Article Comment 

New Hope's future in baseball uncertain


Adam Minichino



The blank Web page might be an omen for the New Hope High School baseball program. 


At 3 p.m. Saturday, the page on the New Hope High sports and school booster site carried a message "Nothing to See Here Move Along." 


The absence of any information on the baseball program''s page comes after Lowndes County School District Superintendent Mike Halford recommended Friday that New Hope High baseball coach Stacy Hester not be retained after his at-will agreement ends June 30. 


The decision, which the Lowndes County School board backed with a 5-0 vote, means the future of one of the state''s most successful programs is uncertain. 


Assistant coaches Chris Ball, who is married to Hester''s daughter, Jennifer, and assistant coach Steve Younger aren''t certified as teachers and likely wouldn''t be considered for the now vacant job as the school''s baseball coach. 


Ball didn''t return a message Saturday seeking comment, while Younger declined to comment Saturday, saying he didn''t want to get involved in the issue. 


Second-year coach Billy Ray Lee said hadn''t talked to Hester and declined to comment. 


First-year assistant coach Eric Guerrero is certified as a teacher, but he said he isn''t sure if he will return next season as a coach for the baseball team. 


Guerrero said he doesn''t know if Hester''s absence will affect the tradition rich New Hope program, but he thanked Hester for giving him an opportunity to join the coaching staff. 


"I enjoyed working with coach Hester this year and I have learned a lot from his years of experience in high school baseball," Guerrero said. 


As an employee in the county school district, Guerrero declined to make any other comment. He said the hiring of the next coach would play a role in his ability and decision to remain a member of the baseball team''s coaching staff. 


New Hope won 551 games in Hester''s 18 years as coach. It won state titles in 1996, ''98, and 2003, six North Half state titles, advanced to nine Final Fours since 1995, and was nationally ranked seven times. 


In addition, the Trojans in 1996 set a national record and a state of Mississippi record for wins went they went 43-0. In 1996-97, New Hope won 51 consecutive games, including 68 straight against teams from the state of Mississippi. 


Amy Buckley, the wife of Lowndes County School District Board President Dr. Robert Buckley and whose son, Jake Smith, is a rising senior on the baseball team, said she is ready to move on and that she and her family want to put the issue behind them. 


"We just want to play baseball," Buckley said. 


Buckley said she looked into the possibility of Jake playing his senior year at Heritage Academy. She also said the family considered buying a home in Amory, but she said her son, who is 17, decided he wanted to remain at New Hope High no matter what happened to coach Hester. She said she was willing to accept his decision. 


As for the recommendation not to retain Hester, Buckley believes it won''t negatively affect the team. 


"I think this is best for New Hope baseball," Buckley said. "I think next year you''ll see a team that is ready to play the game of baseball. I am all for discipline, and strict discipline, but not for berating and belittling constantly. I think this is a special team that played together since they were 7-years old, and has won since they were 7-years old. It is a very tight-knit group. I think New Hope baseball next year will go as far if not farther than it did this year based on the players'' heart and their love of baseball."  


New Hope (25-11) lost to eventual Class 4A state champion West Lauderdale in the third game of the best-of-three North Half state title series. 


Starkville High School coach Danny Carlisle enjoyed his team''s matchups against New Hope. He said Hester always had the Trojans prepared and ready to give 100 percent. 


"Every time you faced a New Hope team with Stacy as coach you knew it was going to be a battle and a struggle to win," Carlisle said. "Stacy is a good baseball man. He''s added a lot to that program and that community. He''s been the face of New Hope baseball for 18 years. Somebody who works as hard as he does and has been National Coach of the Year and had the National Field of the Year one year, he has done a lot. 


"We all have our faults, and I''m sure a lot of people don''t like me. I don''t know the details of what went on there, but it was really unfortunate." 


Former New Hope High baseball player Chris Herring, who played for Hester in 1992 and ''93 and who has a nephew, Philip Tice, on the current New Hope High team, said all people in the New Hope community can do now is support the next coach just like they did 18 years ago when Hester took over as coach. 


