Shad Whiteley was given the unenviable task of replacing legendary Tommy Elliott as baseball coach at Fort Worth Arlington Heights this season.
In 30 years at the helm, Elliott won 719 games, a state title in 1996 and took the Yellow Jackets back to state four more times (1998, 2000, ’06, ’09). While many would avoid directly following such a storied coach, Whiteley patiently waited his turn as an assistant the past six years and is now relishing the opportunity.
“It’s like I tell the kids, it wouldn’t be any fun if there wasn’t anyone in the stands when you hit a home run,” said Whiteley. “I’m trying to embrace that. I know full well all of the tradition that’s over here, that the west side of Fort Worth is really behind this baseball program and to me that’s an exciting thing. I wouldn’t say there’s more pressure; it has been fun.”
Whiteley said that the cupboard is far from bare with talent and that years spent helping the players develop on junior varsity has established tight relationships. Whiteley can also turn to Elliott for advice as a baseball consigliere, which he has already done on a couple occasions this season.
“The baseball side, like I said I had a good teacher, and so there hasn’t been too many surprises with working with the kids and the parents. I think I was prepared for that,” Whiteley said. “It’s just all of the questions, all of the stuff that comes across my email, but I can’t say enough about how great the parents are and what a great staff I have.”
The Yellow Jackets (13-6, 5-1 in District 7-4A) appear headed for another postseason berth after Tuesday night’s 7-3 victory over crosstown rival Southwest.
Arlington Heights starter Doak Dozier (3-0, 2.33 ERA) pitched four scoreless innings before being relieved in the fifth by Brady Cox (4-1, 2.01 ERA). The Yellow Jackets built a 5-0 lead before Southwest scored three runs in the fifth. Arlington Heights senior infielder Devin Ward, who is batting .291 with nine RBIs, drove in a pair of insurance runs with a hard shot up the middle in the seventh.
The Yellow Jackets wrap up the first round of district play Thursday at Granbury (4-2 in 7-4A) looking to stay within one game of district leader Aledo.
The Birdville school district will honor Hawks baseball coach David Hatcher for his 500th career victory in a ceremony before Thursday’s game against Fort Worth Carter-Riverside.
Hatcher reached the milestone on March 8 with a 5-1 victory over Everman, where he began his coaching career as an assistant. The 27-year veteran spent his first three seasons at Everman before accepting his first head coaching job at Saginaw Boswell, where he won 295 games in 15 seasons. Hatcher has won 210 and counting in nine seasons at Birdville (14-7, 7-0 in 6-4A).
“You have to have good coaches, you have to be blessed with talent, you have to have the support of the administration and parents and lastly you have to be an old guy to reach 500,” Hatcher said. “After all of that you just try not to mess it up along the way.”
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JohnsonJarret
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