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Mack Shupe stepping down as J.I. Burton's baseball coach

Bill Lane • Aug 23, 2009 at 12:00 AM

NORTON — The most successful high school coaching career in Southwest Virginia history is coming to an end.

Mack Shupe, after spending 40 years in the dugout, will tender his resignation Monday morning as J.I. Burton’s baseball coach.

Shupe, whose illustrious career includes eight VHSL championships, produced a 631-173 win-loss record at J.J. Kelly and Burton.

“It’s time to go here,’’ Shupe said Sunday. “I think I’ve accomplished everything you could at the high school level.

“I’d never rule out anything but I won’t be coaching again where there isn’t a total commitment to the baseball program. Of course, that would mean having a first-class facility. This is the 21st century.’’

Shupe’s milestones have been many.

He took over a program at Kelly when its players were wearing T-shirts instead of standard uniforms.

Shupe led a campaign to build a stadium that today bears his name. He took his teams to the state championship game in four different decades.

He guided Kelly to an unprecedented four straight state titles — in 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1984, all unbeaten seasons. The Indians went 19-0, 21-0, 22-0 and 21-0.

Under his direction, Kelly also ruled Virginia’s Group A diamonds in 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1998.

His Indians won 22 Lonesome Pine District championships and 18 Region D titles and were state runners-up three times.

The VHSL Hall of Famer developed six professional players and had dozens of others go on to compete at the college level.

“I had 33 enjoyable years at Kelly,’’ Shupe said. “We had a good run there.’’

His Kelly teams won 546 games while losing only 173.

Shupe retired from J.J. Kelly’s faculty in 2002 and took on quite a challenge by accepting the coaching position at J.I. Burton as a non-faculty member. The school has an enrollment barely half the size of the opponents it faces.

Burton’s program had been mired in defeatism for 50 years, and he pulled it out of obscurity in a short time.

“I took a chance,’’ Shupe said, “but we’ve put some fairly competitive teams on the field at Burton. It’s been a good experience, in a way. The people have been real nice to me. I’ve liked teaching the game but missed being in the classroom.’’

In seven years at Burton, he’s turned out five winning seasons. Shupe has forged a respectable 85-63 record, going 10-13, 13-8, 7-12, 12-10, 17-7, 15-7 and 11-6.

Shupe, a confident man, believed in taking on all comers. He frequently crossed the state line while at Kelly to play schools in the Tri-Cities area where a greater emphasis is placed on the sport.

Thus, an era in Southwest Virginia athletics that isn’t likely to be repeated closes as the scoreboard lights on Shupe’s remarkable career are turned off.

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