CRANFORD, NJ - Cranford resident and Millburn High School Head Baseball Coach, Brian Chapman, has spent the majority of his life in and around Union County; from his early years growing up in both Clark and Garwood, through his attendance at Union Catholic, coaching at Kean University, Cranford High School and raising a family for over a decade now in Cranford. Although, just last month, the spotlight he received was on a much larger level, nationally in fact.
In July, Chapman received the news that he was being named the American Baseball Coaches Association High School Division II National Coach of the Year. The Association only recognizes 11 coaches from all over the country in both the high school and collegiate ranks.
Years dedicated to playing, learning and coaching got Chapman to this point of national recognition, where he is humbled by the honor and shares it with many others, "The award is a tribute to our whole high school staff as well as all of the volunteer coaches involved. We have four Cranford residents (Dave and Chris Drechsel; Joe and Joey Kropa) on staff and they are all tremendous baseball men. The Drechsels played for Coach Dennis McCaffery and I at Cranford and the Kropas were a father (head coach) and son (player) tandem at Roselle Catholic," Chapman said.
After just five years head coaching the Millburn High School Baseball program, Chapman was able to capture the school's first ever state championship title this year and its first appearance since 1998.
But while Chapman's baseball career at Millburn just recently started, he began his love of the game years ago as a kid in the Garwood and Clark Little League programs.
In 1999, Chapman began assisting Head Cranford High School Baseball Coach Dennis McCaffery and notes that experience as one of the best, "I learned a lot coaching with Dennis. In my opinion, he is at the top of the list not only for high school baseball coaches, but for all sports. He is the best in the business and I was very fortunate to learn from him."
Chapman shared that he was very happy working in Cranford and would had left his job for very few head coaching opportunities, and Millburn was one on the short list. It was not only the challenge that attracted him but in his words, "the supportive community, much like Cranford".
When asked what his initial goals were when taking over the Millburn head coaching position, he comments, "Our first goal was to change the culture a bit. The kids in the program had suffered through a few losing seasons and we wanted to change their mindset. Having coached in the state's premier public school program at Cranford for so long, we had an idea of what a winning program looked like from the inside and we set out to instill the same things at Millburn."
And when Chapman is not refining his coaching craft on the high school level, he is very involved with the Cranford Baseball/Softball League (CBSL). As an active member of the CBSL Board and assistant coach for his son's 11U team, Chapman stays quite busy yet very grounded.
Chapman’s father passed away during the Spring baseball season at the height of Millburn’s run to States, helping Chapman keep things into perspective and focused, he notes, “My father was a great man who taught me the importance of simple things like working hard and being kind. There were many times during our state tournament run that I was able to achieve perfect clarity in some pretty tough situations. I am pretty sure he was there with me during these times, guiding me through like he always did.”