Kurfees’ retirement an end of an era for Legion baseball

Published 1:34 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Nobody loves baseball more than Charles Kurfees. Nobody cares more about American Legion baseball than Charles Kurfees.

But after coaching Mocksville American Legion baseball for 19 years, Kurfees is ready for a break. He announced in February that he’s stepping down as the Mocksville Senior Legion coach, bringing an end to an era. A search for a new coach has been ongoing since the Feb. 16 announcement.

“I loved it,” Kurfees said. “We had some good times and I met some great people.”

Kurfees has been a fan or a part of the Mocksville program in some capacity since its inception in 1982. He was a natural choice to start the Junior Legion program in 2003. He led the juniors for seven years and posted six winning seasons as they finished 29-8, 27-14, 11-17, 30-12, 35-7, 19-13 and 18-15. His Junior Legion record from 2003-09 was 169-86.

When Mike Lovelace resigned as Senior Legion coach following the 2009 season, Kurfees took over that position. His 12 Senior squads went 148-187.

Kurfees had 15 assistant coaches during his 19-year run in American Legion baseball. They were Andrew Jones, Todd Bumgarner, Dan Lawlor, Denny Key, Brian Bishop, Joel Brizek, Anslo Fowler, Jacob Tutterow, Patrick Usher, Matt Tullock, Tim McKnight, Aaron Hollifield, Robbie Fox, Mike Dinkins and David Whitaker.

As much as Kurfees, 55, loves baseball, he grew increasingly frustrated in recent years. Once upon a time, American Legion baseball attracted all of the top players. But it’s gotten harder and harder to get firm commitments; 18-man rosters are rare these days. The declining interest took its toll on Kurfees.

“Times have changed,” he said. “Kids don’t want to play like they used to.”

But Kurfees wouldn’t trade the past 19 years for anything.

“The relationships have been really good,” he said. “I met some great coaches, great leaders in other organizations, some really good umpires, a lot of people who have become good friends. If it hadn’t been for (the assistant coaches), I wouldn’t have been able to do half of what I did.”

Kurfees will stay involved in Mocksville baseball. You’ll still see him at the ballpark, and he is hoping to keep the fall league going.

“I won’t say I’m getting out of it forever, but I need a break from it – a big-time break,” he said. “It was a little frustrating at times. I might get back into coaching a little bit of (fall league) or helping with that. We’ve got to keep the fall league going.

“It’s been a great ride and I don’t want to see the program go away. It’s too good of a program and the kids who aren’t playing are missing out. It’s something they’re going to remember the rest of their lives.”

When the news came out on the Mocksville Legion Facebook page, people spoke glowingly of the man who is synonymous with Mocksville baseball.

Andrew Jones wrote: “Proud to coach with this man for many years. He took a chance with an 18 year old as his assistant on the Junior Legion squad and we won a lot of games together. Thank you, Charles, see you at the ticket booth hanging out.”

Johnny Meadows: “One of the best in the business. Great person and great friend.”

Lonnie Barnes: “I played a many years with this guy. He was definitely a players coach.”

Sherry Sheek King: “Thanks for all you did, the encouragement you gave to not only my son but every kid who played for you. You will never know how much you were appreciated.”

Sherry Sasser: “Thanks for everything, coach. Your presence will surely be missed at Mando.”

Dale Boger Arrington: “He is a good one. Thanks for your heart and soul for the game and the young men you have coached.”

Blake Little: “Lucky enough to play under Kurf for three years. Great coach, even better man.”