By Thomas Sellers Jr.
New scoreboard with a bold Brighton Cardinals logo, an outfield wall full of local advertising, reconstructed bleachers with press box or the indoor practice building down the third base line, Brian Oswalt’s impact on the Brighton Cardinal Baseball program is easy to see.
But since arrival to Tipton County in 2002, the man known as Coach O’s greatest influence can’t be seen at the Brighton Baseball Field. During his tenure at Brighton Oswalt has witnessed nearly 40 signings of his players to college baseball.
Watching several young men grow up on the field and mature in the classroom the past 12 years has been rewarding. Despite all the signings, three District 13-3A Championships, five Regional appearances and reaching the 2007 Sub-State round, all the success for Oswalt has had a price.
“The time with my kids, its a big time for them,” the veteran Skipper said. “They love playing ball also. I haven’t got a chance to watch them a whole lot. It seems like when I go home, the last thing I wanted to do is go out back and throw the ball. And I feel like that’s a downfall of being a coach and having kids who love to play of your own.”
With his children Molly and Oliver in mind, Oswalt decided to step down as head coach of Brighton Baseball. He will continue his teaching responsibilities at the school.
“For me now with my kids being the age 8 and 9, it’s a prime learning experience for them to be with me and hopefully coach them for now and until,” he noted. “I would like to be more involved with what they’re doing. One thing you can’t take back is time. I’ve always heard that from older coaches about their kids. I’ve asked them before and they said, ‘You can’t take back time.’”
The 39-year-old discussed things with his wife Christi, colleagues, friends and family including recnt retired Major League pitcher Roy Oswalt.
“I don’t feel like I’m too old to get out of it,” Brian said. “I might get back into coaching when they’re (my children) older.”
While leaving the duties of head coach behind for his family, Oswalt said he has to say goodbye to a huge part of his everyday life.
“It’s like a family down here,” he said. “Everybody doesn’t see it that way sometimes, but I am around their kids more than they are. The wins and losses does mean a lot, but if you can guide and direct someone in the right way, you won the battle there.”
Oswalt and his coaching staff have won many battles over the years with countless players signing to the next level. One of the latest was Colton Hathcock to The University of Memphis.
Over notable signings were Jeremy White to West Alabama, Jesse Brooks to Southwest Tennessee and Hunter Scott to Itawamba.
When Oswalt arrived to Brighton, Scott was a junior standout for the team. This past season Scott was one of the coaches on the staff.
Prior to arriving in Tennessee, Oswalt coached at Weir and Lewisville. The son of Billy Jo and Jane was grateful to get his opportunity to lead a program, but Oswalt wasn’t going to leave the lessons and influences from the Magnolia State too far behind.
Borrowing from the blueprint of Columbia, Miss., powerhouse New Hope and the words of wisdom from his father, Oswalt won nearly 200 games with the Cardinals.
“Getting here at Brighton and Mr. Shipley giving me an opportunity was huge for me,” Oswalt recalled. “I felt like I was young at the time. And I always said you’ve got to have a master plan on how you want to guide and direct this group. Of course when I came in, I had the intention of doing a whole bunch of things in a short amount of time. I think I did get a lot of it accomplished. Of course there are some things I would still like to do.”
A lot of the achievements that can be seen around the Brighton Baseball Field were the brainchild of Oswalt. A team of dedicated parents made those dreams become reality.
“The Booster Club helped a lot,” he noted. “The community has helped a lot. I’ve had great backing in almost everything I’ve tried to do. When you’ve got people who help out, I would keep naming people but I don’t want to leave anybody out. There’s a lot of things that happened and it wasn’t just me. It was lot of people in the community who wanted to see the baseball program here grow and keep getting better.”
The program grew into a respected force in West Tennessee. Oswalt said the work ethic he instilled from day one was the biggest contributor to the recent success of Brighton Baseball.
“I always talk about hard work with the guys and it pays off,” he said. “We worked hard everyday. We came to work everyday. It’s very seldom we took a day off. When we come in here, there’s things to be expected. The older groups took care of that. After we started with Hunter Scott, it keep going from there with Trey Camp. I call them 120-percent guys who come out of this program. In life, right now Hunter is helping me now. He’s working as an accountant.”
Oswalt said his time at Brighton lives on through his players who are still playing and have used the life lessons from baseball to achieve success elsewhere.
“That makes me feel good,” he said. “Those guys are huge for me. Jesse Brooks is one of those 120-percent guys. That’s what I like being around. My Dad always told me, ‘As long as you’re working hard. They have to work hard.’
“That was something I always saw,” Oswalt added. “My Dad worked his (tail) off everyday. The guys underneath him, he was a logger. It wasn’t him backing down watching other people work. He was in the middle of all of them. The influence he put on them, they couldn’t do anything but join him. Hopefully that’s the legacy I leave here.”
Handing the keys over to the next Brighton Baseball Head Coach, Oswalt said he will be a part of the established team to help during the transition period.
“I don’t know who’s going to take over it,” he concluded. “But whoever takes it will be successful just because of the example we left. It wasn’t just me. It was our coaches, our great booster clubs, community and especially our players.”