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Byrd ready to lead Newton baseball

Special Photo Newton's newly named head baseball coach Andre Byrd celebrates with some of his JV players following a win during the 2013 season. Byrd hopes to use his experience of being close with the players as motivation at the varsity level.

Special Photo Newton's newly named head baseball coach Andre Byrd celebrates with some of his JV players following a win during the 2013 season. Byrd hopes to use his experience of being close with the players as motivation at the varsity level.

COVINGTON -- After biding his time and learning, Andre Byrd is ready to step up and take over the Newton baseball head coaching position.

Former head coach Vince Byams, who took the position at Tucker to be closer to home, spent two years at the helm before deciding to step down, giving Byrd the opportunity he's been working toward since the first day he stepped onto the Newton campus.

"I kept telling him (athletic director Tracey Curtis) since I've been here that my goal was to be the head baseball coach; not football, not wrestling," Byrd said. "Then when I found out that Byams officially resigned I went to Dr. (Craig) Lockhart and told him I was interested in the position. So we went through the whole interview process and after that they told me it was mine to have.

"I played baseball throughout high school. The only reason I didn't play in college was because I had small school offers. We're talking about JUCO offers. My biggest offer out of high school was Presbyterian College. Whereas in football, I had DI-AA offers for a full ride. So I decided to take that route. But that being said, baseball is my No. 1 love. This is my passion and something that I love to do. Football just paid my way through school."

Even with the responsibility of being the head baseball coach, Byrd is still going to find the time to coach football while handing the title of head wrestling coach over to someone else.

Byrd coached for five years at the Newton County Recreation Department before he got the chance move to the high school level, where he has been very successful for the past five years. In his first year he was the head coach for the ninth-grade team, where he went 16-4. Last season he went 18-2 as the JV head coach and finished runner-up in the JV league tournament. This season he finished fourth in the tournament while going 10-6.

"I've been winning since I got here," he said. "I think I'm more than ready. When the job came open two years ago, I knew I wasn't ready. But what I've learned throughout my years of being here is the mistakes the other coaches have made. I can't make those mistakes."

The biggest mistake made, according to Byrd, is a lack of communication -- not just between the coaches and the parents, but also the coaching staff and the players. He said if there is communication between everyone involved, there will be trust, which will help build a positive foundation. A positive foundation will help coaches coach and not have parents or players feel there is an ulterior motive to decisions.

"As I told the parents (Monday) night, the kids know I genuinely care for them and any decision I make is in the best interest of the team and the best interest of them," Byrd said. "I don't want to have a problem making those decisions because they know it's not personal."

As a head a coach, Byrd knows that he will have a whole set of challenges he never had to face as an assistant. The first he sees is making the transition to the new building. His other challenge is to make use of all the talent he has on the team while keeping the players happy.

One way to ensure the players are happy and do not burn themselves out is to give them some time off to allow them to rest and be teenagers. Hopefully, by giving them some time to themselves it will make the game fun for them once again.

"We're going to do games on Mondays and Tuesdays (during the summer)," Byrd said. "We're not going to practice them all week. I'll let the parents and the kids have time off, plus I like the kids to play travel ball. We'll practice on Sunday evening then play on Monday and Tuesday and have them enjoy the rest of the week. I'm trying to give them time to recuperate, have fun and spend time with their parents."