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Local Juco coaches feeling extra pride in the wake of Braves World Series run

Former Panhandle stars land Series rings with the Braves
Former Panhandle stars land Series rings with the Braves(WJHG)
Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 6:07 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -Two area Juco baseball coaches are feeling an extra sense of pride in the aftermath of the Braves winning the World Series!

Atlanta taking game 6 of the Series Tuesday, thus taking that Series four games to two. Among the Atlanta players who will soon be sporting new World Series rings, three who played at Chipola and Gulf Coast. Reliever Will Smith, who closed out Game 6 with three outs in the 9th, and outfielder Terrance Gore, both played for the Commodores. Outfielder Adam Duvall, who hit a grand slam in Game Five, a Chipola alum. Wednesday I spoke with former Gulf Coast head baseball coach and current A.D. Mike Kandler, and Chipola head coach Jeff Johnson about having close ties to this Braves Series title!

“It says that a player can come here, and we can be a part of that developmental process.” coach Kandler told me. “And maybe push him along to where they can become a draft pick. And be successful in pro baseball. And that obviously can lead to making the major leagues, and if you make the major leagues you might play on the best team in the league. So it’s really just a good feeling and that the program was such that we had those types of players and we were able to help them develop and move on.”

“You know when you’re in this thing for a while, as long as I’ve been in it, you really don’t know who is going to be the guy who’s going to make it to the big leagues.” Chipola head coach Jeff Johnson said. “There’s been a lot of great players here in the last 25 years and you look at some guys who are really talented. And some guys who aren’t quite as talented, and somewhere in between that. It takes a special person to make it up to the big leagues. And then you have to have some breaks, some luck of getting in there. And getting to the largest stage as well. And I’m just very proud of that, and what he’s been able to accomplish. And hopefully we had a little something to do with that.”

Each coach was able to appreciate an extra special moment in the series. Coach Johnson watching his guy Duvall swat a first inning grand slam in Game 5, a game the Braves would go on to lose.

”Kind of crazy, I had just sat down, I was late getting to the house, and I was sitting down in my bottom room.” Johnson explained. “And my wife came up, and the bases were loaded. and I said ‘hey Adam’s up, you may want to sit here and watch this.’ And the first pitch he hits it out. So we had a good time with that. I wish they could have held on because it would have probably made the moment a lot better, down the road, years from now. But thank goodness they were able to close it out last night.”

As for coach Kandler, well how cool is it to watch a guy you recruited and coached for a year get the last three outs in a World Series clincher?

“I remember a nervous 17 year old coming down here on a visit, and now I’m seeing a grown man out there dominating the Houston Astros to win the World Series.” said Kandler. “So it’s really kind of a neat thought process, just to see how far he’s come. And what he was able to do with what was just a bunch of potential in 2007 when I met him.”

Again, all this affirmation how good these programs are, and how good the Panhandle Conference truly is, says Kandler.

“It’s a testament to our league and to our school. We had two players in the World Series. So did Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Arkansas. I think that was it. We were on of four schools that had two players. So people don’t always understand how good the Panhandle Conference is. And how good, I’m not just speaking just about Gulf Coast. Obviously Chipola and Jeff, that speaks for itself, what those players were able to do. But it’s all of us. And so people really need to take a look at, as you’re watching us play, you’re really watching tomorrow’s big leaguers today!”

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