View Mobile Site
  • Bookmark and Share

Apalachee community meets coach

POSTED: June 28, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Newly hired Apalachee baseball coach Clint Harrison meets with parents and players Wednesday night. Harrison was approved and announced the night before as the man who would take over for departed chief Mike Cavey.

View Larger

Though the dew was fresh on the ground and the ink barely dry on the paperwork, Apalachee’s brand new baseball coach, Clint Harrison, wasted no time meeting the Wildcat community and making an impression Wednesday evening at a parent meeting.

“I’m very thankful for this opportunity,” Harrison announced at Wednesday’s event. “I don’t know a whole lot about the program here or the history of the program, but one word that keeps coming up is potential. I want to fuel that potential.”

Harrison comes to Barrow County by way of coaching stints at two different colleges and a short appearance as a high school assistant in Henry County.

As an alumnus of Union Grove High School in McDonough, Harrison was a three-year starter at middle-infield at the prep level and worked his way on to playing college baseball at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Georgia. After spending two years at the then junior college, Harrison transferred to Shorter University in Rome, Georgia where he would also start his collegiate baseball coaching career after graduating in 2010.

While Harrison has never been a head baseball coach in high school, he did have the opportunity to lead Shorter’s JV baseball team as their head coach, something that he says taught him invaluable lessons.

“The freedom that I had to manage the game was one big thing. I was very appreciative of Coach [Matt] Larry for letting me run the game and make my own decisions as far as personnel goes and who played and who didn’t,” Harrison pointed out, also adding that he learned a lot about managing game strategy.

While the finer points of baseball were a nice lesson, Harrison also picked up at least one vital intangible as Shorter’s JV coach, and that was how to face a game where nobody expected you to succeed.

“Being a team that wasn’t expected to win, since we were a JV team…people expected to beat us. When we arrived, people looked at us and said, ‘You’re not going to win today,’ so that was good for developing that chip on the shoulder.”

After two seasons with the Shorter Hawks, Harrison moved down to Marietta for a period of coaching with Southern Polytechnic State University. With the pending merger of SPSU and Kennesaw State and the eventual dissolution of the athletic program at the Marietta campus, Harrison took the opportunity to step into an assistant coaching position at his alma mater, Union Grove.

“I had a really good experience in high school…and I just wanted to turn that around and give that to somebody else,” Harrison mentioned. “If you think about the experiences I’ve had, I want to give that more kids and more young men, and that was the calling.”

Apalachee High School athletic director Ralph Neeley also came to Apalachee from Union Grove where he knew Harrison as a student. In fact, Neeley taught Harrison’s brother while his wife taught the future coach. That prior connection was not a fact Neeley avoided at Wednesday’s meeting, even admitting that it was part of the reason he moved forward with Harrison’s hiring.

“We do have a past,” Neeley admitted. “It’s a feeling of familiarity and comfort. This is an important position and we’re trying to put the best people in place. With that familiarity comes confidence.”

As Neeley also said earlier in the week, one of the main reasons he wanted to bring Harrison is was because of the young coach’s prior connections with multiple college baseball programs, including Kennesaw State, which most recently reached the NCAA Division I Super Regional and saw Winder-Barrow graduate Max Pentecost drafted in the first round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft.

In Neeley’s opinion, Harrison is a coach who can help see young men succeed at the high school level and also advance to play at the college level.

“He knows what the talent level is at college and how to get them there,” Neeley reinforced, a sentiment which Harrison echoed on both the athletic front and the academic front.

“The biggest thing we’re going to hit on here is school. If you don’t have that aspiration to succeed academically in high school, you’re not going to have it in college,” Harrison echoed. 

While Harrison wants his student-athletes to succeed in the classroom first and foremost, he also came into Wednesday evening with plans for how he wants the team to succeed on the field.

“In the short term, we just need to get better fast,” Harrison announced before making an even more ambitious statement. 

 “In the long term, I want us to win the region and make a deep run in the playoffs.”

That region features one of the most difficult baseball landscapes in the state with Gainesville and Loganville, with the Red Devils claiming the GHSA Class-AAAA state title in 2012 and Big Red owning a few titles in the early part of the 2000s. 

