John Tyler baseball has not played in the postseason in 29 years.
Blaine Spradley seeks to change that.
The new Lions head baseball coach was hired earlier this month by Tyler ISD athletic director Greg Priest. Priest wanted someone whose sole focus will be improving JT on the diamond.
Charlie Sizemore, JT athletic coordinator for baseball, had someone in mind.
“We wanted a straight baseball coach to come and try and build the program,” Priest said. “We wanted a go-getter who wants to build from the ground up.”
Spradley comes to JT after being head coach the past two years at Class 2A Martin’s Mill, where he led the Mustangs to an 11-3 district record and into the playoffs for a second-straight season. In his first year, Martin’s Mill went 10-4 in district.
In comparison, John Tyler baseball hasn’t won a district game since 2012. Group that with the playoff drought and Spradley fully understands the task placed in front of him, and he can’t wait to get started.
“I knew it had been a while (since JT had made the playoffs), but when I look at stuff like that, you always want to (mindful) of the past, but I tend to look forward,” Spradley said. “I knew coach Sizemore and the tennis program and he has spoken very highly of the kids.
“As a professional you look for a challenge. I am looking forward to it; looking forward to working with those kids and with the people at Tyler ISD.”
Prior to Martin’s Mill, Spradley was an assistant for Crandall, helping the Pirates reach the Class 4A regional quarterfinals in 2015.
Spradley was a first-team all-state pitcher his junior and senior season for New Diana. As a senior, he led New Diana to the regional finals. After graduating in 2005, Spradley played baseball at East Texas Baptist.
Injuries forced him to retire before graduating from ETBU and working a couple “private sector jobs.” Spradley said he always envisioned coaching and teaching, so he decided to go for it.
Crandall had an assistant baseball opening which led to Martin’s Mill and now he’s overwhelmed about the opportunity to coach 6A baseball at John Tyler.
“The first step is helping the kids believe in the process and help fall in love with the process,” Spradley said. “I want these kids to know that I will teach them the game of the baseball the correct way. To really enjoying (it) and wanting to get up (to the park early) and take extra fly balls, ground balls or take extra swings in the cage.”
The Lions struggled in district play to score runs, with JT run-ruled in all of its games. JT graduates seniors James Chevis and Tacorian Tilley, but will return seven starters.
Spradley will be JT’s third baseball coach in three years. Tyson Wilson coached JT this past season after J.J. Peirce coached JT for six years.
Both Wilson and Peirce were also football assistant coaches.
Spradley said it is important for his current players and future players to know that he is all about baseball and he is not going anywhere.
“I think that is a big thing. When you are the head coach at a large school, your attention needs to be put on your program,” Spradley said. “I will be a big supporter for every program at JT but at the same time, to build a consistent high-functioning and successful program, your attention needs to be there.
“I am here to make a commitment to these kids. I am not here to be a one or two years and out. I want to develop a program.”
Spradley said his first task will be to establish and strengthen a conditioning program for baseball. As a former pitcher, he also is very interested in seeing the arms JT has on campus.
“I want to have a long-toss program (in the fall). I think we need find out who can throw a little bit,” Spradley said. “Our goal is to throw strikes, put the ball in play and make routine plays in the field. I think we are a lot more competitive (right away) by just doing those three things consistently.”