For John Harris, things have come full circle as he has been named the next Smithville head baseball coach.
Harris, a Smithville alum who has spent the last eight seasons as the head coach at county rival Hatley, replaces Jamie Russell, who left to become an assistant softball coach at Mooreville after the Seminoles won the Class 1A state title last month.
“This just kind of happened. Sometimes things work out, and this was a timing thing,” Harris said. “I was able to have the opportunity, and Coach (Chad) O’Brian gave me the opportunity, and I’m glad to be back home. Being from here, I’m always going to be from here, and I’m looking forward to my alma mater and to seeing people I have known my whole life and coaching and being around their kids and just being around the school in general.”
As a former Smithville baseball player himself, Harris said he’s looking forward to continuing the winning tradition.
“I have lived it for sure. There’s an expectation here. There always has been and always will be,” he said. “That’s a good thing, and there’s a lot of tradition over the years. I look forward to continuing that and being a part of it. I grew up knowing what it’s all about to being a Seminole, and I’m looking forward to continuing that.”
The Seminoles are fresh off three-straight state championship appearances and five in the last six seasons, including titles in 2014 and this season.
“I’m very proud of the success they had here over the years. I’m not coming in here trying to fix anything that’s broken or anything,” Harris said. “I’m just trying to come in and maintain the tradition and the winning attitude and the success that they have had here.”
Harris said he’s looking forward to taking a look at the returning players for Smithville, which lost seven starters off the championship team.
“I really don’t know a lot about what they have coming back, and I’m going to try to take a look at that in some of the summer ball. The coaches prior to me, Coach (Steve) Kerr and Coach (Jamie) Russell and Coach (Jamie) Edwards, have done a fantastic job, and I just want to continue the things they have done as far as the winning ways,” Harris said. “You talk about losing kids, and they have lost kids over and over through the years, but they always seem to find more to step in, be in the mix and get the job done. That’s what you want to do is get in the playoffs, give yourself a chance and what happens after that happens. That’s just what we will do here and continue to compete.”
While at Hatley, Harris has contended with teams like North Pontotoc and Kossuth in the playoffs in Class 3A and said he knows the competition will be just as tough next season in Class 1A.
“1A baseball, once you get in the playoffs, you have some extremely good coaches and teams and programs that are there every year,” Harris said. “It’s tough, and you have to create your own luck and compete hard just to have a chance.”
Harris enjoyed plenty of success in his eight seasons at Hatley as the Tigers had six playoff appearances and played for a North-half championship twice in 2012 and 2015.
“I can’t say enough about Hatley. They were really good to me, everybody there, the kids, and I enjoyed every moment of it,” Harris said. “I have a special place for Hatley in my heart, and I always will wish them the best and will be keeping up with them for sure. That was my first opportunity to be a head coach, and we had some shots there to compete for a championship. There’s nothing more I wish than for them to be able to do that. I hope they can get there and win one.”
Jamie Edwards will replace Harris as head coach at Hatley, and he said he knows the Tigers are in good hands with his former assistant coach, who was also at Smithville for one season.
“Coach Edwards will do a great job there,” Harris said. “He’s a really good coach and a really good person, and he will get the most out of them and the program, and I’m really happy that they have him as a coach over there. I wish him the best of luck.”