The first time Jerry Stoots tried to walk away from coaching, his retirement lasted for about two years.
Career baseball record: 850-315State title: Stall, 1985Coached at: Stall, 1971-2000; Northwood Academy, 2003-2013
“Then I came back for 11 more,” the longtime Stall High School and Northwood Academy baseball coach said Thursday. “I guess I’ll try it again. Maybe it will stick this time.”
Stoots, who will turn 66 next month, announced this week that he is retiring as athletic director and baseball coach at Northwood Academy after 42 years, 850 baseball victories and one state title, in 1985 at Stall.
Stoots’ 850 victories are second in state high school history only to Bamberg-Ehrhardt’s David Horton, who retired last year with 889 wins and 14 state championships.
But Stoots said it is the players and coaches he worked with that he will remember.
“One of the highlights has been the people who played for me, and then came back to work with me,” he said. “I was blessed in that regard, that they thought enough of me to want to come back and work with me.”
One of those is former Citadel standout Jay Morgan, who played for Stoots at Stall and served as his pitching coach at Northwood Academy this season. Former Stoots players Derek Smith and Thomas Levander were also on that staff.
“Coach Stoots has always been true to himself, and to the game and how it’s supposed to be played,” Morgan said. “I’ve known him since I was seven or eight, when my brother (Dee) played for him at Stall. He made sure we learned his game plan — small ball, get them over and get them in.
“He always did the most with the least amount of talent, and his run in public schools was second to few.”
Stoots retired from Stall after the 2000 season, then came back to take over at Northwood Academy, where he helped build one of the stronger all-around programs in SCISA.
“He turned their athletic program around, as far as their potential income,” Morgan said. “And he won’t tell you this, but he never got paid an extra dime to be the football coach.”
Stoots’ Northwood baseball teams made five straight SCISA state finals, but could not break through for a state title.
Stoots said the job, especially the athletic director’s side of it, was not as enjoyable as it once was. He also wants to follow the senior season of his son, Brandon, a pitcher at Francis Marion in Florence, and spend more time with his 1-year-old grandson.
“The first time I retired, it was an easy decision for me,” he said. “This time it was a little tougher.”
But Stoots also said he’d love to coach with his son one day, and did not rule out a return from retirement.
Said Morgan, “I know he still feels, and everybody who knows him feels, that his coaching abilities are still there.”