For the first time in almost three decades, John Chalus wasn’t in the dugout this spring when the Stratford Knights took the field.
Chalus, 52, was named the school’s athletic director last summer, and under Berkeley County School rules, he had to give up coaching the baseball team, which he had done for 28 seasons, the last 23 as the Knights’ head coach.
The transition from coach to administrator hasn’t always been easy for Chalus, but getting named to the Charleston Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday certainly has helped soften the blow. Chalus, along with former College of Charleston star Lee Curtis and former North Charleston High School baseball coach Pete Ayoub, were selected as this year’s inductees into the Charleston Baseball Hall of Fame.
Curtis and Chalus were selected by fan voting, while Ayoub was chosen by the Charleston Baseball Hall of Fame committee. Formal induction will take place at Riley Park on Aug. 8 prior to the Charleston RiverDogs’ game with the Savannah Sand Gnats. The game will begin at 6:05 p.m.
In 23 years as head coach, Chalus compiled a 463-192 record and led Stratford to Class AAAA state championships in 1996 and 2005.
“I’ve got no regrets about becoming the athletic director, but it was a long spring for me,” Chalus said with a chuckle. “I went to a couple of baseball games, but it was a little uncomfortable. It was just strange to watch a Stratford baseball game and not be in the dugout.”
Twelve of Chalus’ players were Major League Baseball draft picks, including Matt Wieters of the Baltimore Orioles and Justin Smoak of the Toronto Blue Jays. Chalus was honored as the region’s coach of the year six times and the Lowcountry Coach of the Year five times.
“I was very fortunate to coach some very good players,” Chalus said. “We had some great kids and some great parents that helped support the program. We couldn’t have done what we did without the players and the parents. I’m honored and I’m humbled getting into the hall of fame. There are a lot of great players and coaches in it already, so I’m joining some very elite company.”
Curtis, 34, was a two-time Southern Conference player of the Year with the Cougars in 2002 and 2003. After spending two seasons at Spartanburg Methodist junior college, Curtis hit .404 in his two years with the Cougars, which remains the College of Charleston’s all-time career mark and ranks third in SoCon history.
“I think that Lee Curtis is one of the most underrated baseball players to come out of the state of South Carolina,” said Clemson coach Monte Lee, who coached Curtis at Spartanburg Methodist. “If Lee had gone to the College of Charleston for all four years, he’d own every hitting record in the record book. He was just a great, great player.”
His career slugging percentage of .742 and his 20 career triples are league and school records. In 2003, Curtis batted .399 with 11 home runs, 64 RBIs and 20 stolen bases and was the only player in college baseball to have double-figure totals in homers, doubles (26), triples (11), RBIs and stolen bases. Curtis was drafted in the eighth round by the Boston Red Sox in 2003.
“I’ve had a bunch of people calling and texting me all day,” said Curtis, who works for a medical supply company in Charleston. “It’s a huge honor. I see the list of guys who are in and I’m very proud be a part of that group. It’s nice to know that people still remember you 10-15 years after you finished playing.”
Ayoub, a Charleston native who was a three-year starter at Clemson, was a first-team All-ACC second baseman as a senior and hit .318 for his career. He returned to North Charleston High to coach and led his baseball teams to state championships from 1965-67 (the first time any team had won three consecutive baseball championships in the state). He later served as executive director of the South Carolina High School League from 1986 until his retirement in 1998.