HEFLIN — High school baseball and softball seasons are months away but Cleburne County High School announced new head coaches in each sport Thursday afternoon.
Athletics director Michael Shortt told those in attendance at a news conference that Jordan Fuller will follow Vaughn Lee, Fuller’s coach in high school, as the Tigers’ next baseball coach following Lee’s retirement.
Shortt said the softball position opened when former head coach Ron Ervin chose to continue as head boys varsity basketball coach. Ervin took the boys basketball job on an interim basis last year when the Pleasant Valley boys basketball job came open at the start of the school year and Ryan Chambless left Cleburne County for Pleasant Valley.
The overlap between basketball season and the start of softball practice makes it difficult for one person to hold both positions.
C.J. Boyd, who along with Todd Gable helped Ervin during the 2018 season, was named as head softball coach. He graduated from Alexandria High School and Jacksonville State.
Boyd came to Cleburne County from Jacksonville last year after serving as Jacksonville’s head softball coach for five seasons. Boyd will also be Cleburne County’s offensive coordinator in football.
Fuller graduated from Cleburne County in 2007 and received his Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Jacksonville State in 2011. He not only played for Lee but was an assistant coach under Lee for the past five seasons. During that time, he was in charge of the seventh and eighth grade program.
The 2018 team extended the school’s run of consecutive playoff appearances under Lee to 14 seasons. Fuller said he appreciates the significance of that achievement because as a sophomore he was part of the 2005 team that started that streak.
“When I think about Cleburne County, period, I think about Vaughn Lee being a part of it, whether it be baseball or football. I really do,” Fuller said. “I love C.J., but it’s been a little weird not seeing Vaughn on the football field during the spring.”
The Tigers lost seven seniors, most of them multi-year starters, from the 2018 team but Fuller is confident.
“It’s not like we loaded up for one good year and left the cupboard bare. Coach Lee did a good job of developing the players that we had in our program from the ninth grade up when he had them,” Fuller said.
Five seniors led during the just completed softball season but there were no juniors on the roster and just one sophomore. Six freshmen and two eighth-graders completed the squad. Boyd said he planned to keep players excited about playing softball.
“Softball is very difficult. You start it in January and you don’t finish until May,” Boyd said. “To me, that’s the longest season of any high school sport. You’ve really got to love it because you start when it’s freezing cold and then you finish when it’s real hot.”
Boyd is also aware that in following Ervin he has big shoes to fill.
“Coach Ervin did a phenomenal job. ... We’re not going to change a whole lot because of what he did to lay that foundation. We’re just going to keep building on what he’s done,” Boyd said.