Lee Boyd is ready to accept the challenge of being the next baseball coach at New Hope High School.
As a player, Boyd spent five years in a New Hope High program that has earned a reputation as one of the state”s best.
As a coach, Boyd has spent the past three years in the dugout against New Hope High, and has watched the Trojans maintain that tradition.
Now as New Hope High School”s new baseball coach, Boyd, 26, is confident he can be the leader who keep that tradition going for many more years.
“New Hope is my home,” Boyd said. “I am from there. My wife (Allison) is from there, and they have a great bunch of kids. It is a really good community and it is where I want to be. I am thrilled and excited to be coming back.”
Boyd”s hiring was approved Friday by the Lowndes County School Board. The decision paves the way for Boyd to take over for Stacy Hester, whose at-will coaching contract wasn”t renewed. Hester won 551 games and three state titles in 18 years as coach.
Boyd, who played for Hester, spent one season as a head coach at Immanuel Christian and one season as an assistant coach for Jeff Cook at Columbus High school. He spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach for Brian Jones at Neshoba Central High School, a Class 4A, District 4 rival of New Hope”s.
Boyd worked with some of the current New Hope High baseball players as a coach after he graduated from the University of West Alabama in 2005. He said some things will be different in his second stint as a head coach (public vs. private, small school vs. large school) but that he will draw on his experiences as a player and as a coach to keep New Hope High baseball at a high level.
“Expectations at New Hope always are going to be high, and that”s the kind of job I want,” said Boyd, who was a pitcher and an infielder at New Hope High. “All I can say is that I am going to work extremely hard to prepare myself and the kids to be ready to play. I think the rest of it is going to take care of itself if I can do that.”
Heritage Academy assistant baseball coach Bruce Branch, who played with Boyd at New Hope High from 1998-2001, remembers Boyd being a leader the Trojans always could depend on. He believes those qualities will help Boyd transition to lead the program he played in.
“You always could depend on him,” Branch said. “No matter what it was, at any point in the game he was the one that you always were going to go to.
“He was just a stand-up guy. There was nothing bad that I could ever say about him.”
Branch said Boyd was a quiet, lead by example player. He said Boyd also was a clutch performer who had the knack for delivering in key situations.
Boyd said he expects to work as a coach the same way.
“I am going to be up front and honest with people,” Boyd said. “If kids know you care about them, I think you can be tough on the. I am not saying dog them, but if you can be honest and if the kids know you care about them not just as a baseball player and that you are concerned about other aspects of their life (I think you will be OK). If you don”t know them or care about them, then I think it will be tough and that you will turn some of them off.”
Boyd believes plans have him scheduled to be a teacher at New Hope Middle School, where he would teach history classes. He said he also could teach some physical education class. He said the plan would be for him to be at the high school baseball field for the final couple of periods of the day.
As of now, Boyd said he and his wife, who is a nurse, will try to sell their house in Philadelphia. He said his wife is employed at a hospital in Meridian and that she will try to find work in this area when they relocate.
Until then, Boyd said he will be at New Hope on Monday and Wednesday to get things started for his program. He said he is looking forward to coaching his cousins, Davis and Peyton Lee and his brother, Landon, who will be a freshman at New Hope High.
Boyd admitted it might be tough for him to coach his brother and his cousins, but that he is confident he will be able to make the right decisions.
“This is where God wanted me to be,” Boyd said. “If he didn”t think I was ready, I wouldn”t be doing it.
“I am eager. I really am. I haven”t even been back to New Hope only for a time or two, but I am extremely excited to get started. I guess you can say February can”t get here fast enough.”
Boyd”s hiring comes on the heels of a decision Tuesday by St. Aloysius High baseball coach Clint Wilkerson to decline a job offer to be New Hope High”s baseball coach.
Wilkerson said Monday morning he declined the position but had second thoughts and took another day to reconsider the offer.
But Wilkerson decided that while the job offer was appealing, the move wasn”t right for his family.
Boyd played infield and was a pitcher as a senior at New Hope High in 2001. The 6-foot right-hander went on to play baseball at East Mississippi Community College, where he posted a 5-17 career record. As a freshman in 2002, he went 3-10, tied for the team lead in victories, had the most starts on the team, and pitched four complete games.
Boyd finished his college career at West Alabama, where he still ranks second all-time in program history with a .846 winning percentage (11-2 record).
He earned second-team All-Gulf South Conference honors in 2004 after going 6-1 with a 5.43 ERA and two saves in 23 games.
Boyd capped his college career in 2005 with a 5-1 record and a 3.51 ERA in 21 games as a senior. He also earned academic All-GSC honors that year.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.