GDC Hall of Fame Class of 2023

Posted 9/12/2022

Retired Hancock Central High School baseball coach James Bolden will be one of five inductees into the

Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2023.

 

GDC Hall of Fame Class of 2023

By Tim Morse

The Georgia Dugout Club will induct five new members into its Hall of Fame at its annual Coaches Convention on December 9, 2022 at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel & Convention Center.

The Class of 2023 includes retired Hancock Central coach James Bolden, retired McIntosh High coach Brad Campbell, retired Calhoun High coach Chip Henderson, retired Dunwoody coach Rick Kneisel and former Woodward Academy coach Jim Minor.  

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James Bolden
Hancock Central

James Bolden still proudly wears the maroon and gold baseball cap that he sported for many years. The longtime coach built a baseball empire at Hancock Central High School that most programs in middle Georgia could only envy.

After serving as head baseball coach for 36 years and winning more than 500 career games, Bolden will be inducted into the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2023.

“It’s a great thing … a really good thing,” Bolden said. “I’m honored.”

Many of Bolden’s former players still stay in contact, and he affectionately refers to them as “my boys.” He said many still stop by to visit and some even come over for dinner.

In 36 years at Hancock Central, Bolden sports a 504-305 record. He guided the program to a state runner-up finish in Class AA in 1984, then won the state championship in 1985 in the same classification. Bolden’s teams captured four region titles, seven subregion titles and made the state playoffs four times. He was named Coach of the Year nine times. On March 7, 2003, then Governor Sonny Perdue named the Hancock County Recreation Field "Bolden Field" after a makeover from former Georgia coach Robert Sapp and his church.

Although he has since moved away from Hancock County and now resides in Thomson, Bolden is still revered in the small county where he put the school’s baseball program on the map. And his former players haven’t forgot the impact he had on their lives.

“I had one of my boys call me from Dubai,” he said. “He called to congratulate me and we talked about it. They all want to come to the induction ceremony.”

A strict disciplinarian, he was a no-nonsense coach who wanted to be successful on the field but more importantly, off the field. After playing collegiately at Vorhees College, he played and coached semi-pro baseball. But his greatest legacy came in Hancock County.

Bolden’s success is highlighted on a website, coachjamesbolden.com, to honor him for his many years of service to Hancock County baseball. The longtime coach spent many days mentoring his players with countless practices. His teams often traveled across the Southeast to play some of the top high school teams. Bolden said he coached football for a few seasons, but it wasn’t like coaching baseball, his first love. He said he spent so much time working his players that one of his principals once told him “that we were going to have to make a baseball diamond down in the woods.”

“We worked hard at it,” Bolden said.

One of his biggest rivals was Harlem High School who was coached by Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame coach Jimmie Lewis. In a handful of seasons in the 1980s, Lewis’ Bulldogs kept Hancock Central out of the state playoffs because only one team made the postseason. Lewis, who still remains good friends with Bolden, said they engaged in some epic battles.

“They were tough,” said Lewis, who ranks third all-time in wins among state coaches. “Every time we played his teams, we knew we were in for a battle. His induction into the Hall of Fame is long overdue. He’s a good man and an even better friend.”

Bolden retired from coaching in 2007, but Lewis said the legendary Hancock Central coach looks like he could coach a few more games.

“I saw him recently and he still looks like he did 30 years ago,” Lewis said. “He still had his (Hancock) hat on and I was thinking, ‘man, is he ever going to age?’ “

If he does, at least the maroon baseball cap will keep it hidden.

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Brad Campbell
McIntosh

Brad Campbell didn’t give his wife Ansley an ultimatum, but he wasn’t sure how much he needed to spread the word about his impending induction into the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame.

“I didn’t know how this thing was going to be publicized,” Campbell said. “So I told Ansley to not say a whole lot about it and to let’s see where it goes. The next thing I know, most of my kin folks are asking me for a ticket to the induction ceremony. I guess she was the one telling everybody.”

The longtime baseball coach who had stops at Villa Rica, Cedartown, Carrollton and McIntosh will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2023. Campbell said he is thrilled.

“As you get older, these type of these mean more,” he said. “When you are young, it’s like you are going to be able to coach for the rest of your life.”

The former West Georgia College standout was an All-American in 1978 and later inducted into the West Georgia Hall of Fame in 1990.

As a high school baseball coach, he retired from McIntosh in 2018 with a 426-209 career coaching record. Perhaps his greatest success came at Cedartown where he guided the Bulldogs to a semifinal appearance in 1995.

Campbell was a two-time region coach of the year, won three region titles and four subregion titles. He made four trips to the state playoffs, sent more than 50 players to college and coached two future Major Leaguers.

Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame coach Phil Williams played with Campbell in the Stan Musial semi-pro baseball league in the 1980s on a team in Douglasville. He saw first-hand Campbell’s desire to be successful as a player and as a young coach.

