OCOEE — Students who will be attending Legacy Charter High School in the fall met for a minicamp for the baseball program on the morning of June 12 — much as they had a week earlier on June 5.
The two mini-camp sessions, held at Winter Garden Little League’s senior league field and at Ocoee’s Sorenson Field, respectively, are a bit of an unusual measure for a high-school program during a time players can be busy with travel and club baseball.
Then again, for a program that has never played a game and is starting completely from scratch, unusual will be the norm for a little while.
Legacy Athletic Director Jarrett Wiggers announced in May the hiring of Jack Chambless as the head coach for the Eagles’ first baseball team. Chambless, who played college baseball at Eastern Oklahoma State College and Paris Junior College before playing semi-professional baseball, said the purpose of the mini-camps was to accelerate one of the biggest challenges his new program will face — building camaraderie and familiarity among new teammates.
“Clearly, to have a productive baseball team, the guys have to know each other,” Chambless said. “Some of these kids have played together but most of them are complete strangers so the big challenge is having a compressed amount of time … to get 15 guys to be effective in working with one another and buying into an idea of a more old-school approach to baseball.”
Although the first regular-season game for Legacy is a ways off in the spring of 2016, Chambless already anticipates playing an old-school style of baseball predicated on hustle, speed, base-stealing and moving runners over in a deliberate manner. He also has been clear to the dozen or so players who have attended each minicamp about the kind of program he wants to run — one rooted in discipline and respect for the game — which helped make him the obvious choice for the job. Wiggersa said.
“The thing I like the most about Jack was just the way that his character had shown through and the way that he spoke about what was important to him and the type of program that he was going to run,” he said. “He was someone that I knew right away would be a disciplinarian, fair and had high expectations for the boys. He’s very old school — and I love that about him, because that’s how I was coached.”
Chambless will bring along his two sons, Gehrig and Gabriel, who both were athletes at CFCA. Gehrig was the quarterback for CFCA last season, helping to lead the Eagles to an 8-4 record, and also will play football for Legacy.
His sons’ pre-existing interest in attending the charter school nestled along the Winter Garden-Ocoee border, paired with the school’s intent to start a baseball program, made the opening a natural fit for Chambless.
“My sons expressed an interest, first of all, to be at Legacy — they go to church with a lot of the kids (who) are already here,” Chambless said. “We got a chance to watch the football program and see the way that Coach (Jarrett) Wiggers and the football program conducts itself. (Gehrig and Gabriel) felt Legacy was a school they would like to explore finishing their careers at.”
Challenges for the program will include fundraising, settling on a home field to play at and putting together a first-year schedule. As a new program, the first season for the Eagles will be a probationary season within the FHSAA, and Legacy will not be eligible to compete in a district.
While those — and more — challenges await, Chambless expressed optimism after two sessions with some of the players who will aspire to make the first roster for the Eagles.
“Their character and their willingness to be humble and cooperative has been just off the charts,” Chambless said.