Such is the case with the 2013 Cartersville baseball team as the Georgia Dugout Club has awarded the 2013 AAA Player of the Year to Connor Justus and the 2013 AAA Coach of the Year to Stuart Chester.
“It’s an honor,” Chester said of winning the award. “It’s an honor for me because its speaks to the succes of our program, but I think it has to be attributed to all the players and all the sacrifices they made.”
Justus is one of those players who helped the Purple Hurricanes reach the state championship as the senior hit .402 with 41 runs scored and 23 RBIs. He had a slugging percentage of .632 and an on-base percentage of .520.
“Coach Chester texted me and we were talking about college ball and everything, and he just texted me and told me that I had won the award. I was ecstatic. That was awesome,” Justus said of his reaction after hearing he had been named AAA Player of the Year. “I was actually really surprised. That’s a huge honor and I was so excited. I called my parents and it was an awesome moment.”
Justus also contributed on the mound in 36.2 innings of work with a 1.72 ERA with 42 strikeouts. For his efforts, he was named The Daily Tribune News All-County Player of the Year.
“He’s extremely deserving,” Chester said of Justus winning the AAA player of the year award. “He’s been very productive not only offensively, but defensively and pitching. He’s a fierce competitor and he’s been a leader since he’s been here.”
Each year, the Georgia Dugout Club, which is part of the Georgia High School Association, honors a player from each classification and a coach from each classification. Voting for the award is done by Georgia high school coaches.
The announcement that Justus and Chester had been named the recipients of the award was made in September, but they will have to wait to be recognized at the annual Georgia High School Coaches Clinic in January.
“I think it’s based on the succes they had throughout last year. Of course, winning a state championship is the ultimate thing. Who performed well throughout the year but also who performed well in the playoffs to lead their team to a championship is important,” President of the Cartersville Dugout Club Clift Dempsey said of what factors are considered in determining who wins the player of the year award. “Connor is a great recipient of that because he performed well offensively, defensively and pitching throughout the year.”
Chester has won the Coach of the Year award four times, while he has had a player win Player of the Year six times in his tenure as Cartersville High’s coach, which not so coincidentally features six state championships.
“I think winning the state championship probably has something to do with it,” Chester joked as to why his program is a frequent recipient of postseason awards.
For Justus, the recognition is just a bonus to what was already a standout career and terrific 2013 season.
“Things just seemed to go right for our team. It was just a great all around experience for everybody,” he said of his senior year. “Honestly, just winning the state championship was great. I could care less about the individual stuff. Winning the state championship is 10 times better than winning an individual thing, but winning individually is quite an honor, too.”
Justus is currently a freshman at Georgia Tech and looking to make his mark on the Yellow Jackets’ program the way he did for the Purple Hurricanes.
“We have fall baseball. We had the White-Gold series. We had a seven-game intersquad series and that went really well,” Justus said. “I did pretty well for the fall, so we’ll see what happens in the spring. Hopefully I can get some playing time and represent Cartersville well.”