BY JEFF FALK
Chris Groff isn’t resigning as much as he is demoting himself. As the head of the Cedar Crest baseball program he has the authority to do so.
Groff’s resignation as the Falcons’ head coach became effective on Monday afternoon, when Cedar Crest’s season reached a conclusion with a 5-1, eight-inning loss to Coatesville. He had decided earlier in the season that this would be his last.
Groff informed his players of his decision to step aside on Monday, May 14, on the heels of a 2-0 loss to Lampeter-Strasburg in the first round of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, after having broken the news to CCHS athletic director John Shaeffer first.
At that time, Groff had asked that the news of his resignation be not made public, until Cedar Crest’s final out had been recorded. It was a request that www.lebanonsportsbuzz.com honored.
Groff is stepping aside for the oldest reason in the book – to spend more time with his growing family.
“It was never talked about,” said Groff, of his impending resignation during the Falcons’ magical postseason run. “As a staff, we never talked about it. There was no ‘win one for the Gipper’ or ‘win one for Groffy’. We wanted to win just because of goals and Falcon pride.”
Then, after a brief pause, and composing himself, Groff continued: “We (his players and coaches) have a good connection. The players respect the coaches. It’s jus ta great group of guys. Everybody was playing for each other.”
“We were trying to get a state title,” said senior star Logan Fullmer. “And we were trying to do it for him (Groff) too. We were trying to get as many wins for him as possible. It’s tough not winning the first-round of states.”
Groff is the father of three, two boys, 7 and 5, and a one-year-old daughter. Groff said that he made his decision to resign at the beginning of the year, and believed the best time to inform his team was before the Falcons entered the do-or-die portion of the postseason.
“I absolutely love coaching,” said Groff. “It’s one of my most favorite things to do. It’s been a blast for ten years. My passion hasn’t changed, but everything around me has.
“I have one shot at being a dad,” Groff continued. “I’ve got to do the best I can. When I was growing up my dad was at every game. We live in the district and I plan on coaching my son. I feel like I can help Cedar Crest baseball in that way, on the lower levels.”
Cedar Crest went 21-5 in Groff’s final campaign. Before winning their second District Three Class AAAA championship in three years last week, the Falcons finished second to Hempfield in Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
Groff’s charges also won a Lancaster-Lebanon League title last season.
“Good, bad. It was a decision I had made,” said Groff. “Our performance wasn’t going to affect anything. When I told them (his players) they just listened. I wanted to tell them. I wanted the guys to hear it from me. I wanted to get it out of the way.
“To me, the timing was very difficult to figure out,” Groff added. “I wanted to respect the kids. Some of them like Logan (Fullmer) and Galen (Rader) are four-year varsity letter-winners. We want to win beyond Monday (CC’s District Three opener against Cedar Cliff), but I felt like it was time to tell these guys. I didn’t want anyone to think I’m doing this out of emotion.”
Under Groff’s guidance, Cedar Crest has returned to its position as one of the premiere high school baseball programs in the area. It’s a fact that Groff, himself a fiery competitor in his playing days at Northern Lebanon, seemed to take much satisfaction from.
“It definitely puts a strain on your family,” said Groff. “As a player, I knew it was different. We had open gyms beginning in February. We never had weight training. We never had open gyms all year. But I love being able to work with players. And I love being able to build a team. It just take a lot of time.
“Coming into the season, I knew it was time,” Groff added. “After varsity practice, I’m running off to my son’s practice or games. I want to be able to go to their games. We expect to be good every year. Districts start in late May, and at that point my son’s season is half over.”
“It’s at a point where my wife needs help. My first year I wasn’t married. It’s Year Ten, I’m married nine years and have three kids.”
Groff was just the third head coach in the 40-plus year history of the Cedar Crest baseball program. He succeeded Bill Dissinger, who retired as one of the most successful coaches in the annals of all of Lebanon County sports.
When Groff took the reigns, there was pressure to continue that tradition.
“Obviously I knew I had big shoes to fill,” said Groff. “He (Dissinger) had an incredible record. I feel we built up excitement in baseball in the area. Our program is doing well. The kids play hard and they play with passion. My goal was always to give the kids the best experience possible. The kids have enjoyed playing baseball at Cedar Crest, and I can take pride in that.”
Once a coach, always a coach.