Watch: Cardinal Newman coach Charlie Assey Jr. discusses memories of playing for his father
Charles Assey Jr. knew he was destined to be a baseball coach when his playing days were over.
A coach’s son, Assey Jr. spent countless hours as a child with his father, Charles Sr., around the game of baseball and football at his dad’s various career stops. Those moments have helped shaped him in his coaching career as he is in his second year at Cardinal Newman after a successful run at White Knoll.
“When school got out, I didn’t necessarily go to daycare. My daycare was going over to school with my dad,” Assey Jr. said Saturday. “And even at 5, 6 and 7 years old, I remember coming back on a bus at 10 p.m. at night. Summers were spent being a ball boy and holding dummies in football. I knew I wanted to be in coaching in some format.”
The father and son shared a special moment Saturday, one that Assey Sr. called “one of the highlights of his life” as his Gray Collegiate squad faced his son’s Cardinal Newman team at Lexington Baseball Stadium. The son got the best of the dad as Cardinal Newman defeated Gray Collegiate 5-4 in eight innings.
The elder Assey is in his first year at Gray Collegiate, his first head coaching opportunity after stops at Brookland-Cayce, Orangeburg Prep, Mims and Heathwood Hall. He spent the last few years as an assistant on his son’s staff at White Knoll and Cardinal Newman, which won the SCISA 3A title last season.
“It is a bucket list for me. I’m 62, be 63 in a couple of months,” Assey Sr. said. “I still have my health and wanted to do it one more time. Fortunate to coach some of the guys over summer. They are buying in what we are trying to do. We got a good baseball team.”
Getting another chance at being a head coach, Assey Sr. said, gives him a chance to right the wrongs he made from his first time around. That includes how he coached his son, who was part of B-C’s state title team in 1998. He admits being hard on his son during those days.
“I said I was going to write a book on how to coach your son, but I would write it on how not to coach your son,” Assey Sr. said. “I remember asking him what the best day of his life was, and he said it was day he got his driver’s license because he said he didn’t have to ride home with me after a game.
“But I am so proud of what he accomplished from the first day he threw a ball through now. He is a better dad and father than he is a baseball coach.”
Assey Sr. is not as hard on his players at Gray like he was in years past and coaches more like a “grandpa.” Charles Jr. describes a more mellow father and coach who stresses establishing relationships with players in addition to teaching the game.
Still, Assey Jr. remembers those tough days from his father and talks about them with his assistant coach Mark Dudley, who played with him at B-C.
One story that Assey Jr. recalls was the night B-C lost a road game to Richland Northeast, which was coached by his former assistant Barry Mizzell. As soon as they got back to the school after the game, his father ordered the team to go straight to the baseball field.
“When we see guys on that team, we talk about it all the time,” Assey Jr. “It was 8:30 or 9 p.m. when we got back. He said don’t worry about your cleats. When he said that, we knew we should keep our running shoes on. He sat there and ran us. You can’t do it nowadays, but back in 1995 it was OK.
“We complained about it but we knew what our culture was. We had good players from 1994 to ’99 and we were knocking at the door of state championship. In the moment those things sucked, but we believed in what we were doing. That is what I stress to these guys. You want to create a brand and culture that when you show up, you expect to win. You are going to have good and bad days but you have to go about it differently than others. We don’t want to be average at what we do.”
Neither Assey team has been average this year.
Cardinal Newman is 16-2 and a favorite to repeat as SCISA 3A champions. Gray Collegiate is 12-5 and ranked No. 8 in Class 2A, according to the latest S.C. Baseball Coaches Poll.
“Got some good kids. They are buying in and took one of Charles Jr.’s beliefs that we want to play our best games at spring break,” Assey Sr. said. “We had some lows early and we are peaking. We are getting better every time and so is Cardinal Newman.”