After three years at Rockwall Heath and three at Burleson, new Gainesville baseball coach Garrett Thomas is entering his first season as a head coach, but he isn’t afraid to set the expectations high for himself and the team.
Thomas is all about forgetting the past and keeping all eyes on the future and that starts with a trip to the playoffs.
“Playoffs is the goal. Period,” Thomas said. “To me, that’s where kids make memories and that’s where these players learn who they truly are. That’s how we’re going to get back on the map. That’s what I’m going to talk about from day one here. Playing in May is important.”
Despite the lack of playoff appearances, Garrett said he wants the team’s focus on the positives.
Thomas, 29, was a pitcher and third baseman in college at Tarleton State University and he said his time there molded the way he coaches today.
“College baseball to me was a big learning experience,” Thomas said. “I’m big on sending kids to the next level. I’ve been a select baseball coach for a long time and I’m all about pairing a kid with a college for them. There are avenues for everybody. I’d say that’s a strength of mine.”
With his pitching background, Thomas was the pitching coach at Heath while also focusing on the catching position.
But coaching wasn’t always the way Thomas saw his life panning out.
“This has been my dream since I was fresh out of college,” Thomas said. “ I wasn’t sure this is what I wanted to do when I first started college, but as I got through my college baseball career, I decided I couldn’t have a life without baseball or sports in general in it. This has been a plan in the making for quite some time now.”
Thomas will also be the quarterbacks coach for the Leopards’ football team and he said that will bring balance to his coaching year.
“Football is good for me,” Thomas said. “It lets me have a healthier relationship with baseball. If I was baseball all the time, it can get a little monotonous. I push kids to play multiple sports. That’s a really big aspect of high school sports nowadays. A lot of people try to specialize, but I’m not really a big fan of that.”
Thomas was alerted to this job by offensive coordinator Blake Crutsinger and Thomas credited the guidance Crutsinger gave him for his coaching repertoire.
“He’s a great mentor of mine,” Thomas said. “When I first came in, I was pretty green as a football coach and he really helped me out there. I always knew that he might be the reason I got a head coaching job. He told me I had a pretty good shot at getting this. The fact that Polk was a college baseball and football player was something that absolutely drew me to coming here. It’s a great place to be.”
Stressing the need to dabble in all sports, Thomas said its crucial to not get pinned into one sport.
As far as his coaching philosophy, Thomas said everything can be boiled down to ‘attacking.’
“What I mean by that is you attack a hitter as a defensive player,” Thomas said. “You attack the baseball as a hitter. Defensively, I’m not going to do a bunch of shifts. They’ll be a lot of moving parts. I believe in giving our defense the best chance to field the baseball. Pitchers are going to attack the zone too.”
The Leopards also made a move into a newly-aligned District 11-4A with Anna, Aubrey, Celina, Melissa and Sanger.
Thomas said the subtraction of two powerhouse teams will be key towards the Leopards making a push to the playoffs.
Moreover, he is a big believer in wanting the Leopards to ‘restore the roar.’
“I know it’s going to be a tough district, but I know there is going to be a lot of parity in that district,” Thomas said. “We’re losing an Argyle and Decatur, who both had great seasons. They’re well-coached programs. Getting them out of the district and having a better opportunity at the playoffs is definitely something we’re excited about.”
Patrick Hayslip can be reached at email@example.com.