As Chester fought through a small frog in his throat, the importance of the entire Cartersville institution on his life became evident, as it transcends baseball.
"When Dr. Bradley told me a couple of days ago, that we [were] gonna have something, I figured I'd have to get up here and say something, and I was trying to relate how I feel about this place and not in terms of baseball because it's just a sport," he said. "Somehow we try to relate that to life and try to teach the kids that because you're not always gonna have a 90-mile per hour fastball and you're not always gonna run a 6.4[-second] 60[-yard dash], and it's a sport.
"I've had different opportunities come along over the past 10 or 12 years, and I'm bonded to this place and I love this place," Chester continued. "Without relating it to baseball, the one thing that I thought about that just hit me was two years ago when I lost my nephew. The day after we buried him, I could not get in my truck and get here fast enough. I left my sister and my brother-in-law, my mom and dad, my nephew, my own kids, and could not get here fast enough because it was my refuge. I could not wait to get to that coaching staff and those players -- selfishly, probably for me, for my comfort -- because that's where I wanted to be.
"Without 400 wins and without home runs and without strikeouts, that's how I feel about this place and this program and this [school] system. I'm very, very fortunate."
Those who have been able to watch Chester reach this milestone, no matter the amount of time, seem to have a special feeling and respect for the longtime Cartersville coach.
Bradley, the school's first-year AD, said she was impressed by the manner in which the Canes players carried themselves.
Cartersville assistant coach Drew Startup, one of Chester's former players, spoke to that as well.
"I think it starts at practice. He has expectations for people at practice. For instance ... [on Wednesday], they went out to practice and we weren't even ready to go out there yet, and the kids had already started practicing themselves," Startup said. "That's something that not every program can do. He has these guys so well prepared to carry it on to the next level that they can do it. That's the one thing that I believe, is that from practice it comes over to games and then the wins take care of themselves."
Chester's ability to inspire players has been key for the Canes during his tenure, which has produced five state championships, most recently back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009.
"The way that he motivates players is like nobody else," Startup said. "Our junior year, we weren't the best team, by any means, but we ended up getting to the playoffs and we bonded together as a group. You play hard for him because you love him and he loves you, and he lets you know that.
"Our senior year we came out and started out 21-0 and went to the Final Four, but I think that I was playing more than anything for him because I respect how he is as a person and a coach, and I would do anything for him."
Kyle Tucker, a fifth-year Canes assistant, lauded his former coach's ability to get players to perform during the season's key moments.
"The thing that I've been able to see, and I hope it continues this year, is he's like the master at getting the team to play its best at the end of the year, when you want to be playing your best," Tucker said. "He doesn't want the team peaking too early and he really does a good job of challenging them through the year and making them get better and better as the year goes on and doesn't really have a team that plateaus. Hopefully, that can continue this year, but I know in 2008 and 2009, when we were able to win it, we were playing our best at the end of the season. ... He just motivates [players] real well and just really does a good job of getting the guys to perform at their highest level."
Chester mentioned that his mentality has changed a bit since he first took over, something his father suggested would happen.
"My dad's words echo in my mind every day -- when I was younger and thought I knew everything -- and everything he [said] is coming true," the Canes coach said. "You start out as a coach and you want to walk out on the field and be feared. That was my goal as a coach. I wanted to walk out and somebody say, 'Hey, you don't want to play them now, they're gonna tear you up,' ... and that's the way it started out. But just looking over the years how things have changed, the older you get, I want to walk out on the field and be respected.
"It's changed from fear to respect because the longer we go, the more revealing life is. For young [men] to ... have a relationship with each other is very special, and [former Atlanta Brave and current Kansas City Royal] Jeff Francoeur echoes that every time you hear him speak. Baseball's about relationships, and that's what it's about."
The Canes certainly have garnered respect throughout the years, being named the Georgia Dugout Club's Team of the Decade a couple of months ago.
"We've come a long way. It's a program that is respected and the scoreboard's not always going to be in our favor, but when you think of Cartersville baseball, I just want people to think of respect and character," Chester added. "We're all in it for the kids, that's the end result. And I do appreciate the 400 wins, but I promise you we've had a lot of good baseball talent come through here -- two of 'em sitting in here with me today.
"Coach Startup was responsible for about 40 of those wins, and coach Tucker a couple," Chester continued to roaring laughter. "Coach Startup would have had 41, but Kyle missed that fly ball that he told John to get. 'Get it, John, get it, John, didn't work,' but I poke at Kyle because he knows I love him. From [Cartersville Schools Superintendent] Dr. [Howard] Hinesley all the way down to the dugout club, I appreciate y'all very much. I love you.
"I don't know that we'll see 400 more [wins], but I'd like to see a few more anyway, maybe one more today [Friday at Murray County] and take 'em one at a time. Mr. [Jay] Floyd [Cartersville High principal], I appreciate it. Being an old coach, you know how sometimes coaching gets overrated. Like I told Dr. Hinesley, you haven't seen a donkey win the Kentucky Derby, so we've been blessed. I appreciate it."
While the Canes have seen their share of thoroughbred players, the milestone -- which is now at 402 -- suggests something about the one constant in the program throughout the years.
"He doesn't want us to say it, but he kind of is Cartersville baseball," Tucker said. "Not disrespecting any of the players that came before or coaches, because I know we had some success before he came. But, he took what was a really good program and then it took off from there. He took it to another level. I think five state championships in one decade speaks for itself, and he obviously was the head coach of all that.
"And he's right, the players win games, and he always says he doesn't throw a strike or hit a ball, and that's true. But I think most people would agree that have seen the program from [then] -- literally, Drew and I were a part of his first day, I mean, we literally were -- to now in 2011, we've been associated with it since then, and without him it wouldn't be where it is today. There's no doubt."