CONYERS - When one door closes, another opens.
That's the case with Chad Kitchens, the former Social Circle head baseball coach and now first-year leader at Salem.
Salem welcomes a man who holds several records at Social Circle, including most wins (163) and coaching span (12 years).
"My success has been and always will be a byproduct of the relationships I have built with people," Kitchens said. "I try to treat everyone with the utmost respect; that is the best way to earn respect from other people. The people at Salem have taken me in with open arms and made me feel very welcome.
"God-willing, I look forward to a long career here at this school."
Kitchens, a 1990 graduate and baseball standout at Social Circle, went to Truett-McConnell for one season before transferring to the University of Georgia, where his playing days quickly ended.
His first stint as a coach came at a small school in South Pittsburg, Tenn., where his team won the 1994 state championship in football. After returning home to Social Circle in 1995, he became the head baseball coach two years later.
Kitchens spent the next 12 years there, reaching the playoffs three times (2002, 2005 and 2006).
Without question, his finest season came in 2006. Social Circle went 28-8 overall and reached the Elite Eight.
According to Kitchens, his expectations for the upcoming season are high. This comes on the heels of the Seminoles recording the best year in school history on the diamond.
"While we lost a lot (of players), we also have a lot coming back. I don't think we need to put a number or specific goal out there in terms of success because success is different for every team," he said. "There are so many factors that come into play in terms of the number of games you win, if you make the playoffs and how far you can go when you get there.
"I think it is important for us to compare ourselves to what we can do. We don't need to try and match any other Salem team but strive to do the very best we can do this season."
Kitchens' plan is simple: Player development.
"Our main goal is to develop these players as young men first and foremost. Of course, we want to win, but we want to build character while winning," Kitchens said. "So our main focus and goal each year is for these guys to end the season as better people than they began it. When they graduate, I want them to look back on their time here and feel good about the person they have become."
Some would, and have, questioned why he would leave a place where so much success has been accumulated. But Kitchens knows exactly where he stands on the matter.
"That is my home and will always be a part of me. I was not asked to leave in any way," he said. "I had the option of coming back if I wanted, but I felt the last three years God had something else planned for me. I was stubborn for a couple of years and then finally started listening. I felt like I was spinning my wheels and doing the same thing over and over again.
"But I didn't want to leave just to leave; I wanted the right opportunity. So I waited. When Salem came open, I knew that was the right place. Everything fell together and God opened that door. There is no doubt in my mind that I made the right decision with the amount of prayer that was involved. Any time you leave a place you have been at for many years, the rumors start flying, but I chose to leave for my own reasons."
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.