“He was amazingly competitive and pretty good as a player,” Williams said.

The two played together, then coached together. Campbell was an assistant under Williams at Douglas County. The pair also coached football together.

It wasn’t long before Campbell ventured out on his own as a head baseball coach. Williams said he knew Campbell would be very successful.

“He was so knowledgeable,” Williams said. “He wanted to learn as much as he could about coaching even though he had played and done all he could as a player. He liked to go to all the coaching clinics so he could get better as a coach. Brad was a great competitor, which is what you want in a coach.”

Campbell had a son, Brett, play professional baseball in the Major Leagues. Williams said the older Campbell’s coaching probably polished the younger into a well-rounded player.

“You could tell that Brad spent a lot of time working with him,” Williams said. “Just like he did with a lot of other players he coached.”

But what Williams remembers the most about Campbell is their friendship off the field. When Williams’ wife Suzanne suffered a heart attack in March, 2021, Campbell was one of the many to keep a constant check.

“He probably called her 10 times when she was in the hospital,” Williams said “That tells you the kind of person he is.”

 While Campbell is excited to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, he said it’s the relationship he built with former players that still means a lot to him.

“A lot of kids, they still call or I run into them, guys you didn’t think you made much of an impact in their life,” Campbell said. “Then they tell you they appreciate what you did.

“We had a guy at Cedartown named Wesley Cupp who was about 6-foot-5, 240 pounds and we were playing in Game 3 of the quarterfinals. He had pitched in the first game and said he was going to pitch again. I told him,’Wesley, you’ve already pitched.’ He told me that he was going to go again and I had to tell him that he wasn’t going to pitch again. I saw him a while back and he thanked me for taking care of him back then. Those types of things still mean a lot.”

As much as getting inducted into the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame.

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                                                                                        Photo courtesy of Tim Godbee

Chip Henderson
Calhoun

Chip Henderson had three goals when he was named the head baseball coach at Calhoun High School in 1995.

He just wanted to make his team competitive. He then eventually wanted to win a state title. Finally, he wanted to start and end his coaching career at the same school.

When the longtime coach retired in 2021, he could say he achieved all three.

His accomplishments also landed him into the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame, which he will be inducted into as part of the Class of 2023.

"Just to be considered is an honor," Henderson said. "To be nominated is very humbling and I'm very proud. You don't achieve things like this by yourself. You have to have great players, great assistants, get great community support, those are things that come to mind."

In 27 seasons, Henderson led the Jackets to three state championships (2000, '05 and '10), two state runner-up finishes, 10 region titles and his program made the state playoffs 25 of his 27 seasons.

He was named Coach of the Year three times. Eight of his players were drafted and two played Major League Baseball. He finished with a career coaching mark of 624-191.

His 2010 squad was 33-0 when it met Cook for the Class AA state championship. The Jackets lost Game 1 of the best-of-three series, then won the next two to finish 35-1.

A Calhoun and Shorter College graduate, Henderson graduated from college in 1991 with a degree in sports management. After he met his wife Cheryl, a teacher, Henderson thought working in education might work for him. Two two both built successful teaching careers while raising their two daughters Cassie and Carlie.

He was hired as an assistant in 1994, then was elevated to the head job a year later. When Henderson was hired, the school hadn't won a region title in more than 20 years.

"I never imagined things would have turned out like they did," he said. "Never in my wildest dreams."

He is one of just 12 coaches in state history to record 600 or more wins.

Rome baseball coach Brent Tucker played with Henderson at Shorter, then coached against him for many seasons. Even though the two were rivals when Tucker coached at Ringgold, they have always remained close friends.

"I've known him for a long time," Tucker said. "The biggest thing about him is that he did things the right way. His teams were always prepared and they came at you with everything they had."

Tucker said they often talked extensively after playing against each other.

"After the game, win or lose, he was always Chip," Tucker said.

The same Chip Henderson known for establishing Calhoun High School as a state baseball power.

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Rick Kneisel
Dunwoody

After relocating to Ohio to take care of his ailing mom, Rick Kneisel often thought about his days of coaching high school baseball in Georgia.

But after being gone for more than decade, the mark he left in the Peach State hadn’t been forgotten. And the Georgia Dugout Hall of Fame Committee wanted to recognize his achievements. He will be one of five inducted into the Hall as part of the Class of 2023.

“I’m very humbled and honored,” Kneisel said. “When you look at the names of the many people who have gone into the Hall of Fame, they are people I competed against when I was at Dunwoody over and over.”

Kneisel currently lives in Wilmington, Ohip with his dog Ranger, but his baseball roots still run deep in Georgia. He spent one year at Peachtree High in 1981-82 before it merged with Dunwoody. Kneisel then led Dunwoody until 1998 where he compiled a 213-98-1 record as head coach.

