Hard work for CHHS baseball
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 22, 2000
turns into No. 5 ranking
By STEVEN G. WATSON
Who says hard work doesn’t pay off? Not the No. 5 ranked Charles Henderson High School baseball team that’s for sure.
Recently the Trojans found out that they were honored with the State’s No. 5 spot for teams with a 5A or 4A classification in the Associated Press polls. Ask any of the players or coaches and they will tell you that the ranking didn’t come from wins or losses, it came from the hard work the squad has put in long before the baseball diamond was open for business.
"That No. 5 ranking is nice and we’re all proud of it, but I told them the way we approach it is looking at how we got that respect," CHHS head coach Steve Garrett said. "We started with conditioning in September, running and got in the weight room for months before we ever touched a baseball or bat. I’m hard on them and we practice hard and long all week. You didn’t get that No. 5 by walking around thinking you were big shots."
On the day someone told Garrett of the ranking, the coach didn’t have a party planned for that day’s practice.
"The first day I found out we were ranked we ran their butts off that day," Garrett said smiling. "We conditioned hard that day to remind them how they got there. You got there from hard work and guts."
As far as the votes that CHHS received for the poll they probably came from the team’s 14-4 record, the fact that only one ranked team through all the classes (6A Hoover 17-3) has played more games than the Trojans and their wins over quality opponents like Prattville that Charles Henderson has scored already this year.
Their schedule is littered with top-notch foes and the Trojans have already tasted some of what the playoffs will bring come April. In all those early games the team has been under the gun and has faced off against some of the area’s top pitchers.
"I think the good thing is that we gained some respect last year," Garrett said. "Everyone we’ve played has pretty much thrown their ace at us. We’ve struggled at times and we’ve hit the ball well at times, but the one constant is that we haven’t been making many mistakes defensively. If we continue to do that we’ll be in the ball game with anybody.
"We expect everybody to throw their ace at us," he continued. "That’s the way it’s gone this year and I don’t expect anything less for the rest of the season."
As far as the pressures of being ranked, Garrett says he likes it. That’s the type of program they are trying to build at Charles Henderson and they are ready for whatever comes with it.
"We’ve got a big ole bullseye on our back right now, but that’s okay," Garrett said. "If we want to turn this program around that’s what it takes. We want to be ranked in the top 10 or top five every year. I like that kind of pressure. We want everyone to be looking out for us, if they weren’t they wouldn’t respect us."
With the good news there was some bad news as well, however. Senior starter Hunter Mathews was injured recently and was diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his wrist. With the loss of Mathews, Garrett not only loses a quality starting pitcher, but the No. 3 spot in his batting order.
Mathews was one of the Trojans hottest hitters coming into the injury, but after seeing a doctor Tuesday there is some hope he will be back, on the mound at least, soon.
"They said that they were going to take his hard cast off and let him try to play Friday," Garrett said. "It’s a painful injury and it’s a pretty good size fracture, but they are going to put him in some sort of soft cast on Friday and let him see. That’s probably the best thing to let him see for himself if he’s going to be able to go."
Mathews will not be able to bat for the Trojans by Friday, but the hope is that he can heal up enough to be ready later in the season. Garrett was optimistic about getting him back soon on the mound and playing defense where he feels he can make an impact even if he isn’t seeing his turn at the plate.
In Mathews’ absence Thursday on the road against Tallassee, the Trojans will go with freshman Clint Pugh at third base while Kevin Stephens will take the mound. Game time against Tallassee is set for 5:30 p.m.