Amory baseball has its next man as Cade Hoggard has been named the new head baseball coach for the Panthers.
Hoggard, who spent five seasons as head baseball coach at Olive Branch, was approved by the Amory School Board last Monday night and replaces Chad Williams, who was head coach for 20 years and assistant for another four before then.
“Coach (Chad) Williams reached out to me, and another coach also asked if I would be interested. I have known about Amory and the tradition they have,” Hoggard said. “When he reached out to me and asked if I wanted to come down and talk about it, he’s been there for 20 years, and when he wants you to come talk about a job, you definitely don’t turn that down.”
Hoggard is a 2005 graduate of Oxford High School, where he won a state championship with the Chargers.
He played at Mississippi State for three years before transferring to Delta State for his final two years and also served as a graduate assistant there for two years. He served as an assistant at Olive Branch before being hired as head coach.
“I came down here to visit, and I was blown away and loved everything I was hearing,” Hoggard said. “My wife is from a small town, and one thing we agreed on is that we wanted to raise our children in a small community. The next week, I brought her down, and she talked to the principals. They had a job for her as well, and the rest is history.”
Williams said he was familiar with Hoggard for coaching against him when he was in high school.
“I coached against Cade in 2005, and that was a very talented team he was on, and he was a very good player,” Williams said. “That’s by his track record of signing with Mississippi State out of high school. I think Cade will do a great job here. What I told the team when I was stepping down is that I want to find somebody who can work harder and win more, and everybody I talked to about Cade when I called around said that he was a great ball coach. One coach specifically stood out when he said, ‘He’s a great ball coach, but I think he may be a better fellow.’ In a small town, being a great person is a big thing also because he’s going to know everybody here. That means a lot to this community.”
Hoggard said the tradition of Amory baseball and the feeling of being in a close-knit community were two factors that stood out to him.
“Coach Williams has everybody knowing about Amory baseball. North Mississippi is scattered with a lot of great baseball programs, and Amory is one of those that’s really respected and you know about the type of baseball they play. I knew about that from playing against them in high school, and I played with Andy Rice and Mitch Moreland at Mississippi State,” Hoggard said. “The thing I like about that’s different than coming from a big area is that the kids grow up together and go to school together from kindergarten on. That’s not the case in DeSoto County, and that’s not a knock, but when you get into high school sports, that’s one of the things it’s all about is community. You have middle school kids going to high school football games together and wanting to be out there someday, and it’s the same in baseball. That’s what I was wrapped up in growing up in Oxford, and it’s what drew me to Amory.”
The Panthers finished out the 2019 season with a 15-10 record and made it all the way to the third round of the playoffs, but lose a large group of seniors. There’s been buzz around the players they have coming up, and Hoggard said he has heard about the talent coming through for the Panthers, some of whom have played at the Easley Baseball Club in the Olive Branch area, ran by his friend and former Mississippi State Bulldog and professional baseball player Ed Easley.
“I know the ceiling is really high. Ed Easley and I are friends, and the Easley Baseball Club used our fields at Olive Branch. I know a lot of those kids played there,” Hoggard said. “They have a lot of potential coming up, and that’s just the icing on the cake. At Olive Branch, we have had to develop some talent, so it’s going to be good to see what we have. I will know more when we get in tryouts. I’m ready to get started, see what we have as a team and just see them all out on the field.”
Amory drops down to Class 3A with the next realignment, but Hoggard said the challenges are still there in a tough division.
“They’re dropping into a strong division. You have Booneville, Kossuth and Nettleton that I know all have talent coming back, and Alcorn Central has been good in the past,” he said. “It’s a lot of good coaches and a lot of good talent, so we know nothing is going to be given to us. I think that from talking to Coach Williams and the culture he’s built, they understand that. They know how to work and compete, and that’s another thing that drove me to this job. I look forward to talking to Coach Williams more and diving into what they have done in the past. He’s well-respected, has a lot of passion for this school and this program, and I can definitely learn a lot from him.”
While the Panthers have had deep playoff runs several times in the last few seasons, Hoggard said the ultimate goal will be to get back to a state championship appearance.
“I think that Amory has been a top tier program for a while, so I think my message will be that nothing will be given to us. We’re going to compete, continue to build the championship culture and do the little things right,” Hoggard said. “We want to put numbers on that wall. Talking to Coach Williams, I know it’s been a while since they have competed for state, and we want to come in and get back to North half with a shot to get back to Trustmark.”