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Loving what he is doing

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Anderson Middle baseball coach Carlton having the time of his life with the Mustangs

Anderson County Middle School’s baseball team had one of its most successful seasons ever. At the helm, in his fourth season as head coach, Graham Carlton has been enjoying the ride.

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His reasons for coaching are simple yet sincere. “I coach for three reasons: I love kids. I love to help kids improve at what they do. And I’m addicted to competition, particularly the part that involves winning,” he says.

Carlton is a product of the Anderson County school system and was an exceptional athlete. He played on the Bearcat baseball team that won the school’s first regional championship in 2000 and was the on the regional runner-up team in 2001. As an outfielder, he was all-district and all-region in 2001. On the wrestling team, he served as captain for two years and had an overall record of 57-16. He was also the first Anderson wrestler to qualify for the state tournament. A shoulder injury eliminated any opportunity to compete in college, but his love for both sports was never far from his thoughts.

After graduating from the University of Kentucky Magna Cum Laude in 2005 and finishing his masters, Carlton taught at Henry Clay High School in Lexington for a semester, before migrating back to Lawrenceburg. After subbing briefly, he landed in a permanent position at the middle school. For better than three years he has taught social studies and coached both baseball and wrestling, combining the two loves of his life.

As baseball coach, his teams have a record of 81–22, bringing him close to a personal coaching goal.

“I hope to win a 100 games by next year and I want to win 30 games in a season,” he said.

This year’s team gave him a great season, capped with a conference championship.

But why coach middle school?

“Middle school age is that period in a kid’s athletic career when it’s time to step up and get serious about sports. But it’s not so serious that it’s like a job. I like being serious but I also love goofing around as much as anybody.”

Carlton seemed to have a great time with this year’s team.

“Top to bottom, it’s the best team I’ve ever coached. This has been a special group all the way through middle school as evidenced by the success they’ve had in other sports.”

This team “plays solid defense, our pitching is strong, and we have lots of speed which helps us offensively and defensively.”

Graham is quick to point out that he has lots of coaching help. Assistant coach Ryan Grzynkowicz has been with him for the past four years. He works with pitchers, giving signs for each pitch and calming down players after a walk or an error.

Coaches Kelly Parrish and Jeff Sparks work on fundamentals and field alignment. Sparks, until recently youth minister at Sand Spring Baptist Church, also serves as spiritual advisor. Tony Bak finishes out the staff as conditioning coach.

Carlton says that “each of our coaches bring something special to this team and help us to be strong mentally and physically, and to compete at a high level.”

Carlton is hesitant to point out individual players.

“One of the main strengths of this team is that it has such balance that everybody contributes. They’re very unselfish, no issues with egos or concerns over playing time. They’re as complete as any team could be at this level. It makes coaching them a pleasure,” he says.

Graham already has an eye on next season’s team. “The “B” team was 18-3-1 and won the conference regular-season championship. There’s a lot to like about next year’s team as well and they had the bar set pretty high by this year’s group. We’re expecting them to step up and continue to play at a high level. Winning is contagious.”

As Carlton reflects on the season and life, he still has some personal goals that include more than sports.

“I want to travel to all 50 states,” he says, noting that he has only two to go. “(I want to) have a hand in getting a baseball field for the middle school, see my former students and have them say they enjoyed having me as a teacher, and be someone my grandmother (longtime Anderson County teacher Naomi Brown) would have been proud of.”