- Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 June 2010 23:02
- Published on Tuesday, 22 June 2010 23:02
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His heart is forever embedded in Drifter lore.
It’s official! Legendary Colonial Beach High School sports icon Steve Swope has ended his one-year sabbatical and returned as head coach of the varsity baseball program. Fans, coaches and players alike were unsure whether they had seen the last of Swope after he led the Drifter boys’ basketball team to the school’s first state Group-A, Division 1, State Basektball Championship at the Siegel center, over a year ago.
“I had a complete year to think about it,” coach Swope said. “My wife and I decided as long as I continued to teach, I might as well come back in the capacity of head coach again.”
Coach Swope has decided that he will not return as the Drifters basketball coach, making his final curtain call as a state champion, an image that will forever remain in the hearts of the Colonial Beach community.
“Basketball was the greatest ending I could have ever dreamed of, and it was the opportunity for the team and I in my 30th year to win it all, and to go out on top.”
During Swope’s absence, Earl Payton assumed the helm as the Drifters head baseball coach. Filling the shoes of the man who is responsible for many of the 61 championship banners that adorn the hallowed walls of the Drifterdome would be a daunting task for any coach.
Payton was also faced with competing in the Northern Neck with a roster of only nine players. During the initial tryout phase of the spring season, many would-be players failed the eligibility academic requirements, leaving the team with no depth pool.
However, with their backs to the wall throughout most of the season, the black & gold forged ahead with their pride in their hearts and never quit.
Coach Swope credits his former player Payton’s courage under fire, and is forever grateful to his devotion to the Drifter sports programs.
“Certainly the job that Payton did with this year’s team is to be commended,” coach Swope said. “Earl did a fantastic job as the team’s head coach; I can’t say enough good things about his efforts.”
As for the future, Swope has seen the growth of hundreds of star athletes throughout his 30 years of coaching.
“In terms of overlooking the baseball program, I’ve kept an eye on Colonial Beach kids my entire life,” coach Swope said. “Teaching elementary school physical education gives me an opportunity to see what the future holds. However, I do feel that there is a good group of kids that can be groomed to come through the ranks and make a run on the Northern Neck, and maybe beyond post season.”
Currently, coach Swope has 467 wins under his belt. He could conceivably cross the 500-win milestone in three years. Given the fact that he ended his basketball coaching career with a state title and 517 victories, it’s a sure bet that he will one day enjoy the spoils of joining the 500-win club in baseball in the not too distant future.
With a young varsity baseball team with one season of experience in the Northern Neck, and undefeated Northern Neck middle school championship team with athletes such as Nick Graves, Dez’John Parker and Kamron Smith, coach Swope could have the perfect formula for the next Drifter dynasty.
“I am very pleased that there is a very talented group of junior high school kids on the horizon,” Swope said. “They will come to the eighth grade next year, and will assemble a junior varsity team again—so that we will have two good feeder programs leading into our varsity system.”
Coach Swope will return with the same assistants who helped him win numerous championships, including the 2009 Tidewater District championship. Randy Jones will assume the coaching tasks of bringing the Drifters pitchers up to speed, while Jonathan Parker will assist the team with hitting and fielding.
Although the theater of sports has changed in the last year, Swope’s vision for the future is to once again regain the Drifters’ traditional prominence in the sports community.
“I’ve enjoyed my sabbatical during my year off,” coach Swope said. “I had the freedom to do something I haven’t done in 30 years; however, I love the dugout, and I love locker and field — this is me.”
Leonard M. Banks