MOULTRIE – After a hectic June that included building a staff and getting to know his players, first-year Colquitt County baseball coach Matt Crews is building to some optimism about the Packers 2020 season.
Crews, a former assistant at Lowndes where he coached under longtime successful Vikings coach Danny Redshaw, was named the Packers coach in May not long after Tony Kirkland retired.
He scrambled to add four assistant coach and set up a three-day-a-week practice schedule for three weeks in June.
Three of those new coaches were on hand for the annual Packers Baseball Camp on the Ike Aultman Field at Jerry Croft Stadium that brought 40 youngsters eager to learn the game’s fundamentals.
A number of members of the Packers baseball team also helped working with young players as did some former Packers, including Raines Plant, Kodi Bishop, Gavin Patel and Tucker Hathcock.
Crews said he hoped some 60-65 youngsters will take part next year.
But the focus of the summer has been getting the players to feel comfortable with Crews.
“I wanted the guys to get familiar with my drills,” Crews said, anticipating that when the team gathers early next year, the players will know what to expect.
And a highlight of a Crews practice is its intensity.
“High tempo is how I practice,” he said. “I’m very vocal.”
The summer workouts also have been used to get the players to trust in the new coaching staff.
“It’s been important for me to get to know the boys and for them to trust me,” he said. “If they don’t trust me, they won’t play well.”
The Packers went 10-19 in Kirkland’s final season, but it was a predominantly young group of Packers.
Crews like what he has seen of the returning Packers.
“I think we’ll be OK,” he said. “We’re talented and they are a hard-working group. I’m excited.
“We’ve got something to build on.”
The three new members of the varsity coaching staff are, like Crews, veterans of South Georgia baseball.
Cameron Cain played his high school ball for Bart Shuman at Valdosta and has coached at Lanier County.
Tyler Hembree comes to Moultrie from Worth County.
Phillips Swindell, who will work with the catchers, also coached at Lanier County. Swindell also has been coaching with the East Cobb Patriots travel team.
Danny Blaylock, who has coached both football and baseball in his career at Colquitt County, has agreed to handle the ninth-grade and junior varsity teams.
Crews is pleased to have Blaylock on board.
“He’s as dedicated as it gets,” he said, who just retired from teaching, but still has a desire to coach.
“He is a great community guy.”
Crews said he is still looking for a pitching coach and sounded resigned to handling the hurlers himself next spring.
Two men he plans to rely on next season are Kirkland and Redshaw, both members of the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame.
“I’ve got them both on speed-dial,” Crews said.
While he got to work closely with Redshaw during the last 10 years in the Lowndes baseball program, Crews knew of the success and reputation of Kirkland.
Since Kirkland was often on the Team Georgia coaching staff, he came into contact with a number of Lowndes players over the years.
It impressed Crews that often after Lowndes-Colquitt County games, several Vikings players approached the opposing team’s dugout to hug Kirkland.
“He’s been able to develop relationships with kids that are long-lasting,” Crews said. “Coaching is all about getting a phone call 10 years from now from one of your kids.
“That’s more rewarding than getting a victor off a game-winning hit.”
Crews also coached middle school football while at Lowndes, but will concentrate on baseball in his first head-coaching assignment.
“I’m sure I’ll miss it on Friday nights under the lights,” he said. “But this will give me a chance to concentrate on my 4-on-1 stuff.”