WATER VALLEY — Earlier today it was confirmed that former Ole Miss baseball standout and Oak Grove head coach Kary Bridges has been named Doug Robbins’ successor as Water Valley’s next baseball coach.The announcement comes just under a month after Robbins announced he was leaving the coaching profession to take an internal affairs position with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Dallas.
The hiring of Bridges had been rumored for over two weeks and this morning Water Valley superintendent Deborah Moran approved the recommendation of athletics director Trey Allman.
On Monday, Bridges met with his new players and this afternoon he held his first informal practice (which, per state regulations can last one class period until practices officially begin on Feb. 1) in which the team began stretching their arms by long tossing “at 60 percent” and ran foul poles for conditioning.
Prior to the practice, Bridges said he expects his new players will listen to him in part because of his resume that includes a 10-year minor league playing career in which he hit .296 after being drafted in the 10th round of the 1993 First-Year Major League Baseball Players Draft by the Houston Astros.
“The playing career probably gives me instant credibility to start with and I would imagine the kids are going to listen a little bit at the beginning because of my credentials,” Bridges said. “After a week or two, then they’ll be more concerned with what I’m doing rather than what I’ve done in the past.
“But then again, I bet you none of these kids saw me play — it’s been a while, so the only thing they go on is what they have heard.”
Saddled the difficult task of taking over the program in January is not something Bridges is looking at negatively.
“I don’t dwell on negatives. When it comes time to strap it on and play, we’re going to be as prepared as any other team,” he said. “Yeah, it’s a challenge, but if there’s a negative we’re going to try and make it a positive.”
He also isn’t scared off by the expectations that surround taking over a team that claimed the Class 3A North Half title and lost only two starters — the Blue Devils’ No. 1 and 2 pitchers in Josh Johnson (the Oxford EAGLE 2010 Player of the Year) and Shonquayle Jenkins.
“Coaching at Oak Grove like I did for four years, expectations are nothing new,” he said. “I’d rather be at a place that has expectations than at a place that doesn’t. While they did go to the state championship last year they didn’t win it, so that allows for a little bit of fire for unfinished business.”
With the quick turnaround to Water Valley’s jamboree on Feb. 19, Bridges is wasting no time.
“We’re going to use that time from now to February with me observing some stuff and at the same time start introducing some of the new things,” he said. “My goal is Feb. 1 to be able to hit the ground running where they are at least familiar with what I’m trying to do.”
The transition won’t be seamless by any means, although initial reactions seem to be good.
“We’re just trying to figure each other out right now,” said senior Drew Pratt.
Be sure to check Friday’s edition of the Oxford EAGLE for the full article regarding Bridges’ hire. (January 6, 2011)