New John Tyler baseball coach Chuck Isaac balanced being optimistic with realistic when discussing goals for the Lions.
Isaac hopes to build off JT’s two district wins last year that snapped a 128-game on-the-field skid and continue laying a foundation for the next few years as the Lions start the 2013 campaign today.
“A lot of people will tell you you’re going to win a district championship overnight,” said Isaac, whose team plays Spring Hill’s JV at 11 a.m. today in the Linden-Kildare tournament. “I’m not setting expectations (that high). What I told the boys is I don’t think the playoffs are out of the picture.
“If you win six district games — that’s a whole lot where the program’s been — you can be a playoff team. I’m telling them let’s get our feet wet, go out and beat teams we should beat and make the playoffs this year.”
JT opens up with two full teams, 18 players on the varsity and 22 on the junior varsity.
“As far as the groundwork, we’re trying to get as many kids out as possible,” Isaac said. “To build a program, you have to have a lot of kids to choose from. I’m extremely excited to get the opportunity to lead John Tyler baseball, and the opportunity to coach football and to be a part of the tradition.”
Isaac served as a defensive line coach on JT’s state semifinalists football team. Before coming to JT and replacing J.J. Peirce, Isaac coached at Fort Worth Trimble Tech, where he helped groom Yovani Gallardo of the Milwaukee Brewers. The 35-year-old New Diana native, who attended Jarvis Christian College, also spent time at Jefferson, Ore City, Marshall, Dallas Bryan Adams, and again at Marshall before joining the Lions’ staff.
Four contributors to the football team joined the baseball squad: Jeremy Wilson, DeQuante Woods, Kendall Holmes and Malik Hubbard.
Seniors Nathan Jacobs and Chris Garcia constitute the key holdovers from last year’s group, which finished 6-17-1 overall and 2-12 in district.
The infield consists of Jerron Jones (Jr.) and Decorian Blaylock (Fr.) at catcher; L.D. Johnson (Fr.) and Holmes (So.) at first base; Diego Martinez (Jr.) at second base; Wilson (So.) at shortstop; and Jacobs (Sr.) and Jaylen Tennison (So.) at third base. Andrew Crawford (Jr.) mans left field, with Woods (Sr.) in center field and Juan Carrillo (Jr.) in right field.
The pitching staff features Jacobs, Garcia and Hubbard, among others.
“Were trying to develop eight or nine guys,” Isaac said. “We’re going to try to throw a lot of arms and develop some pitchers over the next few weeks.”
The numbers currently in place proved a possible snapshot of what Isaac intends to turn into a force down the road.
“The freshman class is a class that if they’ll continue to work, they can make a name for themselves,” said Isaac, who is assisted by Travis Eckels on the varsity, with Will Smith coaching the JV. “They have some talent there. They have the will and the want to play baseball. Mix that in with some of the sophomores and juniors, and within the next 2-3 years I want to field a baseball team that’s competitive and build off what Coach Peirce did last year. They won some district games. I’d like to be a playoff baseball team.”
JT plans to use its speed to manufacture runs while avoiding high-scoring contests.
“I preach a lot of defense,” Isaac said. “We want to keep the game as low scoring as possible, bunt the baseball, hit and run and play solid defense. That’s what you have to do if you don’t have those big sticks. We’re working on trying to hit the baseball to the opposite field every day. That way we can move the runners over and sneak out some wins.”
Recent history suggests the Lions should guard against setting the bar too high. Isaac thinks otherwise, throwing out the “p” word for a school more than 20 years removed from a playoff berth.
“That would be huge,” Isaac said. “The seniors could go out with a feeling of pride, knowing they broke the district losing streak last year and be part of a team to make the playoffs.”
John Tyler 2013 Baseball Schedule
Feb. 21-23—Linden-Kildare Tournament
Feb. 28-March 1—Arp Tournament
March 4—at Hallsville
March 7-9—at Terrell Tournament
March 19—at Corsicana*
March 22—at Lindale*
March 28—at Nacogdoches*
April 16—at Jacksonville*
April 26—at Whitehouse*
*—District 16-4A game