E.A. Sports Today

Cards say play ball

Sacred Heart to bring back baseball, softball to its athletics offerings in 2020

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
The Calhoun County Baseball Tournament will have the full complement of 15 teams next spring as Sacred Heart has announced its intention to resurrect its baseball and softball teams next year.
Sacred Heart athletics director Brock Harrell confirmed the declaration Thursday shortly after posting a call for head coaching candidates in both sports on social media.
“I’ve been thinking about it for about a month and we’re going to go ahead and declare it for next year,” Harrell said. “We’re trying to build all of our athletics department from the ground up ever since I’ve been here. We didn’t want to be known only as a basketball school, but well-rounded to be known in all sports.
“With that being said, baseball and softball are among those programs in the county and area kids are very interested in. They’ve been begging for this. Ever since I’ve been here they have been like, ‘Oh, I wish we had a baseball team.’ We have a lot of younger kids here at Sacred Heart and when they get to be fifth or sixth graders they have to leave us (because the school didn’t have those sports).”
The Cardinals had sponsored baseball and softball briefly in the 2000s and early ‘10s, but disbanded the programs for lack of participation. After some humble beginnings, one of the baseball teams coached by Don Skinner and the late Randy Bussey came within one game of making the state playoffs.
When the two sports resume next spring – with varsity programs only in both sports for now – the teams will compete on the Class 1A level. The four-time state champion boys basketball program competes in Class 2A because of the state’s competitive balance initiative for private schools, but the 1A area the Cardinals are most closely aligned with includes county private schools Donoho (which doesn’t have softball), Faith Christian and Jacksonville Christian.
“I know they struggled very badly just to get kids involved in it and tried to keep program alive; it was just tough,” Harrell said. “With it being a smaller private school and all it is hard to have it, but we’re at the point now where we have athletes in the school.”
The two sports bring the school’s athletics offerings to 12, joining boys and girls basketball, soccer, cross country and golf, volleyball and boys swimming. It also will participate in the state’s new e-sports initiative.
Harrell isn’t interested in just putting a team on the field. He’s looking for them to be competitive. 
“I don’t want to ever declare a sport that we have no chance of competing in,” he said. “You know me, I’m not into participation trophies. If we’re in it, we’re trying to win it.”
The new baseball and softball teams are looking to play their home games at an off-campus facility that will enhance the player and fan experience, and school administrators have reached out to officials at Choccolocco Park and the McClellan for information.
Harrell hopes to have the coaching hiring done by mid- to late-April. The coaches probably won’t be teachers at the school.
He couldn’t immediately say how much adding the two programs will cost. School officials are reaching out to established programs about purchasing surplus gear and are prepared to raise the necessary operational funds if needed.
“We’re going to make it happen the most successful way possible,” Harrell said.

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