ONA — Cabell Midland assistant baseball coach George Brumfield went to the pitcher’s mound with one objective — to get ejected.
The veteran baseball man wasn’t particularly upset with the umpire Bruce Hensley, but the Knights had just lost a three-run lead and were playing lackluster ball in a must-win sectional tournament game. Brumfield needed to fire up his players. The ploy worked, as Cabell Midland scored five runs in its next at bat on its way to a 12-4 victory.
Brumfield and his son, Tracy, Cabell Midland’s head coach laughed after the game as they relived the bit of baseball wisdom George had displayed.
“As soon as he asked to talk to our pitcher, I knew what he was going to do,” Tracy Brumfield said. “I knew it was over. He was getting run. You do certain things for motivation and that’s what he was doing and we all knew it.”
The Brumfields have combined for 875 victories as head coaches. George won 516 during a 27-year career at Wayne High, landing him in the National High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2015. Tracy has won 359 in 17 seasons at Cabell Midland. That total is believed to be the third-highest father-son combination in the state, trailing John Lowery and John Lowery, Jr., of Jefferson and Martinsburg, respectively, and Ted and Eric Ellis of Chapmanville.
Tracy, 52, played for his dad at Wayne, then after graduating from Marshall University, where he played, joined him on the bench. George, 74, became Tracy’s assistant at Cabell Midland in 2006, then spent four seasons as an assistant at Marshall, before returning to the Knights staff in 2011, where he has coached since.
The duo will lead Cabell Midland (17-8) into the Class AAA, Region IV championship best-of-three series beginning at 6 p.m. Monday at Hurricane (28-1).
“He’s taught me everything I know about the game,” Tracy said of George. “He’s taught me the little things that help win ballgames, but also how to treat kids.”
Tracy said he accepts advice from George just as he does fellow assistants Greg Childers, Rodney May, Russ Gaskins and Chris Brumfield, also George’s son and Tracy’s brother. The final call, though, is Tracy’s.
“We’ll differ on occasions,” Tracy said of strategy decisions. “He’s like me in that he knows his role. As an assistant, there’s not as much pressure on you. If something goes wrong, it comes down on the head coach.”
If that particularly something goes wrong and Tracy or George was to blame, there’s little, if any, conversation about it. It certainly doesn’t spill from the dugout onto Sunday dinner. In fact, out of season, the two said they don’t talk much baseball at all.
“He’ll ask what I think, I tell him and whatever he decides is what we do,” Brumfield said of what goes on in the dugout. “I tell him to go with his gut feeling.”
That advice has worked well for both. Wayne made the state championship game eight times and won four, including in 1984 when Tracy scored the winning run in a 5-4 triumph over Magnolia. George said he counts that as the most-special baseball moment involving he and Tracy.
“It’s a lot of fun to be on the same field as my sons,” George said. “It’s fun to interact on the field. We’ve had a lot of success, but we owe it all to the players and those who have coached with us.”
Tracy said his dad taught him how to win, but at least equally as importantly how to deal with failure.
“In baseball, you hit .300 and you’re an all-star,” Tracy said. “In football, complete 3 of 10 passes and you’re on the bench. Shoot 30 percent in basketball and you’re not going to play much.”
Tracy said he didn’t appreciate the difficulty of being a head coach until he became one. That’s when he better understood his dad.
“There’s a big difference,” Tracy said. “As an assistant coach, you might be thinking about one thing. As head coach, it’s like a thousand flash bulbs going off. I never understood that before. You might think, ‘do I bunt? It’s a bunt situation, but this guy’s 5 for 5. Maybe he’s not a good bunter.’ There’s so much that goes into it.”
That’s what makes winning 875 games so impressive. Winning isn’t easy, but both coaches said the memories are worth the struggle. Tracy displays one of those memories in his home, where two pictures hang in the same frame. One photo is of George being ejected by umpire Ed Miller at a game at Vinson. The other is of Tracy being thrown out of a game vs. Scott, also by Miller. The Brumfields laugh about those memories.
Tracy almost didn’t apply for the Cabell Midland job when it opened, saying he figured he didn’t have a chance at the gig at a school of nearly 2,000 students. He was waiting for his dad to retire and hoped to become head coach at Wayne. George told him to go for it. Tracy got the job and soon thereafter the Knights beat Capital 11-0 for the Tracy’s first win. Tracy gave George the game ball.
The Brumfields have coached against one another a few times, including George’s last game at Wayne. Cabell Midland won.
“I was nervous going against Wayne that game, against my dad,” Tracy said. “I wanted to win the game, but it was bittersweet.”
George said he’d have been disappointed had Tracy not tried to win. Either way, the victory would have been a part of an astonishing win total.