He’s got a new team in a new state, but Mount Vernon’s new varsity boys’ baseball coach Charles Chatman and the Mustang players are quickly finding a home with each other.
Chatman has come to the position by way of Tustin, which is located in Orange County, Calif., having coached high school baseball there for nine years, with a coaching career of nearly 20 years now.
“The reality is, we fell in love with this place for my seventh grader,” said Chatman, the father of two. “He’s the reason why we moved here.”
It was during visits to Iowa that Chatman realized it was a good fit, especially when he factored in how quickly his youngest, Porter, made friends while he was here. After more than a year spent in near-isolation during the pandemic, Chatman noticed his son seemed to be feeling lonely and more introverted than he was used to seeing him.
“He had more friends in a weekend visiting here” than in the last couple of years in California, Chatman said.
“The community’s great, the people are awesome, but really this is a place I want to raise my younger son.”
The family is rounded out by Chatman’s elder son, Charles Chatman III (the family calls him “Tre”), and Chatman’s wife, Tiffany, who will be a para-educator at Mount Vernon middle school, where Porter will be attending school.
One more draw for Chatman as far as Iowa was concerned was its baseball schedule, which takes place during the summer, unlike his native California, where it’s played year-round, but for only 30 games.
Chatman is going to school to become a school counselor, and the idea of doing both jobs full-time is an attractive one to him — even if it does mean baseball games at a rather break-neck pace.
Playing six games in a five-day stretch, indicated Chatman, “Is a lot of baseball.”
Back in California, if his team happened to play four games in a week, “That’s a bear,” while in Iowa, “It’s a light week.”
It’s an adjustment he’s making with his brand new team, the Mount Vernon Mustangs.
“The effort and attitudes have been phenomenal from day one,” Chatman said of his team. “That’s a non-issue with these guys. I think it’s because of the way they were raised.”
The kids on his team have been raised to respect authority, respect adults, show up, and work hard every day, said Chatman.
The team gave him respect “not because I deserved it, but because that’s the way they were raised,” he said.
Even so, there was bound to be a learning curve.
“I’m from Southern California, these guys are from Eastern Iowa. We just talk differently. We approach things differently. It’s my responsibility to learn their lingo, to understand how to communicate in a way that makes sense to them, and that takes some time,” said Chatman.
Some things he imparted to his new team from the beginning, Chatman said, included that “everybody on the field has a job to do,” and that “we don’t need any superheroes.”
“Attack your part and trust your teammates to do theirs,” said Chatman. “We don’t need anybody to take on the world.”
Little by little, the team has been catching on, and trusting the man at the helm.
“They’re learning that I’m not making this stuff up as I go along. They’re learning that I kind of have an idea, and a plan,” Chatman said.
Chatman was quick to point out his assistant coach, Matt Perisho, was on his wavelength, and said of him, “He’s phenomenal.”
While the team’s record currently doesn’t reflect it, Chatman is seeing changes afoot.
“I try to tell the guys that we’re crossing the desert, we’re not climbing a mountain,” he said. “Just because we want to try to be level and even-keel as possible.”
Nobody has beaten his team yet, Chatman asserted. They had only ever beaten themselves.
“We can’t get out of our own way right now. All of our issues are self-inflicted — which is great, because that means we can fix them,” Chatman said.
“It’s frustrating in the moment, but you’re reminded that you’re in control.”
Chatman sees the talent in his team, and believes it’s becoming more evident all the time.
“I think that we have a lot of talent. We care a lot. And we take a lot of ownership,” he said.
A few weeks from now, said Chatman, he expects his team to have really gelled.
“I’m going to imagine that the team that will be when that rolls around, most teams won’t want to play.”
He cautioned that wasn’t a claim the Mustangs would go all the way, but what he did know was “we get better every time we get on the field.”
“I’m just super grateful and appreciative of how everyone’s handled this whole transition, and I’d love nothing more than to make baseball relevant for this community,” Chatman said.
“That’s my goal, over the next handful of years, is to have Mount Vernon baseball be in the conversation of baseball communities in Iowa.”