CHATHAM ─ On a summertime afternoon John Schiffner stands at the third-base dugout fence gazing out at Veterans Field, taking a breather in between fielding text messages and phone calls that followed in a flurry after the announcement that his 2017 season as head coach of the Chatham Anglers will be his last.
“It's time, for a lot of reasons,” Schiffner said.
While the winningest head coach in Cape Cod Baseball League history declined to comment about his plans for the future just yet, he did reflect positively on his time here.
“It's been home,” he said. “I've considered Chatham and Harwich my home for well over 30 years. This has been so special, to be able to do something in the place you've considered home for 34 years, 25 as the head guy.”
In those 25 years Schiffner has led his teams not only through a major name change from the Athletics to the Anglers, but also to two league championships, six division titles, and 15 playoff appearances, including last season when the Anglers stunned everyone by clawing their way from the bottom to make the post-season. He was the first CCBL coach to record a 500th career win, which happened in 2015.
In two-plus decades he's instructed many a player, somewhere around 1,000, an impressive 120 of whom have gone on to careers in the Major Leagues.
“I’ve always said it’s all about the players,” said Schiffner in an official press release. “Winning is great and important, but getting to work with these college athletes at such an important point in their lives provides the most rewards. Baseball and teaching have been two of my passions and these came together during my time with the Anglers.”
Schiffner graduated from Providence College in 1977 and was captain of the baseball team. He got his Cape League start as a player for the Mariners, then served as an assistant coach for the team, also in 1977. From 1978 to 1982 he was assistant coach for the A's, becoming the team manager in 1993. More recently Schiffner was named to the Connecticut High School Coaches Association's Hall of Fame for his years of coaching baseball at Plainfield High where he also taught history. He also worked in the Community Service Office at Nauset Regional High School.
Though Schiffner and his wife Martha reside in Harwich, he said he feels most at home along the sidelines of the A's baseball field.
“This is my home,” he said looking at the field from his seat in the home team dugout. “This is one of my favorite things to do is to sit at Vets field in the dugout when nobody else is around. Just sit and look at the field.”
While Schiffner certainly has some time left to do that, along with continuing to coach this season's stars of summer baseball, it won't be long before he'll bid the field goodbye. Mike Geylin, the team's general manager, said Schiffner will be missed.
“The club will miss his gravitas, a gravitas earned through his five decades of CCBL participation - first as a player, then as a coach and 25 seasons as the Chatham manager,” said Geylin. “He has seen and experienced all facets of the league and thus brought experience and insight well beyond what occurs between the foul lines. He knows the people. He knows the community. He knows what's what. He also set a tone for the Chatham team, whether it was the A's or Anglers, by putting the players first, working to ensure they left having had – what many have told me – the greatest summer of their lives. This reaction from players of all caliber goes beyond his ability to help influence baseball careers, for which he has been superb.
“John's attitude about the players created the right atmosphere around the entire team and this resulted in a positive impact on the community as a whole. Regardless of record, he provided Chatham with a team of which it could be proud.”
“We are extremely proud of the standards he established in running the team and are appreciative of everything he has done for Chatham. Saying he will be missed is an understatement,” said Steve West, president of the Chatham Athletic Association, the Anglers governing organization.