“I think you start from the bottom and you say, ‘This is where we want to be.’ We don’t have to be there tomorrow, because that’s not realistic, but you set the expectations where they are and hold people accountable,” Harrison explained. “I’ll be up for the challenge if the people and the parents and the kids are up for it.

“If you set that expectation and hold them to that, I think you’ll be surprised by what you can get out of them.”

While Gainesville and Loganville have been the strongest contenders for state glory out of Region 8-AAAAA in recent memory, Winder-Barrow has finished second in the region four of the last five years and is consistently known as a talented team in their own right.

Perhaps more importantly, the Bulldoggs are now Harrison’s concern as they are his new school’s biggest rival with baseball often being one of the most hotly contested entries in the cross-town rivalry.

“We know that we’re measured by our success against Winder-Barrow,” Neeley said to the watching crowd of Apalachee faithful. “We want to beat Winder-Barrow and we are going to beat Winder-Barrow in everything we do. That is a goal that we want to accomplish and we’re putting the right people in place to achieve that.”

The Wildcats managed to split the season series with Winder-Barrow in 2014, which featured their first win against the Doggs in six attempts. 

Although this coming season will be Harrison’s first exposure to the Battle of Barrow, he is by no means a foreigner to the concept. In fact, Harrison’s collegiate experience provided him with an oddly similar situation as the Shorter University Hawks are just across Rome from the Berry College Vikings in what is probably the most bitter but least familiar rivalry in collegiate athletics throughout Georgia.

Seconded only by “Clean, Old-fashioned Hate,” Berry and Shorter have divided Rome since the early 20th century and have competed against each other in intercollegiate athletics for as long as they have been able. 

“People that don’t know would be very surprised,” Harrison said of the historic bad blood between the neighboring institutions.

Having experienced that unique and fervent rivalry, Harrison brings a unique perspective to Apalachee that may help focus his team when it comes time to face the Bulldoggs in red and black.

“I think the biggest thing, as funny as this sounds, is to play like it’s not a rivalry,” Harrison offered. “You have to create something that’s a process for every game so you play it like you would whether it’s the Yankees or its Winder. It doesn’t matter.

“You play what you can play and you control what you can control, and that’s the best way to do it. These kids are young, they’ll be amped up…so the best thing you can do is treat it like it’s any other game. You know that it’s not, but you treat it all the same.”

Between preparing for Winder-Barrow and building a team of academically successful and athletically exceptional student-athletes, Harrison looks to have a busy schedule come August. Even so, he is quick to add one more goal on his to-do list for the year: community outreach.

“It’s like me and Coach Allen have talked about. When people feel like they’re a part of something, they’re going to work harder for that. When you can involve the community, they feel like when you win, they’ve had a part in that,” Harrison added.

“There’s a good foundation from what I can tell,” Harrison added. “I think the people who were tonight didn’t have to come, and so it’s good to know that there are people who care about the program.”

Harrison will begin working with students shortly after the mandated GHSA Dead Week, which starts Monday. He has said that the team may participate in fall leagues after school starts back, but this plan is not yet finalized and may change. 

Either way, he hopes to get started as soon as possible with the team towards working on those goals of improvement.

“I’m excited to be here and I’m excited about this opportunity and I’m just ready to get started,” Harrison concluded.

As for Neeley, he is glad this long process is over. He had originally hoped to announce a new baseball coach in the first week of June, but the extra wait does come as a blessing. 

“Because it did take so long,” Neeley said of the hiring process, “I can confidently say we got the right person.”

 

COMMENTS

  • Bookmark and Share

No comments have been posted.

LOCAL

MOST POPULAR

Login to post a comment

http://www.barrowcountynews.com/ encourages readers to interact with one another. We will not edit your comments, but we reserve the right to delete any inappropriate responses.

To report offensive or inappropriate comments, contact our editor.

The comments below are from readers of http://www.barrowcountynews.com/ and do not necessarily represent the views of The Newspaper or Morris Multimedia.
You must be logged in to post comments. Login ›

Articles
Multimedia
Blogs
 
 
 

Contents of this site are © Copyright 2010 Barrow County News, Winder, Ga. All rights reserved. Privacy policy and Terms of service

Powered by
Morris Technology
Please wait ...