SAm gause | The Natchez Democrat Natchez High School head baseball coach Dan Smith stands on Chester Willis Field Friday. Smith, a Natchez native, was named the new head coach Thursday by the Natchez-Adams school board.
SAm gause | The Natchez Democrat
Natchez High School head baseball coach Dan Smith stands on Chester Willis Field Friday. Smith, a Natchez native, was named the new head coach Thursday by the Natchez-Adams school board.

Dan Smith ready to get to work with Bulldogs baseball team

Published 12:03am Saturday, July 19, 2014

NATCHEZ — Though summer workouts won’t officially start until Monday for Natchez High School’s baseball team, the players got a little dose of what to expect from new coach Dan Smith Friday afternoon.

Smith, a Natchez native and NHS graduate, was the starting pitcher for the Bulldogs until he graduated in 1998.

Smith played at Alcorn State University, then semiprofessional ball for the Tri-city Pirates in Pennsylvania before turning to coaching.

Smith’s most recent stop was at Vicksburg High School where he served as the assistant baseball coach. Prior to, he was the head coach at Port Gibson High School.

Smith said when he saw the vacant position on the Natchez-Adams school board website, he jumped at the opportunity to return to his hometown.

“I’m happy the principal (Dr. Willis Smith), the athletic director, the superintendent (Dr. Frederick Hill) and the school board approved me and gave me the opportunity to come back,” Smith said. “It’s the only way I can really pay back the school and the community. I’m familiar with the area and the people and I know the talent that’s here.”

Smith gathered the bulk of his Bulldogs into the bleachers at Chester Willis field and talked to them about what he expects from them, asked the players what do they expect from him as a coach and discussed workout schedules.

It was evident that there would be a lot of changes from the way they prepared in previous seasons.

“Workouts will be about 80 percent running,” Smith told his players. “You will get very familiar with these bleachers (at Chester Willis field) and we will run a lot of bases.”

From the go, Smith already has plans to remodel the Bulldogs’ locker room located under the east side of the bleachers, and had his players clear out the extra clutter so they could figure out how to make the most of the seemingly tight space.

NHS rising junior Dalvion Jackson said Smith made a good first impression on him with his willingness to change things.

“(Smith) came in and changed things around, even the locker room,” Jackson said. “He said he’d clean it out and get us some new lockers and maybe some new jerseys.

“I hope he brings a good coaching style and he teaches us how to really play baseball. Over the years we’ve played on talent, but I hope he teaches us more about the game.”

Smith also brought in former North Natchez High School coach and MLB scout Bobby Hill to speak to the players.

Hill was once a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and said he plans to get back into professional scouting in the future.

But before Hill could tell the players about any of the athletic aspects scouts look for, he told the players what he said is the most important thing to moving on to the next level.

“They have to understand that they need the grades so they can move on and play, but a lot of players don’t prepare themselves in the classroom,” Hall said. “I understand the value of education.”

Smith said Hill has been his mentor for a long time, and he hopes to have Hill around to share advice and pointers to the team.

Hill said he would do anything he could to help out Smith and NHS,

“(Smith) is a very good person and they will see the difference with how we will run this program,” Hill said. “The community has to get behind him and the (school board) system has to buy into it as well.

“You don’t want a good team, you want a good program, because when you have a good program, you are constantly rebuilding.”

As the Bulldogs start to condition for the spring season, Smith said he will only focus on one sign of progress in particular in his first year.

“My goal for this season is just for them to play hard and the winning will take care of itself,” Smith said “As long as they play hard and smart, winning will come. More importantly, I want to prepare them for life.”