Although former Yellow Jackets head baseball coach Julio Jimenez’s mid-season resignation came as a shock, the man picked to replace him was as familiar as a broken-in glove.
Junior varsity coach Steve Carroll stepped to the plate at the end of March, and the young Yellow Jackets grew more and more competitive as the season progressed, taking highly-touted district powers like Aledo to the wire.
“You definitely saw the kids respond to the change,” Stephenville High School Athletic Director Chad Morris said. “I think it’s what’s in the best interest of our baseball program.”
The Yellow Jackets won two of their last three games, and finished 3-11 in District 8-4A.
“With (Carroll’s) guidance, we hope we can turn the corner,” Morris said.
Carroll had already coached many of last season’s varsity players, a fact that eased the change.
“I think the transition for the players was fairly smooth,” Carroll said. The majority knew his style and what to expect, an asset “in the middle of a huge change like that.”
“We weren’t getting surprised by anything new,” he said.
Looking back on the season, Carroll said he “felt very comfortable with where we were heading.”
The youthful Yellow Jackets “were encouraged by what they saw” after overcoming an initial learning curve and buying into Carroll’s preferred style of play.
“You’ve got to understand that you can do it,” he said, and nothing builds confidence like experience — gained both in games and in practices that simulate game situations.
Plus, “they believed in what we were doing,” Carroll said, referring to his “optimistic” style that is marked by playing hard, being aggressive and having fun.
“I just want my kids to be optimistic ballplayers,” Carroll said.
While giving out superlatives at a recent district coaches meeting, Carroll said he was amazed by how junior-heavy the district was this season. Many teams will return with seasoned talent, but the Yellow Jackets will stick to their formula of playing hard and seeing where the chips fall.
“How far we’ll go I have no idea,” he said.