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Lizi Arbogast / The Herald New Edgewood baseball coach Justin Jones, center, talks with parents and players during the Wildcats' new coaches meet-and-greet last Tuesday.

Despite being officially the new head baseball coach at Edgewood Academy for more than two weeks, it wasn’t until last Tuesday Justin Jones got some face time with his new players.

The Wildcats held a meet-and-greet for their news coaches, including Jones and new varsity volleyball coach Hannah Josey, and Jones said he was happy to finally get some one-on-one time with his players.

“This is the first time that I’ve really gotten to meet the kids other than football,” Jones said. “It’s good to meet with the parents and kids, put a name to a face and see how excited they are and get to talk to them a little bit.”

It’s no surprise some of the Wildcats are a bit apprehensive. They’ve been on a coaching carousel and after winning eight straight state championships, they’ve had three straight losing seasons. Edgewood’s former coach, Joey Potts, lasted only one season.

But Jones seems to be ready for the challenge and with him having spent the last three years on the staff at Stanhope Elmore, he’s already familiar with the area and some of the teams on Edgewood’s docket.

“Some are kind of hesitant and some are ready to get in there and work,” Jones said. “Again, they see my background and they see the coaches I bring and their backgrounds, so they know what we’re about. They know we’re about to put Edgewood back where Edgewood used to be — one of the powerhouses in the state.”

It’s going to be no easy feat by any means, but Jones, who is a former baseball player and is used to hard work, hopes to instill that in his players.

“When I played ball, I was a hard-nosed guy,” he said. “I was the dirtiest player coming off the field, and that’s the way I’m going to have this team. We’re going to be playing hard. If a ball is close to you, we’re diving for it. We’re going to play small ball when we have to play small ball, and if we got guys that can hit it out, we’re going to hit it out. You gotta play to the strengths of your team, so whatever the day brings, we’ll get after it.”

Winning isn’t the only goal for Jones and his coaching staff though. He knows how important it is to help his players achieve goals beyond the high school level. That’s another reason he felt it was so important to get some time to talk to his players one on one.

“We want to develop the kids,” Jones said. “If you’re playing high school baseball, ultimately your goal is to go to college hopefully, and that’s what we’re here for. That’s what the staff I put together focuses on. We know people and we know the game. We’re going to teach them how to play the right way then we want to get them out there so they can go live their dream at the next level.” 

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.