Starkville High School baseball coach Travis Garner discusses a play with home plate umpire Robert Brewer. Garner was approved Friday to be the new baseball coach at Caledonia High. Photo by: Dispatch File Photo
May 12, 2018 11:11:10 PM
Travis Garner has a good memory.
But it wasn't until John Wilson told Garner he coached him years ago at the Mississippi State baseball camp that the coach who is "getting older" remembered he had received instruction from the "old" coach.
Garner and Wilson had reason to re-visit their times together on the baseball field Friday when the baseball coaches discussed their future. Wilson, who is retiring at the end of the school year, called Garner to offer congratulations and to wish him the best after the Lowndes County School Board approved his hiring.
"We had a good conversation," said Garner, who spent the last five years as baseball coach at Starkville High. "I know the kind of program coach Wilson ran and they have been successful. We didn't talk a lot about the players. Everybody needs to start with a clean slate. He has been very helpful. He has given me everything he has done from the booster club standpoint and with the schedule. He has run it in a first-class way and handed me the keys to a pretty good situation. I am pretty happy and excited and ready to get rolling."
Garner went 80-66 in five seasons at Starkville against some of the toughest competition in Class 6A, the highest in the Mississippi High School Activities Association. Garner said he "really enjoyed" his time at Starkville High and worked with "a lot of great people." He said he takes pride in the fact that a lot of work was done to improve the program on the field and to improve the facilities, and that he believes he is leaving it "a lot better" than he found it.
While Garner enjoyed his time playing against the Madison Centrals, Northwest Rankins, Tupelos, and DeSoto Centrals, he said he is eagerly awaiting his opportunity to meet the players at Caledonia High and to get started.
"I think Caledonia is a sleeping giant," said Garner, a graduate of Starkville Academy. "The community has a Little League park right across the street. The community really supports baseball. When I talked about my direction with the administration, they supported it. It is one of the best schools in the state and in the area, and it seemed like a no-brainer and something I couldn't turn down."
In addition to the improvements made in his time there, Garner said he was equally proud in the fact 12 to 13 players have gone on to play baseball in college. The Yellow Jackets also made four-straight playoff appearances playing in some of the toughest regions in the state.
Garner said he doesn't anticipate having to do as much work on the foundation of the program at Caledonia or to its facilities because both are in solid shape. He also said he plans to talk to Wilson again soon to learn everything he can about his new program. Garner said he didn't remember a lot about Wilson as a coach at the MSU camp, but he praised him for reaching out and making his initial steps as coach at Caledonia High smooth. He said his goal is to build on Wilson's work.
"Like I said, I think it is a sleeping giant, and I know they are big rivals, and I hate to say it, but, hopefully, one day we will blink and that sucker will be like New Hope," Garner said. "I am excited. I really can't tell you how excited I am."
After graduating from Starkville Academy (Class of 1999), Garner had a standout career at Meridian Community College and at the University of Alabama. As a senior, Garner led Alabama to a second-straight Southeastern Conference tournament championship and hit .365 with a team-best 88 hits.
A professional career followed with the Kansas City Royals organization. When his playing stint ended, Garner's desire to coach intensified and was influenced by former Alabama coach Jim Wells.
Garner coached nine seasons at Northridge High (the former Tuscaloosa Central) prior to taking over for Brian Jones at Starkville High.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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