COVINGTON — Bruce Evans is familiar with the Eagles baseball team. But his dealing was on the other side of the field having coached at Elbert County for six years.
“I’ve always had a good experience here. The coach I remember most was (Michael) Poor. I’ve always had respect for him and his players, the way they did everything. It was a lot like Elbert County but Eastside had better athletes as far as baseball goes,” Evans said. “We hadn’t played them in three years so I don’t know anything about the current players. I’ve talked to a few of them, I know some of the brothers I played against.”
Evans plans on coming in and starting with a clean slate no knowing much about the current players. Starting from scratch also means that a position played last season will not guarantee that they will be in the same spot next season.
“There might be a kid that might have played second base but I might think they’re an outfielder. At this point we’re going to see their skills and try to put them in a position that best helps our team,” Evans said. “Everything is based on baseball. The players earn their keep based on how they play baseball.”
While Evans believes in fundamentals, he is also a big proponent of discipline on and off the field. He believes that if a player has discipline off the field that will translate into a better player. Under Evans, hitting will become a priority even though many coaches feel that the game starts with pitching.
“We’re probably going to hit more than they’ve hit before. I like to hit and score runs,” he said. “Everybody knows that baseball starts on the hill, but in high school I believe that if you can hit you can out-hit mistakes sometimes. We’re probably going to hit twice as much as we’ll work on defense.”
The reason for not placing a higher emphasis on defense is that he feels that by talking about defense and not making errors puts a thought in the back of the players mind. Being high school baseball, Evans knows that players are going to make mistakes. He said that if a player can’t catch a ground ball or a pop-fly they probably should not be playing high school baseball.
However, don’t expect him to put pressure on hitting either.
“We put a lot of fun and time into it,” Evans said. “The reason you play baseball is so you can hit; the reason you get three outs is so that you can hit. That’s the approach we take. The fun is on offense. The main reason you play defense is so you can play offense. But every aspect of the game has to be perfect. Everything has to be executed when it’s your time and team is above everything. I’m sure that other coaches feel the same way but the biggest thing with me is that we hold them to that accountability.”
While some coaches feel that putting an emphasis on driving the ball or having that emphasis on bunting and base running is the best way to win, Evans refuses to be labeled as a long ball or small ball type of coach. His reasoning goes back to when he played for Emmanuel College after graduating from Elbert County.
“When I was in junior college and we played Middle Georgia they’ll sit back and wait on the home run and most of the time they got it. Gordon State College would run you off the field with base running and bunting and speed. I believe in high school you have to have such a mix of that,” Evans said. “If I have a guy that can smash it I’m going to let him hit. But the other guy that’s more of a contact hitter we may squeeze with him and do other things with him. I don’t have a certain approach until you see the personnel you have. We don’t have the luxury of recruiting our style of players, I just have to adapt more than the players.”