By Thomas Sellers Jr.
One clear sign of a program is tradition.
Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebel Baseball meets that requirement entering the 10th season under the direction of Head Coach Brad Smith.
All-State players like Connor Alexander. Current college baseball standouts like Blain Curtis at CBU. Former Rebels coming back to coach the current players like Nick James, Jacob Cole and Jordan Wilson.
And the record books reflect the strong tradition of Rebel Baseball with State Tournament appearances in 2009, 2012 and 2014 with a pair of silver plaques. As the new-look Rebel Field reflects the growth of the program, the 2017 Rebels face a first-time situation in the Brad Smith Era.
“I’ve been coaching high school baseball for 18 years,” Smith said. “This is my 10th year here. And this is the first time I’ve had a program that did not have a senior player in it. Not one kid in the senior class. So my whole roster is going to be returning a year from now as well. That’s a good situation and a bad situation.”
Smith said the good is that every play, move and decision will benefit the Rebels down the line. The downside has the veteran Skipper building leadership qualities in his six juniors.
“Without any seniors, the opportunity for that experience just that physical maturity of being a 17 or 18 year old kid, you don’t have that,” he noted. “I say all that to say I don’t know what we’re going to accomplish this year. I think there are a lot of question marks.
“Our goals are still the same,” Smith continued. “They don’t change. But I got some kids that are working hard, that want to be out here everyday, that want to get better, that are talented and they are a joy to work with. I think we are going to surprise some people.”
Smith’s expectation each season is reaching State and winning it all. The 2009 Rebels were his first group to do it and did it in Cinderella fashion with a sub .500 record.
The 28 players currently in the Rebel program know that history and plan on writing their successful chapter.
“We’re going to have to grind,” Smith said. “We’re not going to do anything fancy at the plate, on the mound or in the field. We’ve just got to play fundamental TRA Baseball and just try to get better.
Smith said juniors like catcher Alex Langsford will be counted on for leadership on and off the field. Langsford will not only manage the pitching staff, but he is expected to be an RBI producer for TRA batting third.
Sophomore ace Corey Mitson will move up in the rotation and with his role in the batting order.
“Corey Mitson who saw significant time on the mound as a freshman,” Smith recalled. “He’s one of our go-to guys. He was our No. 2 last year behind a senior.”
Tyler Flynn will move up to the No. 2 spot this year. The junior will be a part of the everyday lineup as well.
Other key Rebel bats will be Parker Wells who batted more than .300 last year. Tyler Byrd started as an eighth grader last season and will be seeing time at shortstop. And add sophomore Will Turner into the mix.
“We’ve got some guys who it’s not necessarily new to them,” Smith said. “But just being a varsity lineup everyday for 35 plus ball games, that’s going to be new to a lot of these kids. Just the grind of a high school baseball season. Having a bad day on Monday but having to come back on Tuesday wiping the slate clean.”
Smith said the 2017 season can add to the legacy of Rebel Baseball if the junior click on and off the field.
“My junior class has really stepped up,” he noted. “They see what’s going on. They see the potential that we have in our program and the youth that we have. There leadership, I have some kids who have really grown up.”
Rebel Baseball has developed leadership over the years with James and Cole on the staff this year. Smith said winning baseball games is important, but he wants each of his players to grow toward manhood and value being a TRA Rebel.
“I’ve talked to my a lot about pride and pride in our program,” he said. “’Are you excited about the opportunity of playing baseball? Or are you excited about playing baseball for TRA?’ There is a difference. Everybody is excited about playing baseball or they wouldn’t be out here. Does it mean anything to you to put Rebels across your chest when you put your uniform on. Will we come together as a family.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Smith concluded. “Did you enjoy your time here enough that when it’s all said and done will you take it and come back to be a part of what we’re doing here? Do you want to see it grow and advanced. If the answer is yes, then I feel like I did a good job of giving you that experience.”