The James River Knights have found a new baseball coach, and they didn’t have to look far. River plucked Chance Henry off the Lord Botetourt staff to replace Matt Gouker, who stepped down to take an assistant principal’s job in Roanoke County following the spring baseball season.
Henry comes to Springwood after teaching and coaching the jayvee baseball team at LB. He pitched for Cavalier coach Todd Smith as a student, earning first team All-Conference 31 honors as well as second team All-Region 3A and second team All-Blue Ridge District. He also earned second team All-Conference as a designated hitter.
Henry went on to play baseball at Roanoke College, where he pitched in six games as a freshman in 2016. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury ended his pitching career but he continued with the team as a student assistant, then joined the RC staff after graduation. He was a student assistant on the 2017 team that went to the NCAA Division III World Series.
“Chance was a part of our program for five years, one as a player and four as a coach,” said former RC coach Matt McGuire. “He had career-ending shoulder surgery that he never fully recovered from, so he decided to be a student assistant for us while he was finishing his degree, then in 2020 he was one of our assistant coaches. The year we went to the World Series he was recovering from the shoulder surgery. During his time he was an integral part of our program’s success both as a player and a coach.”
Henry points to McGuire and then-assistant Evan Noell as having a big influence on his career.
“Matt McGuire and Evan Noell have both been huge role models and the best baseball minds I’ve ever been around,” said Henry. “They both recruited and coached me at Roanoke College and I was fortunate enough to coach with Coach McGuire for a bit as well to really give me an inside look at how coaching goes behind doors away from the players. They both taught me how to look at the game from different angles and how a good plan of development can turn kids into better ball players and better people. I’ve been blessed to be able to speak with them about baseball and life in general as they’ve helped me through numerous situations in life.”
Upon returning to his high school alma mater, Chance got a chance to be in charge as the head jayvee coach. LB coach Smith was impressed with the job he did for the young Cavaliers.
“I’m super excited for Chance,” said Smith. “He is going to be greatly missed, but I know he will do a great job. He’s done a great job running our jayvee program for the past two years and is anxious to run his own program. I’ll help him any way I can.”
Henry takes over a James River team that went 9-14 this past season. Most of their wins came when senior Heath Andrews was on the mound, but he’ll be gone next season after signing to play for North Carolina State.
“Obviously, during these days when you talk about James River, the first person people bring up is Heath Andrews,” said Henry. “He’s one of the better baseball players to come through this area in a while and has a real shot to do something special with how well he can play baseball. So, with having a player that caliber on the mound, you’re obviously going to win games and have success, but one thing I want to point out is baseball is a team game. It’s tough to win with just one guy and these boys that have been playing with him have learned how to win as well, and it’s up to myself and the coaching staff to develop them and point them in the right direction so James River can have continued success, and hopefully win a championship.”
Having just taken the position, and in the middle of summer, Chance has yet to meet the team or assemble a coaching staff.
“I haven’t been able to meet with any of the players yet, but I’m planning on setting that up once school starts up in August so I can get in front of them as soon as I can and meet with them,” he said. “I look forward to building relationships with the players and getting started.
“The assistants that James River has in place are great guys from what I’ve heard,” he continued. “I plan on reaching out to them all soon so we can get together and get things started. I need to get to know them just as well as the players, so I’m looking forward to that.”
River Athletic Director Chase Davidson is excited about adding Chance to the James River athletic family.
“Coach Henry is looking forward to helping the young men of James River baseball continue improving their baseball skills through leadership development, teamwork, and effective communication, as well as helping students hone necessary life skills that they will need upon their completion of high school,” said Davidson. “Coach Henry looks forward to working with the student-athletes and coaching staff to continue to build an environment of accountability and responsibility.”
McGuire, who became close to Chance at Roanoke College, feels like he’s the perfect choice to lead a high school program.
“Chance is a baseball guy,” he said. “He is very knowledgeable and passionate about the game. He always showed a keen baseball IQ during games of when to make moves, call pitches, and could foresee things happening before they actually did. He’s also very good at developing pitchers, making a staff better and seeing potential in players. There’s no doubt Chance will make a good high school coach and I’m excited for him to get to lead his own program at such a great place like James River. That is a special community. Chance is a special person, so it’s a perfect combination.”
Henry is excited to get started and appreciative of the opportunity.
“I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted to be in charge of a program and try to build something that’s going to last,” he said. “Everyone loves to win, as do I, but I’m really looking forward to helping the players as much as I can and trying to prepare them for baseball, but also to hopefully come out of high school with the ability to look back at playing baseball and love it as much as I have.”