during a pitching change late in the game against Liberty on June 3.

“He’s a player’s coach,” said Aanestad. “He has a good time, practice is his focus, but he’ll joke around a lot and he’s a funny guy.”

Another pillar of Stumpff’s program is his focus on attitude. He understands that skills such as speed and hitting ability are important, but that a great team requires each member to be locked into the game whether they are out in the field or in the dugout.

When players strike out, Stumpff makes sure they hustle off of the field and cheer on their teammates. Stumpff also mandates that his players sprint into the dugout after innings, regardless of whether they let up five runs or zero.

“He’s all about hustle and effort,” said Ben VanderLeest ‘20. “As long as we’re giving our best hustle and best effort than he knows the results will come if we work hard.”

This year’s team has certainly embraced the hard work it will take to be playing for a title in August. The group has been motivated throughout the offseason by a substate final loss to Cedar Rapids Washington in which the Trojans failed to score in the final six innings.

The team before Stumpff has all of the tools to win a state championship, and he believes this group has as good a shot as any to break the glass ceiling.

“They’re baseball guys, they do all the stuff you’re supposed to do,” said Stumpff. “They like to play and they like each other. You don’t have to like each other as teammates, but it sure helps when they do.”

You don’t have to like each other as teammates, but it sure helps when they do.”

— Charlie Stumpff

Currently, the Trojans are on a three-game losing skid, but there’s been plenty of bright spots in the early portion of the season.

Marcus Morgan ’21 has emerged as the Trojans ace pitcher with a 3-0 record in addition to his 29 strikeouts, the highest mark among class 4A pitchers. Jason Strunk ’19 is currently hitting .476 with ten hits and 14 runs through ten games.

The Trojans will be looking to play their best baseball at the end of the long, hot summer that the high school baseball season will bring.

“I know this group will do whatever it takes and sacrifice in the summer,” said Stumpff. “Hopefully we’re playing well at the end of the year and their talent takes us to where we need to get to.”

 

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