When news broke on Wednesday of the passing of legendary Georgia Southern baseball coach Jack Stallings, it didn’t take long for news to spread around the baseball world. Throughout the day, texts, phone calls and social media posts flooded in remembering Stallings and sharing the role he had played in their lives, both as players and people.
On September 7, a celebration of life is planned for Stallings in Statesboro. Many former coaches and players have already voiced their intention to attend and the event will also be open to the public.
Here are some memories as told by those who spent time with Stallings - affectionately known as “Skip” - during his 24 seasons coaching the Eagles.
Former Eagle coach Scott Baker:
“I spent 15 years with Skip at Georgia Southern. Those were some of the best times of my life. I loved and respected him so much. I have continued coaching the past almost 20 years, and I always find myself asking what would Skip do? When would he yell, and when would he go put his arm around a kid?”
“Skip helped grow the game globally. Many may not remember, he was on the coaching staff of the 1984 Olympic baseball team. Well he ended up getting the uniforms from that team, and those were actually the uniforms we wore in the College World Series in 1990. “I actually had to remove the names like (Mark) McGwire, and (Barry) Larkin and (Will) Clark from the back of the uniforms. I had to get the USA off the front too, and then took them to someone in Statesboro to sew the GSC on the uniforms.”
Former Statesboro High coach Kenny Tucker:
“Coach Stallings was an awesome teacher of the game of baseball and of life. I was in awe of his knowledge of the game and how he could deliver that knowledge to his players and coaches. Skip was a great international ambassador of the game of baseball and Georgia Southern University.”
Former Eagle pitcher Jon Phillips:
“Skip was a great man who impacted college baseball players lives for many years. I loved my time at Georgia Southern and took many of his values and principals that he taught us into my professional baseball and business career.
“He was by far one of the most knowledgeable and best communicators I’ve been around. “The big guy’s wit and humor kept us laughing and loose during practice, games, and bus rides. I was the recipient of this humor while learning some valuable life lessons.”
“Skip’s teachings will live on in each of his former players and hopefully others will be rewarded. He will be missed by all of us.”
Former Eagle catcher Sy Jones:
“Skip was the most fair coach I have ever been around. When you played for Skip you knew deep down that you had earned the opportunity.”
Former Eagle player and coach Buddy Holder:
“I was with Skip from the fall of 89 until he retired in 1999. He was as humble as he was brilliant, which is very unusual."
“He was the epitome of a coach. He coached you when you were a player, and he coached you when you were coaching beside him. He taught you how to evaluate yourself, which is one of the hardest things in the world to do.
“He would tell us in coaching meetings that you’ll learn more of how not to coach from me than you’ll ever learn how to coach from me,” Holder said. “To hear that from one of the winningest coaches of all time shows you how humble he was.”
Former Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern player Matt Wilson:
“The unique thing for me was I played against Skip, and then played for him. Seeing him from the other dugout I was pretty impressed, but once I got a chance to play for him and be around him I felt he was the most knowledgeable coach - in regards to the fundamental aspects of baseball - than anyone I have ever been around.”
“He explained how perfect practice makes perfect. If you practiced something, you did it with an end goal.”
“Some people may not remember Skip was a professor at Georgia Southern while he was coaching. He was also way ahead of his time. The growth of coaching psychology in the past 15 years, Skip was doing that in the 80’s and 90’s. I still have the book he wrote on sports psychology. I took his class, I then taught with him, and in 1999 when he retired from teaching I took over his classes. He gave so much of himself, and today is truly a sad day.”
Former Eagle coach Larry Bryant:
“Most people knew what a great coach he was, but I got to see what a great husband he was to his wife Norma. He would take off his ball cap, and uniform, and put on his overalls and help her with the farm and the horses.”
“As for the coaching side of things, I remember when we advanced to Omaha in 1990, and how special that was. People have asked over the years if I had any idea that year that we’d advance to the college world series. Well, we had plenty of talent with Joey Hamilton, Matt Fitzpatrick and Todd Greene, but it was the way Skip pulled the whole team together as a unit that got us as far as we did.”
“He was a special man. I admired him as much as a person as I did as a coach. It was a honor to be with him for 20 years.”
Former Eagle All-American Mike Shepherd:
“I played my last game for Skip 31 years ago. When people ask where I played and I tell them Georgia Southern, that still holds a lot of weight. Hearing the great words that people from around the country have had to say about him in the last day - it’s a big point of pride to know that I lived some of that with him.”
“The biggest thing I remember about playing for Skip was how we approached every game. We were a good team, but he also made sure to play all of the toughest opponents we could get. There were some days where we might not have thought we were the more talented team on the field, but we always felt like we were the best coached team and the team that was most confident and prepared to win.”
Former Eagle player and coach Darin Van Tassell
“Coach Stallings is a titan in my life. He taught me so many things as both a player and as a coach. Now I’m trying to run a professional team of my own in Tormenta FC. Every day, I find myself doing things and making decisions in running our club based on what I learned from Skip and what he would have done.”
“He ran a college team like a professional organization. Everything with the way we practiced and approached games and executed on the field was done with a professional attitude. That’s a big reason people were drawn to him and where all of the success came from.”
Former Eagle player Todd Greene:
“I’m not saying Skip was in a class by himself, but it doesn’t take long to call the roll.”
“He was a great teacher of the game. He helped every player understand what they did well. There was no cookie cutter coaching with him. We were all individuals.”
“He had a unique way of empowering us as his players. Going into pro ball I was ahead of the learning curve. All players knew how to play the game when you left a Jack Stallings program.”