With a young baseball team composed of mostly freshmen and sophomores, Rockdale County found the right man for the job in Jonathan Brewer, as discipline and mental toughness are key components to his regime.
"One thing that we're working on in the weight room and out in the fall league that will carry on into the spring is discipline. Just looking back and talking with some people, we had our moments of [being] undisciplined last year," Brewer said.
Brewer just took over the job and for the past couple weeks he's been learning a little about his new players.
"We're just going to be really young this year, but from all the reports that I'm getting from the fall coaches we're going to be extremely talented as well," Brewer said.
Brewer says that there has been 100 percent attendance in weightlifting for the past week or two and that the team is being led by the one senior it has and a few juniors.
Brewer says he asks a lot of his players, but so far he's excited about how receptive the players have been to his style of leadership.
"Coming in as a new coach with a new program you have to be tougher because you're changing the culture. I perceive myself two or three years down the road, I hope we're at the point where these freshmen and sophomores I have now take control of the program and they do things the right way without a coach," Brewer said. "For right now, there's a lot being asked of them and they've answered the bell. So down the road I would think that I would be more of a player's coach, mainly because we've installed a system for the program. Usually it takes two or three years and great kids to see that through and from what it looks like we have ‘em right now - they're just young."
Brewer says he harps on attendance and that his program is a different animal than recreational ball because high school ball is a year-round process. According to Brewer he wants his team to hit the weights in the off-season, and he encourages them to play in fall leagues to get some playing time in before Thanksgiving.
"If we're going to get where we want to go, it can't just be in the month of January, February, March and April. We have to work right now. That's going to be an expectation for our program," Brewer said.
"As far as on the field, for me, we're just going to try to do everything right. We're going to fight with two strikes, we're not going to give at-bats away, we're going to play solid defense and throw strikes. We're going to keep it simple, but we'll be aggressive as well," Brewer said. "From everything I've seen out and in the weight room, we have a lot of speed. So if we're disciplined and we play the game the right way I can see us movin' around on the bases and playing a little bit of small-ball here and there as well."
There are several camps that Brewer's fall coaches will run in the off-season to teach the players how he wants things done such as base running, hitting and fielding. Four of Brewer's six coaches have been helping out tremendously with his transition and implementing his leadership style.
Wesley Dunn and Hunter Blackmon are commuting from Elbert daily. Scott Hardy will be the head fall coach, and Kevin Dawkins is a former Rockdale player and Point University baseball player. Brewer says all four have been instrumental to the program this past month.
"All the credit goes to the coaches, really, for the effort they've put in. My hands are tied because I'm a certified coach right now, and there's only so much I can do," Brewer said.
Brewer says the inexperience won't be a problem because his players are capable of excelling.
"I have some great kids coming through and they've answered the bell. It's a lot to ask for kids to take the jewelry off and wear the baseball pants and the shirt the right way, especially for a junior or senior. When you've done it one way and totally being asked to do a 180 and do it another way, and on top of that lead the young guys in doing it the right way. I can't say enough about my small class of seniors and juniors that have stepped up and are taking the lead," Brewer said.
"For my younger guys I am overwhelmed by the amount of ninth graders that are walking in and out of the weight room every day. It's hard to get the young guys to buy in, but I think the kids are ready to win, and they're putting in the work they need to."