A familiar face in TJ baseball steps up to a head coaching position.
Graham Baughn, a familiar face to Thomas Jefferson High School’s baseball team, has recently assumed the position of head coach, taking charge of the Spartans as they work for another year towards playoffs and state. Baughn began coaching at TJ four years ago as the pitching coach, in order to give specialized training to the pitchers on the team, and then became head coach during the 2016-2017 school year. He began playing baseball at a young age after looking up to his father and older brother, who played the sport through high school and college. “My dad played when he was younger and instilled the game in me at a young age. I started playing tee ball at four years old,” Baughn commented. He went on to play collegiately at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, and is still playing in a competitive adult league.
Baughn discovered his love for coaching during his senior year of college, when he was recovering from a surgery. He had the opportunity to mentor younger players, and he realized he enjoyed seeing those players progress. Baughn mentioned, “I enjoy seeing people improve and reach their own goals and I wanted to continue to be around the game even if I couldn’t play it.” Since he first came to TJ as only a pitching coach, his goal was simply to “help guys get better in whatever way they wanted.” Now, however, as the head coach, he is more focused on helping each player reach their goals, whether that be perfecting certain aspects of the game or working towards performing at a higher level of baseball. Many of the players on the team have worked with Baughn for as long as four years, and therefore are familiar with his style of coaching. Senior and captain Conner Side commented, “Coach Baughn has really brought the program together. He’s taken his own route and style with coaching and it’s worked out really well for the team.” He has improved tremendously as a coach, as he’s discovered more techniques that will be most beneficial to his team. Baughn believes that, with his time at TJ, he has grown most in terms of game management. While working with his players, he has learned when to step back as a coach. “Many times, I feel like I should be teaching or trying to instill some great wisdom in the players, when in reality they know what to do and just have to figure out how to execute it on their own,” Baughn explained.
TJ’s baseball program has had great success during Baughn’s first year as head coach. The team ended with an 18-6-1 record and made their way to the state championship, something that hasn’t happened in TJ baseball since 2010 when the now-professional player and former Spartan Kyle Freeland co-captained the team. They also went further in the championship than any team has gone in almost ten years, missing the Final Four round by one game. Although the Spartans faced a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs, Baughn speerheaded the team to some very strong victories. Not only did the baseball team reach the state championships last year, but they also defeated rival Denver East 9-5 for the first time in six years.
Last year’s successes were only the beginning of Baughn’s strong coaching skills reflecting onto his team. The Spartan baseball team started this year’s season off strong, defeating Kennedy 5-0. They went on to win many games afterwards, and also beat the reigning league champions Denver North 6-4. With the hopes of reaching another chance towards the playoffs this year, Baughn only hopes that the baseball program continues to build talent depth. With a new set of freshmen and a variety of skills gracing the team, Baughn and his players are looking forward to a hopefully successful future for the program. “I hope that the program can become a fixture at the top of 4A baseball in Colorado, and that we can compete in the state tournament consistently. Last year was a great step in that direction, but the challenge for this year’s team and for future years is to show that 2017 wasn’t a fluke, and that the program is sustainable,” Baughn explained. Because of his strong coaching ability, Baughn has proven that the baseball team is not one to mess with, and in years to come he will hopefully help strengthen the program to become a serious threat in Colorado baseball.