Georgia Gwinnett head baseball coach Jeremy Sheetinger is doused with a cooler of water by Myles Smith after the Grizzlies won the NAIA World Series last week in Lewiston, Idaho. (Photo submitted)

When Jeremy Sheetinger stepped away from coaching after three years as head baseball coach at Spalding University, he was ready to take his career in another direction.

When the coaching position opened at Georgia Gwinnett two years ago, Sheetinger rejoined the coaching ranks, and last week the Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies captured the NAIA World Series.

“When I took the job at the coaches association I didn’t think I’d ever coach again,” said Sheetinger, a 1999 graduate of Franklin County. “My wife, Chelsea, and I found out we were pregnant with Cooper. We decided it was time to raise a family, and we didn’t want to do that with the confines of a baseball schedule.”

The Sheetingers now have two children. Cooper is 5, and daughter Charlee is about to turn 3.

“This was the job that if it ever came open I would consider,” Sheetinger said about Georgia Gwinnett, located in Lawrenceville, 30 miles north of Atlanta. “It couldn’t have worked out any better.”

After leaving Spalding following the 2015 season, Sheetinger spent four years working for the American Baseball Coaches Association, where he oversaw small college baseball.

It was just where he wanted to be.

“The first three years away (from coaching) I didn’t miss it at all,” Sheetinger said. “I was completely enveloped in my job at the ABCA, trying to improve the culture of coaching. I really relished the opportunity to help figure out ways to help people in that position.

“The fourth year, I don’t know why, but it was tough. I wanted to hit the fungo again, I wanted to be around players. If I got to go back to coaching, I wanted to rewrite some things. The first time I was in it for the wrong reasons. I was in it for myself, to further my career and make a lot of money.

“Now I can see it’s all about the players.”

There were plenty of reasons for the Georgia Gwinnett job to appeal to Sheetinger.

The program, which just finished its ninth season, averaged 47 wins per year in the first seven years before Sheetinger arrived. The Grizzlies had been to the World Series before and finished fourth twice.

“A good foundation was already here,” Sheetinger said. “I think we have the best AD (athletics director) in the nation in Darin Wilson, and he’s somebody I want to work with and work for.” Wilson is from Woodford County.

The Grizzlies finished the year with a 51-10 record. They went 5-0 in the NAIA World Series, beating Central Methodist of Missouri 8-4 in the championship game.

Last year, Sheetinger’s first at Georgia Gwinnett, the Grizzlies went 23-2 and were on a 22-game win streak when the season was shut down by COVID.

“I’ve absolutely loved every second of it,” he said about his return to coaching. “I’ve learned to teach and let go, let them figure it out. Once the team is player-led, get out of the way.

“I hug each of them every day and tell them I love them. It’s part of our program, like a bucket of balls. We’ve created a brotherhood around a trophy.”

After graduating from FCHS, Sheetinger attended the University of Charleston before transferring to Kentucky Wesleyan. He graduated from KWC with a bachelor’s degree in fitness and sports management, and he earned a master’s degree in business management from Brescia University and a master’s degree in kinesiology and health promotion from Kentucky.

“I think the biggest thing for me is it all started at State Stadium as a 12-year-old Little League player and I was drafted to play for Bud Richie,” Sheetinger said. “He’s the guy who altered the trajectory of my life. He took a chubby kid who wanted to be a point guard in the NBA and taught me about baseball. He helped me understand the game, see all its gray areas.

“Baseball became a passion more than a hobby. And there were others, like David Cammack, Deron McDonald and Jim McCane.”

For Sheetinger, there’s a higher power that has guided his path.

“I had to trust God to reveal a new page to me every day,” he said. “Before the national championship game I said it’s meant to be or we’ll have a great story about who we almost reached our goal, and we’ll move forward.

“Where you’re at is where you’re supposed to be.”

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