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Jeremy ‘Sheets’ Sheetinger primed to instill championship culture in Chatham

by Cooper Andrews
Saturday, June 15, 2024

Jeremy ‘Sheets’ Sheetinger primed to instill championship culture in Chatham
A late night call left Jeremy Sheetinger tossing and turning in the dog days of summer 2023.

His friend Alan Jaeger — a member of Chatham’s coaching staff for its 1992 Cape Cod Baseball League title victory — rang his phone to notify him of a job opportunity. Yet that was the last thing on Sheetinger’s mind. His role with USA Baseball was growing. He constructed an NAIA powerhouse at Georgia Gwinnett College. So, he shrugged off Jaeger’s inquiry and got ready for bed.

Sheetinger was too preoccupied to even realize what he’d just been offered. He was left second guessing himself for the rest of the evening.

“‘Wait a minute, did he say Chatham?’” Sheetinger blurted in epiphany. “‘Did he say the Cape?’ And I kept going, ‘Wait a minute. Could I go coach in the Cape? Can I make that work?’”

He got up at 8 a.m. the next morning and called Jaeger, who lives in California, at 5 a.m. western time — unable to wait any longer.

“‘I need you to get up because I think you said Chatham and I think you said the Cape,’” Sheetinger recalls telling Jaeger. “‘And yes, I'm interested.’”

On August 21, 2023, Sheetinger — otherwise known as “Sheets” — was hired as the 15th manager in A’s history. He also serves as Georgia Gwinnett College’s head coach, a position he’s held since 2020. With the Grizzlies, Sheetinger has established himself as one of the top collegiate baseball managers in the country, helming them to a 2021 NAIA World Series title. He received the Skip Berman National Coach of the Year from the Collegiate Baseball Foundation for his efforts.

The 43-year-old is a builder by nature, he said, and his goal with Chatham is no different than his original mission at GGC: form an unbreakable culture of winning. He understands the pressure that comes with the job. But that doesn’t phase him. Sheetinger believes in his managerial philosophy — one that’s intentional, detailed and proven — and brings a personal touch to the role that makes him poised to right the Anglers’ ship.

“We have a chance to not only reinvigorate a community, but we have a chance to rebuild a team in the most prestigious league in the world,” Sheetinger said. “That's my motivation every day, how can we put this team back to have an opportunity to not only win a championship, but compete for Cape championships every summer.”

What Sheetinger has built in Gwinnett, and what he looks to build in Chatham, all stems from his mindset, which he said he’s consciously formed from his life experiences. Today, he centers himself around an aggressive style of baseball, instilling a brotherhood within his team and learning through failure.

That wasn’t how it used to be, though.

“My first 11 years coaching was about me, it was about my ego, it was about my career,” Sheetinger said. “And if we win more games, then I get an opportunity to hopefully get a better paying job and I get a chance to move up all the levels.”

He bounced around universities early in his career, coaching at Division-II’s St. Joseph’s College (Indiana), Brescia University and Georgetown College of the NAIA and D-III’s Spalding University. Still, his experiences weren’t fulfilling enough.

Sheetinger began to see the world from a different perspective once he made a decision to exit coaching. He joined Major League Baseball as an associate scout for the Atlanta Braves from 2015-19 and was the college division liaison of the American Baseball Coaches Association from 2016-19. Those two roles caused Sheetinger to alter his values. He learned to put players’ needs ahead of his own, and reap the benefits of incremental progression.

“It made me open my eyes that — actually servant leadership is the way to go,” Sheetinger said. “When you make others the priority and you make their growth and their development what will get you out of bed in the morning, you get served on the back end of it and you get what you're looking for.”

Mere days into his Anglers’ tenure, Sheetinger’s mentality has been on full display.

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Pittsburgh infielder Luke Cantwell (left) embraces first-year manager Jeremy "Sheets" Sheetinger (right) | Photograph by Sydney Ciardi

Players hate dealing with chaos and inflated egos from their coaches, Sheetinger said. So, he’s made it a priority to provide his guys with unconditional love and support, while also properly teaching the game to guide their development. At the same time, Sheetinger preaches playing “free and loose.” He understands that he’s coaching some of the best collegiate players in the country, and he wants their personalities and playstyles to shine.

“He really knows we’re grown men, he knows we can take care of it if he tells us something to do,” said Chatham right-handed pitcher Tanner Franklin (Kennesaw State). “He’s just there to help us along the way.”

Franklin recalled meeting Sheetinger at a high school showcase camp in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Sheetinger got him “fired up” from the get-go, and Franklin added that he and his A’s teammates have rallied behind the first-year manager to match his morals.

The most apparent difference between Sheetinger and Franklin’s previous coaches is his care factor, Franklin said. He said Sheetinger instructs with a positive attitude and doesn’t cuss out players. Whether it’s failure or success, Sheetinger’s genuine tranquility remains intact.

“I mean a lot of coaches tell you they care and tell you about how much they care, but they don’t really show it,” Franklin said. “And Sheets shows it in a big way.”

Fostering a team-oriented environment comes with a trade off, however. Sheetinger likes to have “crystal clear communication” channeled between he and his players. And he’s transparent about what he expects from them. If they’re not on board with his vision, Sheetinger said, then it won’t be easy for them to hang around.

“I'm somebody that you need to take seriously,” Sheetinger said. “When you walk around like that, the world has no choice but to pay you notice.”

That sense of accountability is how Sheetinger hopes he can pull Chatham out of its 26-year championship drought. Even more recently, the Anglers are coming off a year in which former manager Tom Holliday resigned midseason while they ended up finishing 15-27-2 — tied for last in the CCBL. The A’s haven’t qualified for the postseason since 2019.

Sheetinger said at Georgia Gwinnett, every season that doesn’t end in a national title goes against the expectation. He’s gunning for Chatham to share a similar relentless pursuit at reaching the top of the mountain, which he said he’s been upfront with his players about.

Even though he will face these demands in a brand-new situation, Sheetinger is driven by the excitement that has swirled around his hire.

“Pressure is a privilege. I embrace it. I stare at it every day. I walk right toward it, arms around it,” Sheetinger said. “... Our job is to get to the playoffs. No doubt about it. It will not be a successful summer if we don't make sure that we give these Chatham fans a chance to see playoff baseball.”

The expectations may be significant, though Sheetinger is now living the dream in a place he never considered he’d be. He said that he, his wife Chelsea, his son Cooper, and his daughter Charlee are all settled in Chatham. The family has loved being on the Cape and have made a few trips to the beach, with Sheetinger saying there will be plenty more in store.

Sheetinger is already barrelling at full speed to instill a championship culture, but he wants to make sure he doesn’t take the opportunity for granted.

And it’s clear that he won’t.

“Every day I get a chance to walk out, stare at that scoreboard, and we're going to see thousands of fans up on the hills at Veterans Field,” Sheetinger said. “So I can't even say it's a challenge, because I know I will roll out of bed every day and be grateful to be here.”