Late Chesnee HS baseball coach’s legacy honored during emotional rededication ceremony
CHESNEE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - It was a night for the history books--literally--as hundreds of fans cheered on the Chesnee Fighting Eagles, and celebrated the life of a pillar of their program for many years.
The late coach Dean Jones, a man whose name is behind home plate, out in right field, engraved on four state championship plaques, and now on a brand new statue, was honored with a rededication ceremony for the ages.
“Me and my brother, we were always on the sidelines,” said Jones’ son Chris, who showed up with his brother Greg, sister Angie, and many other family and friends. “We were always involved in his teams,” Chris went on. “That meant everything to us, because we were able to experience a lot of those things with him.”
The family were all there to witness the unveiling of Dean’s statue in an emotional tribute. They say--they know he’s always watching.
“If you want to be able to write how you finish off your athletic career, or your coaching career, he absolutely did it top notch,” Chris said.
In Dean’s last season, he was named National Coach of the Year, and won the state title, riding out on a high.
But his life was bigger than sports.
“He was always giving,” his daughter Angie told FOX Carolina. “And ballplayers would come back, year after year, to see him. He was a better man than he was a coach.”
His kids say they know Dean had a much larger family, comprised of those former players, some of whom he took under his wing and helped through hard times--even beyond graduation. It’s something they say made a huge impact in the lives of so many.
“I can’t tell you how many times an ex-player would come by the house with a Christmas card,” said Dean’s son-in-law, Angie’s husband Chris Rizzo.
“I’d say ‘coach, there’s a letter here,’ and he’d say ‘I haven’t seen this kid in 20 years.’ That’s the kind of touch he had with players and on his community,” Rizzo recounted.
“My dad actually played for him,” added current Chesnee HS 2nd baseman Luke Holifield, who spoke to FOX Carolina on behalf of the team. “I’d see him every day at church, shake his hand and say ‘good morning how are you.’ He’s a great godly man.”
Luke says that from a young age, he knew: Dean Jones was a legend. That’s why players still wear his number 20 on the backs of their caps every time they take the field. He says the new field Dean left them, which is part of a huge multi-million dollar revamp of the Chesnee Sports Complex, is everything to the student athletes.
“Everybody can look up there and see his name, and everybody can look out in right and see his jersey,” Luke said. “It has a meaning.”
The Fighting Eagles continue playing next week in the regional playoffs on May 3rd. They’ll face Broome HS away from home.
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