The 2019 baseball season will be one of change at Belfast as the high school will have a new varsity baseball coach for the first time in 38 years.

With longtime coach George Ross stepping down from the gig he took in 1981 at the conclusion of last season, Ross will be replaced by longtime assistant coach Chris Lavalle — a fixture in the Lions' third-base coaching box in recent springs.

The hire was announced in early December.

The 44-year-old Lavalle has been an assistant coach on Ross’ staff since 2007 and also coached the girls varsity soccer team 12 years before stepping down from that post last summer.

He has been a social studies teacher at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast since 2005.

Lavalle said, “It is a great feeling” to be following in Ross’ footsteps, who he looks at “almost like a father."

“I am so honored to have the opportunity to continue working with the program,” he said. “I had the pleasure of coaching with coach Ross for a long time. I learned a lot much from him over the years. He is a fantastic coach and I feel honored and privileged to follow in his footsteps. I feel fortunate to coach the great group of boys that are in the program and can’t wait for the snow to melt.”

Lavalle graduated from Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va. in 1992, where he participated in soccer, wrestling and baseball. After graduation, be played three years of Division III baseball at Hampden/Sydney College in Hampden-Sydney, Va. before transferring to Ohio State University, where he graduated with a degree in history in 1997.

He later received his masters in the same field at the University of Maine.

Lavalle is no stranger to the diamond in Belfast. For the past several years, Lavalle has been coaching in the third-base box at BAHS, a spot which is, more often than not, reserved for the team’s head coach.

Ross relented that spot to Lavalle several years ago and did his coaching from the dugout.

"Having Chris be able to coach third base and handle the offensive aspects of that has allowed me to be in the dugout and it's been great," said Ross last season.

Lavalle said he does not plan any drastic changes in coaching style as he and Ross, being teachers, “stress the fundamentals of the game [and] doing things the right way.”

“I think that a fan of the program won’t really notice a difference,” he said. “Maybe the kids will be wearing eye black or sunglasses, but they will still be hustling and playing hard, one out at a time for 21 outs, and doing it with class and respect.”