Jerry Dawson’s gonna take a swing at the college game

Jerry Dawson, the hall of fame coach who started the baseball program at  Chaparral High School in 1974, has found a new team that can use his help.

Dawson, who just retired after 37 years at the perennial baseball power in Scottsdale, has joined the baseball coaching staff at Yavapai College in Prescott, where he now makes his home.

Dawson, the state’s all-time winningest baseball coach with 773 victories, told an interviewer back in 2004 that he was taking the idea of retirement one year at a time.  But he pointed out, “I’ve got to have a baseball fix, and I don’t know what it will be after I’m done coaching.”

Well, it looks like he won’t have to worry about that quite yet.

The 67-year-old Dawson is just trading the daily headaches of a head coach for the less intense role of pitching coach for the Roughriders, who finished the 2010 campaign with a 40-21 record and their third consecutive conference crown.

Dawson had knee replacement surgery three years ago and then ankle surgery a little over a year ago.  It was the ankle surgery and the follow-up pain that he dealt with using prescription medications that finally took its toll and resulted in his retirement from the high school game.

It was too much to ask of a man who still pitched batting practice and cut the grass on his diamond.

But that ‘retirement’ was short-lived.  Yavapai announced his addition to its coaching staff just days after Dawson met with his players to tell them he was leaving the Firebird program.

He knew he wasn’t ready to let the game go entirely.  He already had discussions with Yavapai head coach, Sky Smeltzer, who served with Dawson on the staff of the 2004 USA Baseball Junior National Team.

He knew he still needed that ‘fix’ he talked about six years ago.

During his tenure at Chaparral, Dawson brought the school eight state titles, beginning in 1994 and wrapping up his final one last season.  His teams dominated the early part of the new century, winning state championships from 2003 through 2006.

More than 150 of his players have gone on to play either professional or collegiate ball.

During his storied career, Dawson won or tied for 24 region championships and finished runner-up for four state titles, in addition to his eight championships.  He has been named national high school Coach of the Year five times and has been inducted into three baseball halls of fame.

His final season at Chaparral had to be considered one of his best, as he was named the AIA’s Pursuing Victory with Honor Coach of the Year, awarded to the state’s top coach from all sports.

But this new gig in Prescott comes with some of its own perks.  He probably won’t have to mow the grass any more.

(Photo: Yavapai College Athletics)