Vote for the Braves Baseball Coach of the Week: Week 8

Great coaches can instill a lifelong love of the game

Coaches teach young athletes about hard work, passion and good sportsmanship — skills that are just as important off the field — and can instill a lifelong love of the game.

This summer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Atlanta Braves are teaming up to honor the youth baseball and softball coaches who are making a difference on the field and in their communities.

ExploreVote for the Braves Softball Coach of the Week: Week 8

“We would like to recognize the outstanding coaches in Georgia providing our young athletes with exceptional playing experience. The most important thing to know is the fundamentals, but there is so much more than that,” the Braves said in a statement.

This week’s nominees have all demonstrated outstanding dedication to providing youth athletes with exceptional playing experiences. Check out their profiles and vote for your favorite. Not only will the winning coaches be profiled in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but each will also receive a $100 gift card from Kroger and a baseball autographed by a Braves player.

Vote for your favorite coach

Voting is open through Sunday. The winner will be announced the following week on the Braves Coach of the Week page.

Credit: Contributed photo

Credit: Contributed photo

Mike Graham

If you’re looking for a reason to vote for Mike Graham, nominator Bradley Graham gives you plenty to choose from.

“Coach Mike has been coaching youth baseball since his oldest son was 4,” Bradley Graham, the coach’s brother, said. “He is now 15. Mike knows every single kid who ever was on his team. He can still to this day tell you everything about the kid and the joys of coaching them.

“Coach Mike has built relationships with the kids,” Bradley Graham continued. “When he sees them in public, they are always smiling saying, ‘Hey Coach Mike.’ The kids really look up to Coach Mike, and he has always believed in his players. He never let them give up and showed them how to play the game.

“Coach Mike taught the kids more than just baseball,” his brother continued. “He taught them the game of life. … I may not be alongside coach Mike anymore, but when I sit in the stands after my kids’ game and watch him coach, I can still see the same passion and love for those kids he had 11 years ago.”

Credit: Contributed photo

Credit: Contributed photo

James Judkins

James Judkins is active not only in his community sports programs, but also in his church, nominator Jessica Adams wrote.

“He has created and implemented sports programs within his church and community,” she said. “In summer 2021, James was wanting more for our baseball kids in Southwest Georgia. He wanted somewhere his children could play, learn and grow in the game of baseball and life.”

So Judkins created South Georgia Dragons Baseball, a travel ball organization bringing more access to youth sports in one of the most rural parts of the state.

“Children who have never had the chance or means to play travel baseball are getting the opportunity to gain baseball skills and life skills with a whole community of coaches, parents and teammates behind them,” she added. “James started with an 8U team and a 12U team so his boys could play baseball competitively. In 2022 we are adding three more teams in our organization. James recognized a need to develop young players both athletically and morally, and his organization strives to do that in every way.”

Credit: Contributed photo

Credit: Contributed photo

Stephen Scott

Stephen Scott is an ideal example of a youth baseball coach, according to nominator Terry Scott.

“He believes in teaching all aspects of the game, including sportsmanship, skills, respect, and camaraderie,” Terry Scott wrote. “He genuinely cares for all players. There was an incident in which one of the inexperienced players did not have the correct shoes to play in a local game, and the officials were not going to allow him to play. Stephen took off his shoes and gave them to the new team member so he could play. This is just one example of how Stephen combines coaching with caring.

“Stephen does not allow any disrespect to the opposite team. He believes in winning, but only winning with the attitude and heart of a champion. Stephen led a team to become the Georgia Dixie Youth State Champions 12U, and took his team to the Dixie Youth World Series in Mississippi last year. The team placed third in the World Series and received the Sportsmanship Trophy. At the awards ceremony, the commentators remarked about how much Stephen cared for each team member and noticed that Stephen knelt down to personally congratulate each boy and hug him when he received his award. Stephen is the embodiment of what a youth baseball coach should be.”

Previous Braves Baseball Coaches of the Week

Week 1: Doug Spence

Week 2: Dustin Rutledge

Week 3: Vincent Altimari

Week 4: Daniel Griffin

Week 5: Russell Yeatman

Week 6: Chase Timms

Week 7: Lee Wilson