June 13, 2013 11:19:18 AM
STARKVILLE -- Travis Garner is coming home.
A 1999 graduate of Starkville Academy, Garner is set to return to the Golden Triangle after being named the new head baseball coach at Starkville High School. The Starkville School District Board of Trustees approved the hiring of Garner on Tuesday night.
"This is a premier opportunity," Garner said. "Anyone would look forward to the chance to come home. It is about so much more than that. This is a baseball community. The support for athletics at Starkville High is through the roof. This is a great opportunity to become part of that."
Garner replaces Brian Jones, who resigned last month after one season to take a head coaching position at Pearl High. In his one season, a young Starkville High squad finished 16-15 and advanced to the Mississippi High School Activities Association's Class 5A playoffs.
At the time of Jones' hiring, Starkville High Athletics Director Dr. Stan Miller said Jones was the right choice for the long term, and was someone who would bring stability to the program. Now he is asking the same of Garner.
"What he brings is a tremendous college career and a great coaching career," Miller said. "He has been a winner in everything he does."
Miller said 15 candidates were interviewed for the job. A season ago, Jones was hired to replace Danny Carlisle, who led Starkville for 29 years and has the school's baseball field named in his honor. Starkville won state championships in 1986, 1987, and 1991.
Garner grew up in Starkville, so he knows all about the Yellow Jackets' tradition, which is why he was excited about the opportunity. After graduating from Starkville Academy, Garner had a standout career at Meridian Community College and at the University of Alabama. As a senior, Garner led Alabama to a second straight Southeastern Conference tournament championship and hit .365 with a team-best 88 base hits.
A professional career followed with the Kansas City Royals organization. As his playing stint ended, Garner's desire to coach intensified and was influenced by former Alabama coach Jim Wells.
Garner returned to the Capstone and coached nine seasons at Northridge High School (the former Tuscaloosa Central). While at Northridge, Garner and his staff had five consecutive 20-win seasons, including a 24-win campaign this year. The Jaguars lost in the third round of the Alabama High School Activities Association's Class 6A playoffs.
At Starkville, Garner will return a battle-tested squad. With few seniors on the roster, the Yellow Jackets battled back from a 7-11 start to win a series in the play-in round of the playoffs.
In 2014, Starkville High will move up to Class 6A.
"We want to build the program the right way from the ground up," Garner said. "We want to restore the tradition and add to it. We want the former players to be involved in our program. We want people through the community to take pride in what we are doing."
"The athletic tradition at Starkville High is incredible. We are going to put a hard-working, disciplined team on the field, which will hopefully be able to contribute to that tradition right away."