The ground hog predicted six more weeks of winter but that won’t stop the Craig County baseball team from getting out the gloves and bats to prepare for the coming season. The Rockets have a new coach this year, as John Stafford takes over from last year’s interim coach, Zachary Peters.
Stafford is a 1995 graduate of Northside High School and a middle school English and Social Studies teacher at Craig County. He graduated from Mary Baldwin College and his first teaching job was at Franklin County High School where he was a special education teacher and was on the football staff.
Before Mary Baldwin Stafford played baseball at Delaware Tech, a nationally ranked junior college in Georgetown, Delaware. His sophomore year Del Tech went to Millington, Tennessee and finished fourth in the 1998 Division II World Series. Del Teach won the World Series in 2001 and coach Curtis Brock, who mentored Stafford, has been inducted into numerous Delaware and Maryland Halls of Fame after retiring from over 30 years of coaching in 2018.
As far as baseball coaching experience, Stafford was an assistant at Mount Airy High School in North Carolina.
“I have quite a bit more football coaching experience and I feel like it will translate well to baseball,” he said. “I know the off-the-field and organizational principles are the same in any successful high school sports program. Our goal is to provide a structured and organized baseball program while supporting instruction and academics in the classroom.”
Stafford takes over a team that went to the Region 1C tournament last spring after finishing fourth in the Pioneer District under Peters, who stepped in to somewhat “save” the program. The Rockets missed the entire 2020 and 2021 seasons due to a combination of COVID and lack of boys coming out for the team. Peters, who is not a teacher at the school, stepped up to coach last year and took the Rockets to the region tournament, where they lost to defending state champion Auburn. Craig has a good nucleus returning from that team.
“We have quite a bit of experience coming back from last year’s team,” said Stafford. “We have a few seniors we plan to build around and a core of juniors who played extensively last season that I’m already counting on to be impact players for us this year. We also have a group of sophomores with game experience and a couple freshmen competing to fill out the lineup, so we definitely should have some depth from top to bottom coming into the season.”
Jason Lucas, who assisted Peters last year, will return in an assistant coaching role.
“Coach Lucas has extensive experience with these particular players and that is a huge help for me coming into the season,” said Stafford. “He has been through our league and knows the players and teams we will be playing. We are blessed to have his experience to lean on. I am working with administration and the community and alumni to fill out our staff with a couple more coaches.”