Defending champ Charles Henderson preps for 2014 season

Published 10:25 pm Monday, December 9, 2013

The calendar reads December, but the Charles Henderson baseball team looked in mid-season form Monday afternoon for the first day of the official fall evaluation period.

Over 30 players took part in the afternoon session under the watchful of head coach Derek Irons and assistants Brandon Lee and Brett Stallworth.

Irons said the five-day period gives coaches a chance to see players in action before getting the season underway in January.

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“The way the rules are set up, you only get five days on the field in the fall,” Irons said. “For four months all these kids have been able to do is run and lift weights, so today is kind of like a breath of fresh air. We are all excited to be back out here, and get some work in before Christmas break.”

Charles Henderson, the defending 4A state champions, returns a small core from last year’s team including shortstop Hunter Baggett, centerfielder John Johnson and AHSAA Finals MVP Chase Smartt.

However at the same time, the Trojans are looking for younger players to fill the void left by graduating seven seniors.

“So many times success comes down to having guys step up from the JV or seeing guys move from a support role to a starting role,” Irons said. “We had a great number of guys do that last year, and we expect the same thing with this group. We lost some great players to graduation, but have some pretty good younger players as well.”

A handful of Iron’s prospects, including Austin Ingram, Xavius Burden and Bryson Gandy, were members of the football team that reached the AHSAA championship game last week.

While some small adjustments will have to be made, Irons feels there will be no prolonged “rustiness” for the football stars.

“It won’t take that long, and that is a tribute to Coach Dean and his football staff,” Irons said. “They teach a lot of the same things we do in terms of winning and doing the little things. We will have some mechanical stuff to work out, but nothing as far as changing mindsets.”

Charles Henderson opens the baseball season in early February.