By RODNEY YOUNG
Pulaski County High School AD Mark Hanks didn’t waste time, and after he officially announced Jared King as the new head baseball coach the curtains parted and King took the stage.
“Well, I’m back.”
With those words, Coach Jared King took control of the Cougar baseball program and became the newest and youngest head coach at Pulaski County High School. He was presented with a Cougar jerseywith his familiar number 13, which he proudly put on. He then put on his Cougar baseball cap, and he was truly back home.
The familiar ear to ear smile made it clear that he was ready for the challenge. “I’m really excited for this opportunity,” said King. “We have some great resources here in Randolph Park, Calfee Park, and our own baseball field which is really nice as well. I’m blessed to have this opportunity and I’m excited about the potential we have here.”
Hanks was possibly more excited than King.
“I think I’m as excited as Jared is. He comes from a coaching family and is a true competitor. He played in two College World Series in five years at the University of Virginia. It’s almost like i’m a proud parent for him.”
“I know what kind of opportunities are there for the kids and what they can get out of baseball,” said King. “Ten years ago i never dreamed of playing in two College World Series.”
While he is still getting himself settled back into the area, King is already starting to look ahead at what needs to be done.
“I don’t know yet what kind of situation we’ll have as far as assistant coaches. This has happened very quickly. I need to find a place to live and take care of personal matters. After that I’m sure we’ll sit down and figure out which direction we want to go. I’m sure we will have a interview process at some point.”
While he knows that there need to be wins at the varsity and junior varsity level soon, Coach King also knows that for long term success he will need to build for the future.
“We need to have a feeder program. We have to teach them the things we want them to do at the varsity level as 10-11 year olds and younger. Hopefully we can have clinics for the kids to start working on teaching the fundamentals. That’s where it has to start. The VHSL now allows you to practice year round, and that should be helpful for us.”
Pitching has been a problem area for the Cougars for several years, and will be one of the first issues that Coach King will need to address.
“We have to develop a pitching staff,” said King. “I hope to have five or six guys eventually, but of course that depends on what we have. I know there are new rules in place on innings pitched, so the bottom line is you have to develop more pitchers.”
One thing that will not be in question is the style of play that Coach King will hope to employ.
“We will be aggressive,” said a smiling Coach King. “Both offensively and defensively we are going to be aggressive. We need to be fundamentally sound on both sides. Personnel will dictate a lot of that, but aggressive will be my style.”
King was also aware that there will be challenges that come with being a first year coach and being so young.
“I know there will be expectations from people. The kids in the locker room will have their own expectations, and I can’t get all caught up in others expectations. We need to compete, and the wins and losses with take care of themselves. This is a dream come true for me. Both of my parents coached, and I don’t think I had a choice but to continue. I really always wanted to coach. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.”
We reflected for a moment on his parents, Brenda and Danny King, who passed away in the past few years. I ask Jared what he thought his parents might say to him if they were here now, and with a smile he replied much like he has during his playing days.
“They would tell me ‘don’t screw this up’,” he laughed. “They would be very supportive, just like they always were. They would tell me to enjoy the good and the bad, and to enjoy all the day to day things. Then they would tell me to win.”
A new era of Cougar baseball began tonight, and a young man has come home and seen his dreams of being a head coach fulfilled. Best of luck to Coach King as he begins his new adventure and this new chapter in his baseball career.