"When I die, I want it to be on the baseball field."

Dwight Smith means every word of that sentence.

The 69-year-old Smith is something of a legend in the Karns community. From 1976 to 1993, Smith served as head coach of the Beavers, posting a 267-141 record in 17 seasons.

"I just absolutely love this game of baseball," Smith said. "It's a way of life for me. For me, it's God, family, and baseball, in that order."

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Smith goes by the nickname "Chief" - a moniker he picked up from a player in the 1980's.

"I told [the team]: 'There will not be too many chiefs and not enough Indians,'" Smith said. "'You're looking at the chief.'"

Smith attended Knoxville East High School in the 1960's, playing catcher under head coach Bob Polston. The two developed a close-knit friendship until Polston died in 2011. Smith was a pallbearer at his funeral.

"I love the man," Smith said. "Absolutely loved him."

The man known as Chief has thought about death, himself, in recent months.

Doctors removed a melanoma near his spinal column during surgery in October. They told Smith it was more serious than they had thought.

"And my first question was, 'Is it life-threatening?'" Smith said. "And they said, 'Yes.'"

Chief started going through treatments that fall. That's when the love of the Karns community came to the plate - in the form of fundraisers, cards, and benefits to help the longtime coach.

Smith has made progress since his diagnosis; currently, there's no cancer in his body and recent tests have come back negative. He's back on the field, with his only complaint being mild fatigue at the end of practices and games.

"That's probably age more than anything," Smith said, laughing.

2018 will mark Chief's last season with the Beavers. He and his wife, Joan, are looking to move to Clarksville to be closer to their family and Austin Peay State University.

Current Karns head coach Matt Hurley brought Chief back on the staff in 2014. He said the decision was a no-brainer.

"When I first got to Karns, one of my biggest challenges was trying to restore what Chief built here," Hurley said. "Chief is Karns, through and through."

Smith said he hopes to latch on with a local high school as a catchers coach or assistant.

But his heart will stay at Karns - where the baseball field, suitably, is called Coach Dwight Smith Field.

"This is where my heart is," Smith said. "It will be nostalgic for me. Feelings haven't hit me just yet. I'm sure they will as we get closer to the end of the season."