COVINGTON, Ga. — For the third time in four years, there will be a new face in Newton’s dugout when the 2022 season rolls around.
The school announced Monday that Derwin McNealy has been named the next head baseball coach for the Rams.
McNealy’s hiring comes after former head coach Darrell Helm stepped down April 15, with five games remaining in the regular season, citing personal reasons for his departure. Helm coached the club for two seasons after James Jackson resigned in 2019 following just one year in the position.
McNealy’s coaching career began in 2005. He spent two years as an assistant baseball coach at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff before serving as head coach for Clark Atlanta University for six seasons. Family health concerns ultimately led to him leaving the college ranks for a career in education, which he coupled with coaching baseball at the high school level.
“I love working with the youth,” McNealy said. “It gave me the flexibility to make time for my son, as well as pouring into the kids using the game of baseball as a vessel to do that.”
Following stops at MLK High in Lithonia and Redan High in Stone Mountain, McNealy most recently worked as an assistant varsity coach and head JV coach at Dutchtown High in Hampton.
Newton Athletic Director Vincent Byams has known McNealy for several years, and has long lauded his abilities as both a coach and communicator.
“It was only a matter of time for him to get that role as a [head] coach and have his own program,” Byams said. “When the job opened up and he expressed interest in being here, I just knew right away that it was going to be a good fit for our program.”
McNealy will be tasked with leading a team that’s coming off a 9-20 season and playing in one of the toughest regions in the state alongside the likes of national powerhouses Parkview, Grayson and Brookwood.
He expressed his desire to implement a training program and work with his kids on the diamond. But, above all else, he emphasized that his main goal as head coach will be to develop a strong community for the baseball program that has its roots planted in Newton County.
“When you look at some of our competition, some of the teams in our region, when you benchmark those teams, it’s not [just about] the baseball. It’s the community that’s surrounding the game,” McNealy explained. “It’s having the 8u and 9u and 10u teams from the local parks at all of the ball games wearing the blue and white.
“That’s where we turn the program around — by getting everybody involved and giving the kids that are playing on the field that sense of community. I think it starts right there.”
McNealy noted that personnel and strategy are vital components of establishing a successful program, but stated his belief that it should stem from the backing of a community.
“You have to have players,” he said. “And you have to have people surrounding those players that are committed. It starts with the community.”