Even when he was playing at Riverside High School in Durham, Lee Land had respect for his rivals in Chapel Hill’s baseball program.
Now he’s glad he gets to build on what his predecessors wrought at Chapel Hill.
Land, a three-time all-state selection for Riverside and the 2003 North Carolina Player of the Year as a senior, was named the baseball head coach at Chapel Hill High School last week.
“Chapel Hill has had a great tradition and pride in its program for years,” Land said. “I’m looking forward to extending that as a coach.”
Land brings plenty of baseball experience to the position.
Drafted out of high school by the Pittsburgh Pirates, he opted to attend Wake Forest University as a two-way player. He had Tommy Johns surgery before transferring to Arkansas, where he was a two-time SEC Academic All-Conference selection out of the bullpen.
Land played with the 2007 Brewster Whitecaps in the famed Cape Cod League before he was drafted a second time and signed with the Oakland As. A shoulder injury ended his pitching career after he threw 12 scoreless innings for Vancouver.
Land will wear more than one baseball cap in 2014. He will be in his seventh season as a staff coach with the Durham-based Dirtbags, a highly selective travel club, and he’ll be helping build business for a new indoor batting facility in Burlington.
He will get help at CHHS from an experience staff he’s put together already.
Chapel Hill High School and University of North Carolina alum Tarron Robinson, who served as interim coach for the Tigers last spring, will return as a top assistant. Robinson, a pitcher and first baseman for CHHS, earned all-conference honors all four years as a high school player and led the Tigers to PAC-6 titles in 2004 and 2005.
Brent Haynes, another Dirtbag staffer, was a two time all-state and conference player of the year during his senior year at Southern Alamance, leading the Patriots to a state championship in 2005 as MVP of the state finals. Before playing at D-II powerhouse Mt. Olive, Haynes played alongside future major leaguers Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager on a Dirtbags team that finished third in the 2005 World Wood Bat Championship in Florida.
Bill Kitchin, a 1987 grad of Chapel Hill High School who became a lieutenant with the fire department, will be the head coach of the Tiger junior varsity. Kitchin is also a life skills teacher assistant at CHHS, and he will serve a vital role for the baseball staff as a full-time presence available to the players during the school day.
“It’s a really good staff,” Land said. “They have a lot of baseball skills to teach, but they all also have some great leadership skills. This should be an exciting year for Chapel Hill High School.”
Having a solid staff will help Land deal with what is a a full-time job with part-time pay.
“Being a coach is a full-time job if you’re going to make sure everything is done right,” Land said. “There are a lot of things that need to be done to help your players, on and off the field.”
Land worked last spring with head coach Doug Simmons at Riverside, helping the Pirates get back atop the PAC-6, but he wasn’t planning on returning to high school varsity ball until Chapel Hill athletics director Tim Bennett suggested he apply for the CHHS head job.
“I’ve wanted to be a high school baseball head coach for quite a while,” Land said. “The relationship between a coach and player has always been very important to me, and that relationship in high school is special.”