TRM’s Hart retiring after 2015 baseball season
Taking his place behind the l-screen for batting practice last week, T.R. Miller Tiger head baseball coach Jim Hart began throwing to the players on his 2015 team.
As a player took a hard cut and missed, assistant coach Chris Baxter joked with Hart that he had his famous curveball working well.
Hart just shook his head and smiled.
As his final season as head coach of the Tigers begins, Hart hopes his team will play as long as possible this year. But all good things must end; however, Hart said he will miss many things, but throwing batting practice will not be one of those things.
Hart has been coaching for 37 years- 23 years as head baseball coach for the Tigers after taking over for the late Donnie Rotch in 1993. His wife, Nancy has been by his side for nearly every one of his 333 wins.
The 64-year-old Evergreen High School graduate has led T.R. Miller to a few state semifinals and one state runner-up in 1996. He’s coached at T.R. Miller from 1974-1984 and then from 1988 to present.
Hart earned his 300th win in 2013 with an 18-1 win over Monroe County.
“It has been a great experience and a great job,” Hart said. “When you stay in it that long, there comes a time that you realize that it is time to get out and do something else and it is that time to do that. I have enjoyed it.”
Hart has coached many players during his tenure at TRM and he said there have been so many kids that have come through the program that have gone on and done well for themselves.
“Not only to just play baseball in college or junior college but in their professions and things like that,” Hart said. “You run into those guys all over the place and they want to ask you about so-and-so and they want to talk about old times when they were playing. That part of it, we will have those memories forever.”
Speaking of memories, Hart said there is plenty, but one that stuck out to him was the 1996 team and season that went to the state championship game.
“I think when in 1996 when we made it to the finals and had it here against Pleasant Grove, that was a great thing for us and the program,” he said. “We had a chance in the first ballgame to do a little bit better, but we made a mistake or two and then they beat us in the second ballgame. Two years before that, we played Opp in the semifinals, I think that kind of got us ready. We were used to having played that far.
“Then the two years we played St. Paul’s in the semifinals (in the 1999 and 2000 seasons against current MLB player Jake Peavy), of course those were not very pleasant, but those kids worked so hard to get there. There are those kind of things. Those have been really memorable.”
Another thing he will remember about the job is the friendships he has made with other coaches in the state- even former and current coaches at rival W.S. Neal in East Brewton.
“I have made some really good friends in the baseball coaching profession,” he said. “Sometimes that does not happen in big rivalries and things like that. Like over at W.S. Neal, Danny Parker and I…I respect all he did when we was coaching at WSN. He did a great job. It was very competitive between us, but I consider him a friend. Of course with Coy over there now, I consider him a friend. We still want to beat them, but you meet so many people across the state and develop a relationship with them and it lasts forever.”
Baxter, who has worked with Hart the past few years and knew Hart from his days as an umpire prior to coaching baseball, said that working with coach Hart had been a great experience.
“The attribute that I see exhibited more than anything has been that the kids love to play for him,” Baxter said. “He has shaped and nurtured so many young men at T.R. Miller.
His baseball teams always were well-coached and played hard for him. I also got to know him from an umpire’s perspective. He always showed class when dealing with umpires and is well-respected in the aspect. It’s a privilege to coach with him on the baseball field. I am sure he has had many milestones and memories during his tenure. I’m proud and honored to have been a part of his 300th victory.”
As for his final team in 2015, Hart says this year’s Tigers have a chance to be pretty good, but they are going to have to grow up some.
“We have some younger kids that are going to play that are good players,” Hart said. “We are not going to hold them back. We are going to let them play. I think pitching-wise we are in good shape. If we can keep everybody healthy, I think we have some arms and some guys that are going to be able to do good. Through the lineup, we have pretty good speed, and I think we are going to hit the ball. We have a little bit of power so we will just see where it goes.”
Hart said it is going to take his team a while to get them in the right place, but he thinks they have the right players.
“We just have to get them in the right places, especially the younger ones,” Hart said. “We need to get them some experience and we don’t have many older ones.”
Seniors on the team this year include Jones Manning, Tim McDonald, Chris Jones and Terry Samuel.
“We have two juniors and the rest are sophomores and freshmen,” Hart said. “We are looking forward to seeing them play and putting them in the position to be successful.”
Hart said he wanted to thank the school and the community for all the support they have given to him and his teams.
“It’s a community where people support the football team, and they supported our baseball program,” he said. “It has been a great place to work. I don’t know if you go across this state and pick and choose, I would not have chosen any other place. We are looking forward to do something else. We will still be supporting them and coming to watch them play. It will be a good thing.”
Hart said he is looking forward to the final season and dreading it at the same time.
“I haven’t really thought about that a whole lot, and I really don’t want to right now,” he said about what his emotions will be this season. “I am sure it will be difficult. These kids have been so good for our program and to me. It will be a little bit of some bittersweet stuff. I hope we play a long time so I don’t have to worry about it too quick.”
TRM was scheduled to begin their 2015 season, Hart’s last, on Tuesday when they traveled to Atmore to play in the Escambia County Tournament.
The Tigers will have their first home games on Sat., March 7, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. against Northview.