Braves Baseball Coach of the Week: Russell Yeatman, Troup County

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‘Baseball may be a game of failures, but it is only failing those who give up on it’

Voting has finished for the latest round of Braves Coach of the Week, and Troup County’s Russell Jefferson Yeatman II has walked away with a staggering 73.1% of the votes! A youth baseball coach from LaGrange, Yeatman gets high praise from his peers.

“Russell has displayed so many great contributions to our baseball team,” nominator Katlyn told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s not only a coach to the boys but he’s a great mentor & role model. He makes sure each boy knows their true potential and he loves seeing them grow into the game.

“He’s been a coach to some of these boys since they were 5!! Outside of the field no matter where he is if one of his players or parents see him they will smile and run up even if it’s just to say ‘hey coach’!”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Atlanta Braves are teaming up this summer to put a spotlight on exceptional local youth baseball and softball coaches just like Yeatman. Each winner, voted by their peers, will receive a $100 Kroger gift card and a baseball signed by an Atlanta Braves player.

Sporting four children and married to his “high school sweetheart,” Yeatman lives a full life. The fifth major element that fills his days is baseball.

“Of course, you can imagine who my favorite braves player of all time is by my oldest son’s name,” Yeatman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, referencing his nine-year-old son Chipper. Inspired by the Atlanta Braves legend Chipper Jones, the 31-year-old now teaches several teams in Troup County.

“I started playing baseball probably before I could crawl,” he said. “I always had a bat, ball, or glove in my hand. Something about this sport has always given me a sense of comfort. This sport has taught me so much more than just baseball but how to be a better person. What keeps me in this sport besides my love for the sport must be seeing other kids fall in love with this sport. It is the greatest sport in the world, and I will never take this sport for granted.

“I try to coach or play every game like it was my last because we never truly know when our last game will be, and I will never leave a baseball field not knowing if I did enough. I coach my heart out every game no matter the score because it is a blessing to be able to be involved in a sport as glorious as this.”

A maintenance technician by trade, Yeatman said he “turned my toolbox in for the classroom.” He now works as an instructor within the Precision Manufacturing & Maintenance Program, developing future maintenance technicians at West Georgia Technical College at the Coweta Campus in Newnan, Georgia.

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Credit: Russell Yeatman

Credit: Russell Yeatman

When he is not in the classroom or with his family, he’s back on the field to coach a small battalion worth of Troup County’s youth.

“The teams’ names are Cotton’s Heating & Air Angel’s, 5-star West Black Mafia 9u, 5-Star West-Yeatman 15U, & Troup American - 9 & 10-year-old All-Stars,” he said. “The 5-star teams are part of the 5star West Organization based out LaGrange & Columbus that does phenomenal work with up-and-coming new players from all over the country developing their skills for baseball and life.”

With all of that coaching has come a laundry list of accomplishments for his teams, one of which is currently engrossed in a world series competition.

“Cotton’s Heating & Air Angel’s won the American League Championship for Troup County Parks & Recreation in the 9- & 10-year-old division,” he said. “5-star West Black Mafia 9u came in second place in a tournament a few months back and are currently competing in a World Series tournament in Panama City, Florida. 5-star West -Yeatman has gotten a lot better over the summer, overcoming a lot of adversity from injuries and missing players.

“They are currently competing in a World Series tournament in Panama City, Florida. The Troup American 9- & 10-year-old All-stars competed in the state competition for Dixie Youth baseball in which we did not win but we had the best defensive team I had ever coached and only lost the games we lost by no more than 2 runs. That team was on the cusped of greatness. Just one or two big hits and we could be talking about a world series coming up for that team.”

When it comes to the games, it’s not all about winning for Yeatman. It’s about the team player mentality.

“What I am most proud of out of all these teams is how they come together and play together,” he said. “It is always a WE over ME mentality and they are always looking for a way to help their respected teams more than they are looking for personal accolades. Continuing to put the work in day and night which seems like 7 days a week a lot of times just to help themselves get better for the team.

“Not having selfish desires is what truly helps a player get to the next level. I love the commitment from the players to help one another out more than anything because yes these are teams, but every team is a family. There is a reason our team’s name is Mafia in 5-star and that is because we are truly a family. If you’re out of town and see someone with a 5-star Mafia shirt you know that is a family member that has put in the hard work and dedication for the brotherhood of 5-star Mafia.”

That 5-star Mafia mentality is precisely why Yeatman is just as passionate about the sport now as ever before.

“Developing a relationship with young players is a passion of mine,” he said. “When I first started coaching, I did not know how I would do but having 5 to 6 years in the local community coaching now has given me that answer. Having players and their families always asking for me to continue coaching their child is all the answer I need. Having players come up to you and say Coach without you I do not think I would be playing baseball anymore. You are the only one that has believed in me and pushed me to continue with something.

“Having those parents tell you how much confidence you have helped develop into their child is all the answers I need. To coach on the youth stage, you must have a passion for the sport and for youth sports more importantly. This game has given me a childhood of great memories and I want to make sure I am able to do the same for every child or teenager that I coach. Not only giving these players great lessons in baseball but also in life teaching them about accountability, respect, teamwork, and dedication.”

It’s a sport that has influenced Yeatman’s life from the beginning. The highly lauded community leader said that it’s a sport that can change anyone for the better, if they are willing to pick up the glove.

“Any child with the opportunity to compete in youth sports, especially baseball, should join,” he said. “Baseball will teach them what it’s like to work with other people as a team. Win lose or draw it will teach a child how to win, how to lose, and how to handle adversity. Baseball is a game of failures and there are many hall of fame baseball players in Cooperstown who failed more than they achieved. Have a .300 batting average in the major leagues can almost get you in the hall of fame and that is failing 7 out of 10 times.

“So, being able to be involved in a sport that teaches someone about handling emotions even when the going gets tough is one of those features you can take with you throughout your life. Facing adversity is a great teaching for any child. Controlling emotions is another teaching for a child because when they get older handling those emotions could resolve a conflict or deescalate a situation. Baseball may be a game of failures, but it is only failing those who give up on it.”

To all of those that voted for him, Yeatman also had something to say.

“This is a very humbling experience and I have no idea how I won, and I had no idea how many people respect me, but it is an honor to receive this,” he said. “Thank you to everyone that has made this possibility into a reality!”

In his final thoughts on being voted the Braves Baseball Coach of the Week, Yeatman did not want to flaunt his own laurels. His message was simple. Never give up.

“I want every kid to never give up on their hopes and dreams,” he said. “No you may not make it to the major leagues but this sport may give you the opportunity to get your education paid for, it could offer you the opportunity to coach this sport at a high level, or it could give you the opportunity to give back and continue a tradition of local coaches to continue passing down the great attributes and knowledge that this sport has to offer to future generations.

“This sport will humble you quickly but never give up on it. I also would like to thank 5-Star West for allowing me the opportunity to continue to pass down knowledge of the sport along with the Troup County Parks and Recreation Department for allowing me the opportunity to continue giving back to local youth sports.”