He guided the Wildcats to a state runner-up finish in 1990 where the Wildcats looked to upend national power Evans, who was in the midst of one of the state’s most-dominant dynasties. Dunwoody lost Game 3 in the seventh inning when an Evans player stole home to help the Knights win the game and the series.

Kneisel was named state Coach of the Year that season and was also the Atlanta Braves Coach of the Year.

In 1998, he went to Lassiter High as an assistant where he played an integral role in helping the Trojans win the state baseball title in 1999 as well as the national championship. His last season at Lassiter, the school won the 2006 state championship in the state’s highest classification.

In 1999, he was named Assistant Coach of the Year.

Kneisel’s work went beyond the game. He served a stint as the Metro Atlanta Dugout Club President and was Teacher of the Year for DeKalb County Schools in 1988, then in Cobb County Schools in 2005.

His coaching tenure at Dunwoody put him in competition with some of the state’s legendary baseball coaches – Greg Goodwin at Redan, Marvin Pruitt at Lakeside-DeKalb, Ron Elgin at Lithonia, John DeVore at Shamrock and Dion Williams at McNair. All five are currently in the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame.

He also competed against the late Harvey Cochran at North Cobb and the late Jerry Queen at Marist.

“Those are very important people that helped mold my career by helping me,” Kneisel said. “But going into the Hall of Fame, I don’t believe I have the credentials that most of those guys have.”

Goodwin said he and Kneisel locked horns in some epic battles, some with playoff berths on the line.

“Man he beat me in a 12-inning game that we lost 3-2 to go to the state playoffs,” Goodwin said. “That was the best team I ever had. But he had some very good teams too.

“His teams were always ready to play. He was a good coach that I respected the heck out of. Playing him made you a better coach because his teams did all the little things – bunting, hit-and-run – everything you needed to do to win. I was a young coach and he was a veteran guy, so I always tried to learn a lot from him.”

After Kneisel’s mother passed away in 2013, his hometown high school inquired about him coaching once again. For three years, he led the Wilmington, Ohio baseball program and helped it make positive strides.

“I love the game … always have and I love coaching,” he said. “But you have to have something to work with. I was blessed with some pretty good athletes at Wilmington and we ended up winning the league. I liked to throw batting practice and hit, but it came to a point where I just couldn’t do that anymore.”

He jokes and takes pride that he was only ejected twice in his coaching career, including once as an assistant when he was on the back end of former Lassiter coach Mickey McMurtry’s argument with a first-base umpire.

“I kind of grumbled about the call and the home plate umpire heard me and threw me out,” he said.

Kneisel gave up coaching for good in 2016 after some major reconstructive surgeries. He still relishes his time, but not in terms of wins and accolades.

“The main thing was to try and teach kids the game, help make them better human beings and have better attitudes,” he said. “Hopefully I was able to do that.”

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Jim Minor
Woodward Academy

A longtime baseball and football coach, Jim Minor won’t disclose which sport he likes the best.

“I like them both,” he said. “With baseball, I liked having my own program. I always enjoyed the competition.”

Minor made his mark coaching baseball, guiding the Woodward Academy program to unprecedented success. His efforts landed him into the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame where he will be inducted as part of the Class of 2023.

“It’s a great honor to be mentioned in the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame,” Minor said. “There are a lot of great coaches in there, a lot of folks who have done a lot for baseball in this state.”

The longtime coach spent most of his baseball coaching career at Woodward Academy. He started in 1979 and coached until 1983 before departing to be a head football coach. He led the Darlington program for one season, then was head football coach at Stockbridge before serving at Morrow High School as an assistant for two years.

He didn’t return to Woodward Academy until 2000 where he coached football and served as the head baseball coach until 2018. In 24 years, he compiled a 401-209-3 coaching mark. His team made 18 straight postseason appearances from 2001-2018. He captured seven region titles and sent more than 30 players to college. Four of his players were drafted including first-rounder Delino Deshields, Jr. who was selected eighth overall in the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft by the Astros.

Minor’s peers describe him as one who continually wanted to learn everything he could about baseball.

“Jim’s teams at Woodward were always well-coached, well-disciplined and he always had great players,” said Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame coach Bobby Howard, the state all-time winningest coach who annually played Minor when he coached at Columbus High School.

“Jim was an outstanding coach but an even better person. We played them home-and-home for decades. I remember seeing him at many national clinics. He was a student of the game, and he was always trying to learn how to play the game better.”

Georgia Dugout Club Executive Director David McDonald said he remembers Minor and many Woodward Academy coaches coming to his classroom to observe the physical education department when McDonald coached at Wheeler.

“He was very straight-forward and he wanted to do things the right way,” McDonald said. “He was a wonderful guy and a great coach.”

Having been out of the game for a few seasons, Minor said he does miss the relationships he built with players and coaches the most.

“I think every coach enjoys the competition, but seeing guys succeed as individuals, that’s still a big deal.”

As much as getting inducted into the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame.