COVINGTON, Ga. — When it came to baseball coaches in Region 4-AAAA, Eastside’s Brandon Crumbley was deemed the cream of the crop.
Crumbley was named region coach of the year earlier this week in a decision made among the coaches of Region 4-AAAA. It came on the heels of a solid season where Crumbley guided the Eagles to a 22-5 record overall and a 12-1 Region 4-AAAA mark that placed them second behind Woodward Academy in, giving Eastside a region runner-up designation.
It all happened in Crumbley’s first year at the program’s helm, sans the interim tag he wore during the 2018 season. And while the Eastside coach was appreciative, he was in no mood to stick his own chest out regarding the accolades.
“I mean, I wouldn’t get that kind of recognition if it wasn’t for the kids,” Crumbley said. “We’ve got a great group of kids and coaches in our program, and they’re the reason why I get any of that kind of recognition. Don’t get me wrong, it’s exciting and it’s nice to have. But if not for our kids and these coaches, it just wouldn’t be.”
Crumbley said that his second year in the saddle helped him situate some things that he believes made him a better coach.
“Year one, I was just kinda hanging on for dear life and hoping we got through it,” he said. “But in year two, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that we had to be more structured in our practice routines and in keeping guys in check and holding them accountable for their actions. I also learned a lot about myself personally, and that’s going to help me continue to shape and build the program the way I’d like to see it.”
Crumbley stated that he’d look to shifting a few things around administratively, as well as with “overall physical training and preparation.” He’s intent on increasing the team and family vibe on the squad as well.
All of that will hopefully help the team be in a place where it’s playing deeper into the month of May than it did this season. Eastside’s solid season ended with a bit of a thud after being swept 8-1 and 10-0 to Northside-Columbus in the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs. Granted, Northside actually went on to win a state championship by sweeping upstart Denmark Tuesday.
That fact, however, did little to assuage Crumbley’s wishes that his bunch could’ve had a better showing against the champs.
“I think it left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths on our team,” he said. “Yes, we got beat by a state champion. Yes, we played a pretty good team, but do I think we could’ve played with them better than what we did? Absolutely. So I definitely think we’ve got some guys on that team who are going to be hungry and never want to have that feeling ever a gain. It’s a little more tough to deal with knowing that we got beat at our place, at our house.”
When the Eagles touch the diamond again next spring, they’ll do so with a talented senior class that includes shortstop Noah Cook, Region 4-AAAA player of the year Colby Shivers and a host of talented arms in a bullpen that could go four or five deep.
Crumbley said he believes a good team will be made even better as players like Shivers continue to come into their own.
“This year, Colby finally started to figure it out, and it clicked,” Crumbley said. “He’s been with us for four years and started every game since he was a freshman. But this year, he finally turned into the hitter that we all knew he was going to be. He’s a humble kid who goes about his business the right way. That award couldn’t be given to a better person and baseball player.”
The 2020 season could truly be a breakout year for the squad, especially if the offseason work is as promising as Crumbley believes it could be.
“This will be one of the first years since I’ve been at Eastside that every kid in the entire program who’s returning will be playing summer ball,” he said. “That hasn’t happened in the five years since I’ve been at Eastside.”
Players will be competing in everything from local showcases to events at Columbus State and Georgia College in mercer. Crumbley himself will keep his coaching chops refined by getting in work with Team Elite during the summer and providing instruction at a baseball camp at Georgia Tech.
After the summer work, the team will take the month of August off and then start hitting the weight room come Labor Day. Crumbley said he knows it’s a demanding schedule, but also the kind of schedule that builds championship programs.
“It never stops, man,” he said. “It’s always going 100 miles an hour all the time. It was like that for me when I played, and it’s been like that as a coach. But I like where we are and where we’re headed. We’ve got 16 out of 20 guys from last year’s team coming back with varsity experience. We’re not gonna waste a day of work so that we can still be playing around this time next May.”