Terry Changuris will likely be remembered as one of the Maryland’s finest high school football coaches.
The numbers speak for themselves. He compiled a 158-31 record and won seven state championships in a 16-year tenure at Seneca Valley High School that ended in 2003. He has won another five titles as an assistant coach and was inducted into the Maryland Coaches Hall of Fame last year.
But his first love and passion is not on the gridiron. Changuris’ true affection is for baseball.
“Everybody assumes football is what we live and breathe,” said T.J. Changuris, Terry’s son, an assistant football coach at Quince Orchard. “At the core we are a baseball family. I mean, the first thing I remember doing was going to Orioles games at Memorial Stadium with my dad. He even named me for a baseball player. I’m Tyrus John and I got my name from [Hall of Fame outfielder and former Detroit Tigers star] Tyrus Raymond Cobb.”
In recent years, the Changuris’ family has come together to coach the Screaming Eagles baseball program. Terry is the manager, T.J. is the assistant head coach and third base coach and Randy Changuris, Terry’s brother, is the hitting coach.
“This is something we can cross off the bucket list,” said Randy, who has also won five state championships as Seneca Valley’s track and field and cross country coach. Terry and Randy account for 18 of the 22 state championship banners hanging in the Germantown school’s gymnasium. “We always wondered what it would be like to coach together, but never thought it would happen because we were involved in other sports. Quite frankly, I don’t know if it would’ve worked when we were younger because our egos probably would’ve gotten in the way.”
Terry, 60, of Frederick, and Randy, 62, of Washington County, share a love for baseball can be traced back to an early age. Their parents were from New York City so they cheered for the Yankees, but they also supported the original Washington Senators as young Montgomery County residents.
“We remember going to old Griffith Stadium and seeing the old Senators play before they moved to Minnesota and broke our hearts,” said Terry, who graduated from Wheaton High School in 1970 and played college football at Frostburg. Randy graduated from Wheaton in 1968. “The new Senators, who really sucked, came and we loved going to RFK Stadium, but then they left too. … It’s a good thing we had [the Yankees] to follow.”
While the brothers followed professional baseball religiously — Terry said they started reading newspaper box scores before he could read — their biggest thrill came from playing outside in their backyard. They also collected baseball cards and played the All-Star Baseball and American Professional Baseball Association board games.
“During the summer whenever it was light outside we were playing whiffle ball or something,” Randy said. “At night, we were playing APBA or listening to WTOP on the radio in bed.”
Their baseball obsession didn’t necessarily translate to on-field success. Neither played much organized baseball growing up and never coached organized baseball until recently.
Terry, who has heart disease, stopped coaching football in 2005 at his doctor’s request. In the spring of 2006, he received his first baseball job as Seneca Valley’s junior varsity coach. The next spring, he was named the varsity manager and asked T.J. to coach the JV team. In 2010, Randy joined the staff.
“I was teaching [physical education] at Seneca and felt bad I wasn’t helping out,” Terry said. “So I told them I would coach the junior varsity. … As much I watch baseball, listen to it and follow it, there was still so much to learn. It was a whole process of leaning all the little things you need to know to be a good coach.”
During the Changuris’ tenure, the Screaming Eagles have been a solid middle-of-the-pack program. In 2008, the school advanced to its first and only state semifinal game. This spring, Seneca Valley is 9-5 (as of Sunday) and is batting .370 as a team.
“If our father was still alive, he would be ecstatic to be able to watch his sons and grandson work together,” Randy said.
Earlier this spring, one of the Screaming Eagles most memorable moments occurred under Terry.
“We’ve been trying to get up to be one of the elite teams,” Terry said. “Damascus is one of those teams and fortunately we’ve been able to beat them the past two years in pretty dramatic fashion.”
Last year, Steven Ruiz hit a grand slam to defeat the Swarmin’ Hornets and this year, Seneca Valley used a home run by center fielder Nick Fahs to end a back-and-forth game.
“They had hit a home run to take the lead [in both games] and we came back and hit homers in the exact same spot,” Terry said. “Nick’s blast was the longest I’ve ever seen in high school. … It would’ve left most major league parks.”
Added Fahs: “No one could find the ball. Coach gave me a replacement, but I’ll still have that memory.”
Terry has also transformed the school’s baseball diamond from a bumpy, two bench field to arguably the finest high school facility in the county, with dugouts, batting cages, bullpens and a large set of spectator bleachers.
The Changuris aren’t the only family connection at Seneca Valley. Junior shortstop Chris Heckhaus is arguably the team’s best player and his father Mark Heckhaus is the pitching coach. Older brother and alumnus Mickey Heckhaus is the program’s junior varsity manager.
“It’s fun playing for coach Chang and them because they’ve been around forever and know so much about sports,” Chris said. “When we go onto the field it is kind of like a football game, but it’s really fun.
“My dad has been coaching me forever and my brother is another guy helping out. They all know what they are talking about.”
Meanwhile, Terry is unsure how much longer he will coach and he hopes T.J. will take over when he retires.
“It’s been a dream come true,” T.J. said. “This is an opportunity that not everybody has. I see how [Quince Orchard football coaches] Dave and Joe Mencarini are as a son and father duo. … I wouldn’t trade this for anything.”