Remembering 2011: Just call him Coach Jeroloman
In case you missed an issue of the “York Revolutionary Times” this past season, we’ll be re-running columns by staff writer Ron Gardner here on the blog on Tuesdays. In our fifth installment, Ron covers former Revs shortstop Chuck Jeroloman’s transition from professional player to college coach.
Back in late April, when former shortstop Chuck Jeroloman made the trip from his off-season home in Florida to York for the Revs’ Opening Night game at Sovereign Bank Stadium, he had a lot more on his mind than simply picking up his 2010 Atlantic League championship ring.
The 28-year-old Jeroloman played a key role last year in helping York win the league title, batting .249 with 14 HR and 66 RBI in 135 games. But it was his solid defensive infield play where Jeroloman truly stood out, so much so that the Revs were willing to wait and give Jeroloman the option of returning to the team in mid-season, once his wife Tara was done teaching kindergarten for the school year and she could replace her husband during the day in looking after the couple’s now 16-month-son, Owen.
“When I was up there for opening day – that was really hard,” Jeroloman said. “It was awesome to see the guys and get back up there when I got my ring. (Manager Andy Etchebarren even) tried to activate me for two days, but I told him I couldn’t do it.”
What Jeroloman felt during that visit, and that others may not have suspected at that time, was that the former Boston Red Sox prospect had arrived at a major crossroads in his life.
“I have a 16-month-old son and it was just getting harder and harder to pick up and move my family to York or wherever I’d play during the season,” Jeroloman said. “I could continue to do what I was doing – I was making decent money doing lessons in the off-season. I had my own (baseball) camp going. But, you don’t make a whole lot playing in the Atlantic League.”
And after playing in the minors for seven seasons, Jeroloman came to realize that he was likely out of time and opportunity to realize his dream of making it to the Major Leagues.
“I wasn’t getting any younger,” Jeroloman said. “I’m 28 now (and) the window to get to the big leagues is really small. At 28, it’s a lot smaller than it was when I was 26. I was looking to maybe settle down into coaching and it kind of got to be that time.”
Jeroloman had kept in touch with Etchebarren since his Opening Night visit toYork and their conversations about Jeroloman continuing to play or seek out a coaching opportunity were candid.
“I told him do you think you’re going to play in the big leagues?” Etchebarren said. “He said no. I said I don’t so either. So, you’re just going to come here (York) to play just to play now. If you’ve got an opportunity to get on with your life, it’s time for you.”
Jeroloman immersed himself in searching for coaching opportunities, quickly focusing his attention on seeking out opportunities to coach at the college level where he could more easily increase the amount of time he could spend at home with his family.
“I’d looked into coaching in pro ball and it would have been the same exact thing that I was doing when I was playing (where) I’d be gone for six, seven months a year,” Jeroloman said. “So that’s why I really wanted to get into college (coaching) and I really missed college baseball.”
Before he was selected by the Red Sox in the 21st round of the 2004 draft, Jeroloman played collegiately at Auburn University in the Southeastern Conference from 2002-04. His younger brother, Brian (who is currently playing at the Triple-A level in the Toronto Blue Jays’ farm system), played his college ball at the University of Florida, another SEC school. The two brothers’ relationships with the SEC coaching fraternity ended up steering Chuck toward a potential assistant coaching opportunity at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth,TX.
When he was offered and accepted the job at TCU, Jeroloman could hardly believe his good fortune. If you don’t closely follow college baseball, TCU is one of the premier programs in the country, winning eight straight regular season or post-season tournament titles in Conference USA(2004-05) and the Mountain West Conference (2006-11), with the Horned Frogs reaching the College World Series for the first time ever in 2010.
“I got this one through word of mouth,” Jeroloman said. “This job never really became available. It was never out on the market. But I got really lucky enough to join a top 10 program in the country. It’s a ridiculous place to start.”
Things got even better for the Jerolomans when Tara was also able to land a position teaching kindergarten during a recent four-day whirlwind visit to theFort Worth area.
“She’s really excited,” Jeroloman said. “It was pretty important for her to get a job too. With such late notice of moving out here and getting this (coaching) job, we haven’t even moved our stuff over yet. It’s been crazy. She’s been interviewing for positions and trying to find a house. It’s been really tough, she’s never been here before and she doesn’t know anything about it. It’s finally all starting to all fall into place.”
As the Jeroloman family prepares to open an exciting new chapter in their lives, Jeroloman admits to being somewhat disappointed that his son will now end up spending time in day care, something he and Tara have been trying to avoid all along.
“Our son’s never had to be in day care before,” Jeroloman said. “I was coming late (to the Revs this season) because I didn’t want to put my son in day care, because he was only a year old at the time. Now, since we’ve both got jobs, we’re going to have to send my son to day care, which is what I wanted to avoid at the beginning of this summer. But we’re in a position now where it’s a lot easier to afford the day care. He’s a little bit older now and he’s been around other kids now a lot more and I’m not as worried about him getting sick and stuff like that.”
Whether it’s an exciting new baseball job or figuring out the details of a cross-country relocation, the fact that Jeroloman’s playing days are over hasn’t yet begun to sink in.
“Absolutely not,” Jeroloman said. “I’ve been way too busy over this summer. It’s hard. I know it’s harder on some of my other friends, like Blade (former Revs’ teammate Ian Bladergroen), that aren’t quite as busy as I’ve been. It’s difficult man. It’s tough wearing turfs out on the field every day instead of cleats.”
And Jeroloman already knows that he will especially miss those special connections with teammates that he will not be able to enjoy as a coach.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Jeroloman said. “I’ll miss the clubhouse – just hanging out with the guys. When you’re a coach, you can’t really do those things. You can’t go out with them that night. It doesn’t work that way anymore when you’re a coach.”
“I’m really going to miss the camaraderie of the team and all my friends that I’ve met. (York outfielder Scott) Grimes is my best friend – we talk like every day. It’s been hard not playing with him. They’re my best friends in the world and to not really see them at all, it’s hard. And I miss the old man (Etch), for sure.”
Jeroloman said that winning the 2010 Atlantic League championship with the Revolution was easily the highlight of his baseball career.
“The way we came together in the post-season,” Jeroloman said. “It was a lot of fun. Winning the first half (title) was great, but really coming together and seeing the fire in everybody’s eyes when we took the field every day, it was awesome. Game 5 against Somerset- that was probably the most exciting game I’ve ever played in.”
And while this next step in his baseball career has taken him nearly 1,500 miles fromYork, Jeroloman said he’ll certainly miss the Revolution fans.
“When we got up there, everybody greeted us with open arms,” Jeroloman said. “I was a tough situation. We brought my son up there when he was four weeks old and they were awesome with my wife and kids. We can’t ever thank them enough for the hospitality that the fans had.”
“I started off terrible. I was hitting .100-something the first part of the season and they really stuck with me and they never got down on me. They’re good baseball fans. They knew that I was still doing my part. I was playing good defense and playing hard for them every day, it took a little bit for the bat to come around.
“I loved the city, I loved playing atYork, I loved my teammates – they were the best teammates I ever had. It seemed to be all of my best friends from every team I was with before – they all came together on that one team. And then Etch was my favorite manager I ever played for.”
And his former manager said he is expecting great things from Jeroloman as a baseball coach.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Etchebarren said. “He’s a great guy and there’s no doubt in my mind that eventually he’ll be a head coach somewhere. He loves baseball and I’m happy for him.”