COVINGTON, Ga. — Jimmy Hughes was looking for a place to call home.
Not “home” as in the place you lay your head at night. Hughes was born and raised in Loganville, graduated from Loganville High in 2004 after playing baseball for legendary coach Jeff Segars and came back to live there even after leaving his two-year stop as head coach of Macon County’s baseball team to come take the Shiloh job.
The home Hughes was looking for was on the baseball diamond — pacing some school’s dugout and building a program for the long haul. That’s exactly what he believes he found when he was hired as Alcovy’s baseball coach Tuesday afternoon replacing Ashley Seen who compiled an 18-61 record in three seasons at the helm.
"I’ve seen what it looks like to be a program that people cast their eye down upon,” Hughes said. “The kind of program where when you want to build it into a winner people say you can’t do that. I like to say, ‘Yeah you can.’ And coming to Alcovy, I just knew I wanted to make my next move be home for a while. And I just got the vibe in the building with (athletic director) Kristopher Williams and (football) Coach (Chris) Edgar that they wanted to build something here that’s meant to last.”
Moments after the hire was made official, Hughes wasted no time connecting with his new program via social media. He took to Twitter to declare how “fired up” he was to begin a new baseball era at Alcovy, and then a little later had his first interaction with one of his best young players.
“I actually just got a DM from Chandler Hicks,” Hughes said. “He congratulated me for being here and told me he was looking forward to working with me, and I said something similar back to him.”
Then he waxed enthusiastic about all the other Hicks-type players he believes are peppered around the school and Covington at large.
“There’s just so much untapped potential in that building,” Hughes said. “The Covington area in general, the baseball here is pretty good. At Shiloh we played a good Newton team that had some solid kids last year. Eastside went to the Final Four a couple years back and Crumbley’s done a great job taking over for Evans. There are good travel teams, and even just the whole Alcovy cluster, there’s just some solid baseball here.”
As for that young talent, count Hicks — a sophomore standout already considered one of the top high school catchers in the nation — as impressed from what he’s seen and heard from his new coach.
“I already have a great vibe with him, even though we only chatted for a few minutes,” Hicks said. “I’ve heard from multiple people how hard he wants his players to work, and that he has a winning mindset.”
A winning mindset is something Alcovy teams haven’t had much of lately.
Game On is a travel ball program in Loganville that develops young baseball athletes before they reach the high school level.
Hughes will take on an Alcovy program that hasn’t had a winning record since the 2013 squad went 21-8 and finished 6-0 in Region 2-AAAAAA under coach Casey Bates. That team went on to win a region championship and advanced to the Sweet 16 in the Class AAAAAA state playoffs before being eliminated by Lowndes.
Alcovy finished the 2018 season with a 5-22 record — one win better than its 4-22-1 campaign in 2017.
“I’m looking at the records and the scores, and that’s just something we’re just gonna let happen here anymore,” Hughes said. “That’s not to throw the other coaching staffs under the bus or anything, but one thing I’m big on here is best is the standard. Everything we do at Alcovy, we’re striving to be the best.”
Hughes said that both of his previous two-year head coaching stints were massive rebuilding jobs where he “squeezed the most we could get out of the kids on our building.”
At Macon County he took on a program that had to forfeit its final seven games of the previous season because it didn’t have enough players to play.
“We went from that to 31 in the program, playing a full JV schedule,” he said. “We won 10 games, and were two or three literal plays away from sneaking in the playoffs.”
Beyond spending his last two years at Shiloh, Hughes said he’s found his work leading Loganville’s Game On travel ball program to be his most fulfilling coaching.
“A lot of people think it should be like a feeder to Loganville, but it’s just another travel ball option,” he said. “Our kids’ age range is from nine to 13 years old. We have two to three days of training, and the thing I like is our character ed program where we take about 15-20 minutes to really develop their character. They’re at that age where they can truly start thinking about right from wrong.”
As for his Alcovy strategy, Hughes, said he wants to play a “blitzkrieg” style of baseball.
“It’s just like when you’re at war, and you want to throw every weapon and all your resources at the other country’s army in hopes of knocking them out quickly,” he said. “That’s what we want to do on the field. We’ll be loose but intense. We’ll have fun, but know when to get the intensity as high as it can be. Nobody’s gonna outwork us.”
He calls Segars a mentor, saying that much of what he does as a coach comes from what he learned from the Loganville coach that’s won three state titles in 10 years with never anything worse than a Sweet 16 appearance. But he knows he’ll have to be more than a carbon copy coach in order to succeed at Alcovy.
“There’s been a lot of success here in the past,” he said. “There’s potential here. It’s about finding the magic formula, getting the players together. Family is gonna be said a lot in our dug out. And I think next year when we pile up a few wins and just get the excitement back in the program, you’ll see a much different Alcovy team come region play time.”
A different Alcovy baseball team is something Hicks says he already feels. And he believes it won’t be long before the entire team feels it too.
“I believe that as a team we will have a great relationship with this coach, and that he will push all of us to our full potential,”