Q&A: Brian Jennings swinging for the fences as new Moffat County baseball coach
After a previous season that had more than its usual share of ups and downs, Moffat County High School baseball is looking forward to a fresh start this spring.
The Bulldogs began their schedule this past week and are currently 1-0-1 with a March 13 victory of 13-3 in Rangely and a lengthy March 12 game in Basalt that ended with a 7-7 tie after 10 innings with the action having to be called due to field lighting issues.
Besides a shakeup in the roster with new and returning players, the Moffat County diamond also has a new coaching staff overseeing the program.
Brian Jennings, a second-year MCHS history teacher, was hired as the new head coach earlier this year to replace former coach Justin Folley who was placed on administrative leave before season’s end last spring.
CP: What interested you in coaching this team?
Jennings: It’s been a goal of mine since I played back in high school and went on to college. I always wanted to be a teacher and always wanted to coach baseball, so I finally got a chance to live that. I went to school at Chartiers Valley in high school and played for Waynesburg University in western Pennsylvania. I traveled out here for my teaching job, and when this spot became available I hopped right on.
You’ve got a lot of new assistant coaches.
Yep, a lot of coaches, so we’re excited about that. We’ve got James Romansky, Pete Garcia and Rick Williams. They all applied for the same job I did, and they all came back for another interview, and we liked them, so we brought them on board.
Junior Herndon was going to take the job but then for whatever reason said he didn’t want to do it, so they gave me the opportunity.
What kind of experience did you have on the field? What positions?
I played everywhere in high school, outfield, infield, then in college it was mostly infield and mainly shortstop.
What is it about the game you most enjoy?
That’s a tough one because there are so many things I could say… It always clicked for me. I love the atmosphere, the team environment you can create with it. It’s not just one good guy on a baseball team, it takes a whole bunch of them. It was always the best time of the year for me, summertime, get outside, hit some balls, throw it around. Always fun to me.
With the issues faced by your predecessor, was there any tricky part of stepping into the head coach job?
I figured coming into it, there’d be a lot more issues, but the community has been really welcoming, the parents have been really open and they like the change. We’re bringing in more of the youth and some energy. It’s all been great so far.
Had you wanted to coach for MCHS previously?
Last year was my first year teaching here, and I came out and helped out a little bit, but there was no spot for an extra coach. We’ve got 22 guys on JV and varsity this season, and it’s fluctuated a little bit, but that’s a perfect amount because everybody gets their reps, and we can have two teams. We got a really young team, and they’ll all be getting a lot of work in.
Any particular emphasis early in the season?
We’ve been working hardcore on fundamentals since we started in the beginning of January. It’s about hands, quick footwork and not necessarily throwing harder, just being quicker, because that’s what’s going to win us games.
What’s the word on the Western Slope League leaders this year?
I haven’t really heard a lot about our section yet, and that’s going to be the fun part. I don’t know a lot about other teams so far, and there’ll be a lot of learning in this, but I see the kind of guys we have each day in practice, and I see a really good team and I think we can win a lot of games this season.
Any other thoughts on the next couple months?
I’m super-excited and grateful to be in the sport that got me so far, and hopefully I can get these guys to do the same. That’s what we keep telling them — if you put your work in on the field and in the classroom, you can go far, get out of this town and play somewhere else.
We want to make baseball important in this town again, and you do that best by winning games. That’s our plan.
Some years we finish up the calving season with one or two bottle calves here at Pipi’s Pasture; some years we don’t have any. The “not any” years are lucky years because feeding a bottle calf is an expensive business, and it means an extra chore, too.