Buford High’s Incredible Stuart Chester

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

BUFORD, Ga. — Stuart Chester is one of the elite high school baseball coaches in the nation at Buford High School (Buford, GA).

This season, he has led the Wolves to a 29-0 record with 17 shutouts and the No. 1 ranking in the Collegiate Baseball National High School Poll presented by Diamond Pro.

The pitching staff has a team ERA of 0.70 and has struck out 258 with only 46 walks, a better than 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

For 21 years prior to coming to Buford, he coached at Cartersville H.S. (Cartersville, GA) where he led the Hurricanes to eight state championship games over a span of 13 seasons, winning 6 of them in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2009 and 2013.

At Cartersville, his baseball program was the Team of The Decade in Georgia for all classifications from 2000-2010.

At one point, Cartersville had a region win streak of 64 games and won 33 playoff games in a row.

He has an overall coaching record of 642-164. In 2014, he was inducted into the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame.

He also coached football for 17 seasons and served as the defensive coordinator on the Cartersville football state championship team in 1999.

Chester said that he is extremely proud of his pitching system at Buford.

“We are very diligent with our pitch counts. The Georgia High School Association put in a pitch count limit for teams in our state,” said Chester.

“But it doesn’t affect us at all. At the beginning of the season, we only allow pitchers to throw 25 pitches max. Then we will increase the pitch count load 5-10 pitches after a couple of outings.

“We want to work up to that 105 pitch count. But we don’t want pitchers to arrive there too quickly. It is a progression with our pitchers.

“We might go from 25 pitches to 40 and then 50 and get up to 60 and eventually to the mid-80s. Then we push 90-99 pitches. Gradually having pitchers extend themselves is important to arm health.

“We want our pitchers to be healthy in May when the playoffs start. I don’t think a lot of playoff games are won in late February and early March with lengthy pitch counts.”

Chester said he pitched in college and realizes the importance of keeping pitchers away from elbow and shoulder injuries by overuse.

“At every level of our program, I want us to be strong on the mound. I talk to our kids all the time about why velocity is not the ultimate goal in pitching. The location of pitches and command is huge. Velocity allows you to make a mistake a little bit more than the kid who doesn’t throw as hard.”

Chester said high school is a unique level of development for pitchers.

“A lot of your best arms also are position players,” said Chester.

“The No. 1 priority for me is taking care of them so they aren’t abused. If a pitcher in our program throws 60-65 pitches for the freshman team today, he will not play on the field the next day. Taking care of their arms is so vital.

“When they go out and play summer ball, we are very fortunate to have terrific coaches they work with who don’t abuse them. They have certain trainers around who get them bigger, faster and stronger.

“Pitching is just like hitting where confidence is essential. When you feel healthy, you will throw healthy.

“I believe we do a great job with pitch sequences to opposing hitters. Coming in as a freshman to our program, you have to be careful putting a pitcher in a role where they can’t succeed. They might be good as a freshman, but they have only played against players their own age.

“I see coaches get a freshman with a decent arm and bump him up to varsity automatically. This 14-year-old kid is now going against hitters who are 17 or 18 years old. That is hard to compete against.

“Having a freshman team and JV team allows those pitchers to get a lot of innings in which helps develop them in different areas with confidence.

“We want them to shut their arms down completely for 8-12 weeks starting in September. Then mid-November, we start a 7-week throwing program that gets us through December to January when we start. With fall ball, that’s tough for some of them to do. I believe in what orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jim Andrews says that there are only so many good throws in an arm. The kids that shut down their arms typically are in the weight room working to get bigger, stronger and faster.

“Dylan (Lesko) rested his arm last fall and worked out in the weight room numerous days during that period. I think he put on 12-13 pounds and went from 88-91 mph last season with his fastball to 92-98 mph this year.

“I believe in what pitcher Kris Benson did at Clemson years ago who shut his arm down and then went on a weight training program to gain more strength and weight. When you shut the arm down, it is a golden opportunity to work on your core and legs and get yourself physically ready to go. Once you get the core and legs strong, we can get the arm in shape.”

To read more about Coach Chester’s pitching system, which includes information about the high-tech recovery utilized by his pitchers late in the season with a cryotherapy machine (see below) which reaches temperatures of -150 to -200 degrees, purchase the April 23, 2021 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. He also delves into his hitting and defensive systems at Buford H.S.