Shelton deserves a win

School allegiances aside, let's all pull for Cliff Shelton this weekend. The man deserves a championship.

The head baseball coach at the Greater Atlanta Christian School since 1983, Shelton has fielded playoff team after playoff team. Three times his Spartans have reached the state finals, and three times they have been the state runner-up, most recently in 1999 vs. Lovett.

Shelton gets title chance No. 4 on Friday, when his 27-4 GACS team travels to Vidalia for the Class AA finals. After this weekend, let's hope that the GACS coach and former Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy aren't mentioned in the same sentence.

"We all want it for him," GACS assistant coach Kevin Nutt said. "Part of it is everybody gives him a hard time about Kristy having so many."

Kristy is Shelton's wife. She won five state titles as a coach with the GACS softball program. What would it hurt to let her husband have one?

"I love Coach Shelton," GACS senior Jim Knauss said. "He's been great. We really want to win him one."

GACS has won two baseball state titles, one in 1975 and the other in 1982, a title Shelton remembers well. And not from experience.

"The year before I got here," he said. Nutt knows about the '82 title team more than any current Spartan. He was one of eight seniors on that championship team who left that season along with their coach, Russell Tarpley. Tarpley was assisted in '82 by a young coach named Dana Davis, a longtime GACS tennis and girls basketball coach.

The Spartans beat Lanier County in three games, but they haven't experienced that exhilaration in baseball since. Nutt wants this year's team — and its veteran coach — to know how it feels to go out on top.

In his 21st season at GACS, a longer tenure than any Gwinnett baseball coach other than Parkview's Hugh Buchanan, Shelton deserves that elation.

One of the more respected coaches around, the GACS coach is as nice as he has been successful. Such a dedication to a program and to the GACS students should be rewarded. What better way to do that than with a title this weekend.

"When it finally happens, it will be like somebody lifting a building off his shoulders," Nutt said of Shelton. "I want him to have that feeling, to enjoy that feeling. It's a different feeling to win as a coach.

"When you win as a player, you're happy for you like, ‘I just won the state championship.' As a coach you're happy for all your players. I want him to know that feeling." So do I.

This story originally appeared in The Gwinnett Daily Post.

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