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'It was time:' Buena High School coach retires after 34 years dedicated to the school's athletics

Posted at 4:28 PM, Apr 29, 2024

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz (KGUN) — Mark Schaefer has been in Buena blue for decades. He's led athletes on the baseball, softball and football fields throughout his 34 years as a coach at Buena High School.

“The (signed baseball) at home says last season,” Schaefer said. “I’ve had so much fun. It's never been a labor to come out here. Everybody says if you've got a job, you go to work. I never had a job, not in the classroom. Not out here. It's always been, I get to go to school, I get to go to the baseball field.”

He began his coaching career out of state, before returning to the place he calls home, and finding opportunities locally to coach. Schaefer is retiring as the school's baseball coach, a job he's had twice, most recently from 2015 to 2024.

In that time, he's become known as the man in charge of the Colts baseball program, taking them to the state playoffs multiple times.

“It was time, you know. Everything needs new blood after a while,” Schaefer said.

Nathan Whitworth, a junior, has played for Schaefer since the summer of his eighth grade year. Seeing Schaefer as his high school coach is all he knew.

"When he told us, I didn’t believe it at first,” Whitworth said.

Schaefer told his team he was retiring at the end of the season, during their last week. Senior Max Pitts, said after the team found out, they were determined to send their coach off on a high note.

The Colts won their last home game, putting a final home victory in the books for the legendary coach. Buena's season ended a few days later in the state playoffs, but the bigger loss was no longer having Schaefer at the helm.

“It’s scary," Whitworth says about having a new coach his senior year. "It’s going to be very different and I hope (the new coach is) going to put in as much time and effort as coach Schaefer has.”

Former players of Schaefer's say his commitment and dedication to the players and the team is what sets him apart from other coaches. They say his determinations and never-give-up attitude are what he's taught them and what has helped them throughout their lives.

Ryan Haymore, who was a volunteer coach this past season and played for Schaefer when he was in high school, says his old coach hasn't changed, which is why he's still having an impact after 44 years in the business.

“It’s been said, that coaching is my wife," Schaefer said. "Which makes every one of these kids. All thousands of them are one of my kids. And that's the truth.”

Which is why he wants the life lessons he taught them to help them more than his coaching.

“The biggest impact he’s had on this program is making good people,” Whitworth said.

It’s been a week since Schaefer announced his retirement and coached his last game, but his new reality hasn't set in.

“They'll be a time, that might be after you leave, that I'll just sit in the dugout and reflect and think about it all because I really haven't thought about it all,” he said. "It's still so fresh."

For now, he’s focusing on himself and getting to all the MLB parks. But he's not saying the door on coaching is fully closed.

"If (coaching is) as bad of an addition as I think it is, then I'll probably be back volunteering at softball again," Schaefer said with a laugh.

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Alexis Ramanjulu is a reporter in Cochise County for KGUN 9. She began her journalism career reporting for the Herald/Review in Sierra Vista, which she also calls home. Share your story ideas with Alexis by emailing alexis.ramanjulu@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook.