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Apalachee baseball vacancy filled by former Southern Polytechnic assistant

POSTED: June 24, 2014 10:26 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Tyler Starnes pitches for Apalachee in their win over Winder-Barrow towards the end of the 2014 season in what would ultimately proveto be one of former coach Mike Cavey’s final games with the Wildcats.

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It may take two men to do the job that used to be filled by one, but Apalachee High School now has a head baseball coach just about a month after hiring a softball coach.

Clint Harrison, a former assistant at Southern Polytechnic State University and Shorter University, is now the new head baseball coach for the varsity Wildcats.

“For one, he’s very, very sharp,” Apalachee High School athletic director Ralph Neeley said Tuesday night. “Once anybody has a conversation with him, they’re going to see that he is just a bright, sharp person.”

In addition to coaching at Shorter, Harrison transferred to Shorter University to play baseball after spending two years at Truett-McConnell College, which at the time was just a two-year institute. Harrison featured in the middle infield as a player, covering both second and third base during his time at Shorter.

Harrison earned SSAC All-Academic honors in both seasons at Shorter.

As a coach at Shorter, Harrison was responsible for working primarily with the infield while also leading the JV team as their head coach.

In the 2012-13 season at Southern Polytech, while Harrison was coaching, the Hornets finished with a 39-18 record.

“He’s played collegiately and coached collegiately and he knows what it takes to play ball at the next level,” Neeley pointed out. “He knows which instructions to give for players to learn what it takes to play at the next level.

“He’s got connections with college baseball,” Neeley added.

The new coach’s multifarious college connections were not lost on Neeley, who sees Harrison’s hiring as a potential advantage for Apalachee players who seek to play ball at the next level.

“It’s a good opportunity for our kids to learn very quickly on how to get there, then the ball is in their court to learn what it takes to get there and whether or not they will follow the instructions,” Neeley noted.

“Getting to college for baseball is hard. Only 1% of high school baseball players play in college, and those opportunities usually come late,” Neeley went on to say. “

Southern Polytech’s athletic programs are dissolving after this year due to a merger with Kennesaw State University, thus allowing Harrison the opportunity to explore a new option in his life. Without the college position claiming his time, Harrison can fulfill what may now be his most important role.

“He has a calling to coach high school ball,” Neeley added. “Now that SPSU is merging with Kennesaw State, they just dissolved that whole baseball program, and he assisted last year at Union Grove where he learned that his calling was to eventually be a high school baseball coach.

Harrison is also an alum of Union Grove High School where he graduated in 2006, making him the third member of the athletic staff with ties to the McDonough school. Apalachee’s new softball coach, Matt Allen, was a former baseball and softball assistant at Union Grove, which also happens to be where Neeley was for many years before coming to Apalachee.

Although Harrison professes a calling and has college experience, Neeley had his own reasons for hiring the first-time head coach to take on Apalachee’s head job.

“His vision,” Neeley answered when asked what made Harrison such a great hire. “His vision for where he wants this program to be and how to get us there. He’s got a good idea and a good plan. It’s impressive.”

Apalachee baseball has struggled in recent years, with the most recent group of ball players scraping by for a 10-win season.

Early on in the hiring process, Neeley acknowledged that some coaching candidates turned down the offer to lead Apalachee for various reasons. That possibility was never a concern with Harrison, though.

“He wanted to be in Winder. He wants to be at Apalachee,” Neeley acknowledged. “There’s a lot of potential in our baseball program, and he’s excited about taking it to the next step.”

Former baseball and softball coach Mike Cavey announced his resignation from the program at the end of the baseball season during late April, leaving a two-spot vacancy on Apalachee’s athletics staff. Allen was hired in late-May to fill the softball void, but the baseball process took slightly longer.

One difficulty in the hiring process was finding someone who could fill Cavey’s spot as a special education math teacher. Since that was the only opening available for the prospective baseball coach, it was a more difficult fit to fill.

In the absence of seven-year head coach Cavey during summer ball, head JV coach and assistant varsity baseball coach Ronnie Miller took over the job for the duration of the summer season with the expectation of staying on as a varsity assistant under the new head coach’s banner.

With Miller’s leadership, Apalachee managed a 4-6-1 summer season and made strides towards shoring up the roster come the spring of 2015.

Now, Miller knows who the head coach is he will be working under.

Parents, along with prospective and current players, can meet Harrison Wednesday night for a 7 p.m. meeting in Apalachee’s media center.

“It’s not going to be some earth-shattering meeting, but he’s just going to talk about some of the things that he’s going to have planned for the fall and a lot of individualized instruction,” Neeley mentioned. “It’ll be exciting enough, and it’ll be a good welcome for him.”

First-year softball coach Allen was also met with a parent meeting just a couple days after his hiring, and that meeting featured an overwhelming number of parents and young women from the community interested in the softball program’s new direction.

As someone familiar with the hiring process, and someone who intends to assist with the baseball program, Allen believes that Harrison will find an exemplary community of support from Apalachee’s families and athletes.

“If the baseball community comes out in support of the new coach as well as the softball community, then he’s going to have a great time getting in place and getting things rolling,” Allen said. “He’s got the obvious advantage of the season being several months away, so he gets to work his way up to it.

 

“If the baseball community will get behind him and support him like the softball community has done with me, then I think he’s in a situation where he can make a strong impact on the community on the baseball program and definitely get it going in the right direction.”

 

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