Smithville state champion baseball coach Jamie Russell has headed back home to Mooreville and is moving to a different sport – he will be an assistant softball coach for the Lady Troopers.
“It was definitely a tough decision to leave Smithville, but I have a girl coming up in softball,” Russell said. “I have been thinking about getting into softball for a few years, and the opportunity came up. They called and told me what they could work out.”
This will be the first time in Russell’s 20-year coaching career to coach softball.
“It’s going to be different, but fundamentals are fundamentals, so that will be the same,” he said. “It’s going to be about learning the small things, the differences between a softball and a baseball. We have already played a game this summer, and they did pretty well. They have a lot of players coming back, and you just have to learn, just like baseball. As a coach, you try to learn something different every year because if you think you know it all, you’re not a very good coach.”
Like Smithville baseball, the championship tradition is there for Mooreville softball, which last won back-to-back fast-pitch titles in 2016 and 2017.
Russell said he is looking forward to that tradition and also working under head coach Perry Wilburn.
“I think they have four state championships in slow-pitch and four in fast, so it’s a great tradition,” Russell said. “They play hard and expect to win, just like anywhere else. There are ones that have won before, and the girls now don’t want to be the ones who don’t do it. I’m looking forward to working with Perry (Wilburn). When they started fast-pitch at Mooreville, he was the one who started it. I have known him all my life, and he was here when I was going to school here.”
Russell said he will miss Smithville, the players he coached, and the community as a whole. He guided the Seminoles to three straight state championship appearances, culminating in this year’s title.
“It’s a great place with a great community that gives great support to the athletic programs,” he said. “My family and I will miss it. There’s been great kids here, kids who worked hard and played hard, and they did whatever you asked them to do. We have been lucky enough to have some success, but that goes back to the kids and how they were raised. They just bought into everything we tried to do, and we were fortunate enough to have some good talent here as well.”
While he won state titles as a player and as an assistant coach, this year’s championship was his first as a head coach, and Russell said it was the perfect way to cap off his career with the Seminoles.
“My last four years I have been a head coach, we played for a state championship, and I was beginning to wonder if I would ever have the opportunity to finally win one,” Russell said. “This was a great way to end it and just a testament to those guys and how hard they worked all season.”