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Baseball season starts with tripleheader vs. Rebels

By Michael Butler

Another Tallassee baseball season will launch on Feb. 17. And like with football, it begins versus rival Reeltown. Three games are scheduled at Southside Field beginning with a battle between the two middle schools at 3 p.m., followed by junior varsity and varsity action.

Longtime THS coach John Goodman returns to take over the program. Goodman was hired last May to replace Kyle Hammonds, who went 4-25 in his only season last year.

"It's fun. I'm having a ball. It's like you gave me a youth pill," said Goodman, who praised his assistants Jacob Gibson and Justin Ellis, who have been working daily with Goodman and players during a strenuous off-season program.

"We totally redid the field," Goodman added. "It looks great. We've got new banners up. The kids have been working hard since June. We've worked everyday in the weight room. We've gotten stronger. They look good. The first day we got back from Christmas break, we hit five miles. Everybody made it - no problem. They didn't like it. Then, we hit the field hard. We haven't slowed up since then."

Goodman, 56, is Tallassee's winningest baseball coach. He went 316-206 between 1993-2008 winning two state championships (1995, '98). He served as an assistant with head coach Ronnie Baynes for the other five state titles (1986, '87, '89, '90, '91).

This is the 25th anniversary of Tallassee's last state champion - the 1998 group - which Goodman calls the best.

"Coach Ellis was on that team. Now he's coaching with me. We talk about it all the time. We were reminiscing the other day about the Pleasant Grove series final. The kids say, 'Coach, how can you remember all these details?' It just seems like yesterday."

There are a total of 34 varsity and junior varsity players. Another 16 are on the middle school roster.

"It's hard when varsity and JV are playing together. Basically we've got one team that makes two. We do everything together. When we play together - which is most of the time - we'll fill the JV team and varsity team with what we need for that day. If we play together, it's probably going to be about 17 on each team.

"The numbers are right where we need them to be. Position-wise, we've got battles at each position. That's what we want. They battle everyday. We had a few that decided to stay with another sport. That's fine."

(Left to right): Brady Mason, Caden Griffith, Cade Everson, Chase Webster.
Photo by Kyle Thornton

Tallassee fans want to see the championships return, but they have not seen the Tigers in a post-season game since 2018.

"Back when I was here before, our number one goal was to win an area championship. Number two was to win a state championship. That's what you talked about," Goodman added. "Now, our number one goal is to make the playoffs. Number two is to have a chance to win an area championship and then go deep into the playoffs. We're nowhere ready for that right now. We're not practicing for that right now. We're practicing to get better and better. And by the time we get to area play at the end of the season, that's where we want to be our best."

Area opponents in 2023 are Beauregard and Brewbaker Tech. The top two will go to the playoffs.

"We assume nothing. We teach everything. We've taken it in baby steps. We started from day one teaching fundamentals. These kids take hundreds of ground balls a day. It takes a while. We took everybody that has a good arm and started developing the pitching. We want to have enough pitching to get through the year.

"We're going to take some lumps early. We've got a lot of youth. A lot of them are going to be out there for the first time. We'll take one foot forward and two steps back. It's going to be a continuous battle all year long, but it's going to be a great ride."

Goodman said the interest for baseball is still alive and well after seeing the turnout from fans at a weekend scrimmage.

"When we took this job - all three of us - the kids said one thing, 'Are the fans going to come watch us play?' We just about had a full house Sunday. I said, 'Guys, they're here. Give them something to bring them back.' And they pretty much did. They played pretty well Sunday. If we can keep building off of that, then we're going to be okay."

As for the season opener, there are Tallassee ties at Reeltown. A couple of former players under Goodman are coaches with the Rebels - Rusty Smith and Britt Clayton.

"There's a bunch of Tallassee over there. It's going to be fun. It's a great game to open up with because so many of my former ballplayers are going to be there. I hope that Tallassee really comes out and supports. Come on down and get behind these kids. They deserve it."

Varsity/JV/SMS Schedules