SUFFOLK, VA (WTKR)- Mark Stuffel has been the head baseball coach at Nansemond River High School for 21 years, but his love for the sport began long before he took over the Warriors' program.
"My dad grew up playing baseball," he recalled. "Baseball and soccer growing up, but when high school rolled around it was the same season in Virginia so we went with baseball."
It started a lifelong passion for the game.
"I just love baseball."
That love has trickled down throughout his family. His son, Ayden, is a senior outfielder for the Warriors. He gets the chance to suit up for the team around which he grew up and take the field for his father.
"Growing up around here, I've always been out here with the older guys," Ayden remembered. "It's just been fun. [I] stuck with it ever since."
"He's grown up around the baseball team," added Mark. "Since he was four, he's been out on the field non-stop so the players have helped raise him as much as I've raised him."
This family tree stretches beyond baseball. Right next to the Nansemond River baseball field sits the softball complex, where you'll find sophomore Cammie Stuffel patrolling second base for the Warriors.
"My dad's been coaching my whole life, my brother's been playing my whole life so I guess I just wanted to follow in their footsteps," smiled Cammie.
Those footsteps feature plenty of dirt and grass stains, albeit on different fields. Mark and Ayden are often occupied with baseball during Cammie's softball games, so they don't get to attend each others contests very often. However, that doesn't mean the youngest Stuffel goes unnoticed.
"He watches me through the fence," Cammie said of her father. "He literally tells me 'I see you did this today,' and he's like 'good job.'"
Her big brother is watching, too, and is never afraid to give his younger sibling some pointers.
"All the time," she exclaimed. "I'll go to hit with him and he's like 'you're doing this wrong, you're doing this wrong.' He's like a whole other coach."
"She gets irritated because I tell her something, but she'll fix it eventually," Ayden said. "She's like I am. When [dad] says something, I'm hard-headed."
When the Stuffels leave the field, they leave the games inside the fence. While Mark welcomes questions and is happy to give his children advice, he wants them to be able to live their lives and be teenagers away from sports.
"When we get home it's not baseball, it's just father-son," noted Ayden. "It's nice. It's only out here. It doesn't translate back home."
"When we get off the field I want their lives to be off the field because it's just as important as them enjoying this," Mark added.
"We don't have to focus on it 24/7," pointed out Cammie. "We just try to be happy and enjoy life."
This will be Mark's final season coaching Nansemond River baseball. He'll get to watch his daughter play her final two years of high school softball and see Ayden compete at the college level, as he'll continue his career at Christopher Newport. But these days will always hold a special place for the Stuffel Family.
"I've loved every moment of it," Mark said. "I think, in the long run, when they look back they're really going to see the time we got to spend together out here doing this."