New Smiths Station baseball coach Mike Ferry knew for awhile that his name was going to be recommended for approval by the county. Now that his hire is officially official, the coach said he’s even more excited than before.
Ferry was approved by the Lee County Board of Education on Tuesday at its July meeting, making him the successor to the recently-retired Clinton Britton.
“It’s never set in stone until that vote,” said Ferry, who is currently in Birmingham, Ala., training to become the school’s driver’s education teacher. “I’ve been on pins and needles for about a week or two leading up to the board meeting. It was everything I could do to contain my excitement during summer workouts.
“As much as I wanted to tell those kids, though, I think now that it’s official, there’s been a renewed sense of excitement.”
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Earning the Smiths Station job was what Ferry had envisioned when he left his head coaching job at Sparkman High seven years ago. He was content in the role of assistant coach for nearly a decade because of the hope that he could one day take over a program in one of the more talent-rich sections of the state.
“There was no doubt in my mind this is what I wanted,” Ferry said. “I left a head coaching job to come back here. My wife and I both went to Auburn, and we love the Lee County area. We wanted our kids to go to school here.
“In the back of my mind, I was thinking how great of a dream it would be to have the reins of that program.”
Asked how long it took for him to decide to put his name up for consideration, Ferry said it wasn’t minutes or hours, but seconds to notify the right people.
“It may sound cliché, but this is a dream job for me,” he said. “It’s probably one of the top 5-10 jobs in the state.”
The pressure and the goal for Ferry going forward is to take a team that was consistently among the area’s best under Britton and turn it into one that can capture a state title. Principal Jason Yohn said Tuesday that was his hope for the future of the program, and Ferry said that was a realistic expectation.
“The sky is the limit,” he said. “Kids in the program are willing to take coaching and they have the ability. If we do our job as coaches, there’s no reason we can’t win a state championship.
“Coach Britton had a couple close runs. Sometimes it takes a break at the right time, but we absolutely feel like we can compete in our area right away.”
The Panthers lost seven seniors following the 2013 season in which they won a school-record 39 games. Those players include All-Bi-City co-pitcher of the year Marc Skinner (Troy University), and All-Bi-City first-teamers Ulysses Fluellen (Pensacola J.C.) and Tyler Lynn (Auburn).
“You don’t really replace those kids,” Ferry said. “We’ll be younger. We’ll be missing game experience, but by no means are the cupboard bare. We have kids who may not have gotten an opportunity before who are really talented. People might expect a dropoff, but if you demand and have a high expectation, they’re going to do all they can to meet those expectations.”
Ferry said he will run a detail-oriented program concentrating on all the little things that can turn a good player into a great one.
“There are things the average fan doesn’t see that someone playing at a high level does,” he said. “It’s difficult to teach that. There will be a transition period, but we’ll be demanding of them that they pay attention to that detail.
“Having a plan is the difference between an average team and one that can be competitive at the highest level.”
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.