He said it is disappointing that a group of people can get together and influence someone like Halford, who he said is supposed to be smarter than that, to make a decision not to retain Hester. 


"New Hope is a tight clique community, and baseball is a big part of that," Herring said. "They''re going to find a good replacement. We just have to support him and keep on winning. I am disappointed like tons of other people, but just because we have lost this one fight doesn''t mean we keep causing turmoil because all it does is drag the program down. Our elected officials spoke for us, and whether we like it or not we have to abide by it."  


Mike McReynolds, whose son, Will, was a senior on this season''s team, also declined to comment for this story. 




Commercial Dispatch assistant sports editor Danny P. Smith contributed to this report. 



Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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Reader Comments

Article Comment baseball parent commented at 6/14/2009 1:46:00 PM:

What about the vulgar language shouted out by a certain Dr's wife. Should we not have her barred from the field for being a bad influence on the kids. I guess she does want to put it behind her, she is the biggest reason we no longer have our coach. Mr Younger should not comment, when you have the knife in your hand you used to stab Hester in the back with. Why don't these to move to another scholl and bring Hester back.


Article Comment Sam I Am commented at 6/14/2009 5:19:00 PM:

There is one certainty for New Hope baseball in the future...the kids have a chance to enjoy baseball now.


Article Comment Ryan Cornelius commented at 6/14/2009 7:25:00 PM:

You know... I haven't said much here about this story since I live in Orlando, and haven't been home to New Hope in 15 years. But I have been reading all about this.

I think the text I quote below pretty much nails the coffin on what happened to Coach Hester. Since I never played for Coach Hester, I am sure I can be objective about this... Emphasis is mine.

"Amy Buckley, the WIFE of Lowndes County School District Board President Dr. Robert Buckley and whose SON, Jake Smith, is a RISING SENIOR on the baseball team, said she is ready to move on and that she and her family want to put the issue behind them.

"We just want to play baseball," Buckley said. Buckley said she looked into the possibility of Jake playing his senior year at HERITAGE ACADEMY (WHAT!?!?!?). She also said the family considered buying a home in Amory."

You know, this says so much about this whole situation. First - that the Dispatch would talk to the wife of the President of the School board makes it seem as though she is intimately familiar with the situation. Almost as though she was the one leading the charge. From down here in Orlando, it looks like the parents of Lowndes County School District have been done a disservice.

From here it looks as though the Lowndes County School District Board President Dr. Robert Buckley is under the thumb of his wife.

From here it looks as though Amy Buckley was going to move her rising senior son to a private school if Coach Hester wasn't removed.

From here I would ask why someone who is supposed to support the kids of Lowndes County would suddenly decide that a private school is better for their child than the school district he works for?

If I were a parent in Lowndes County right now with a child in any of the three high schools, I would seriously consider if my ELECTED officials were the ones officiating. Or perhaps it is the spouse of the elected official that is really calling the shots.

I am sure Ms. Amy Buckley is ready to move on now that it appears she has gotten her husband to do her bidding...

Why is it the Lowndes County School Board wont release all the information they have regarding their decision? If it is the best interest of the children, and Coach Hester doesn't seem to mind talking about it in public, then why haven't they been forthcoming with this information that Mike Halford has eluded to in the article posted on this website a couple of days ago. "Halford echoed that sentiment and said he made his recommendation based on information and data he had collected. He said he and the board have access to information that is "far greater" than people know, and that he doesn't listen an awful lot to grown-ups who complain about things." (Commercial Dispatch June 13) As an elected official - as all the board members are - they are beholden to the people who elected them. If Hester doesn't mind talking about it in public, then I believe the public has a right to know.

But wait... From the same article Halford says: "'If it wasn't one it had to be more than one,' said Halford, who planned to call Hester to notify him of the decision. He said he wouldn't discuss his reasons with Hester on the telephone." So now the board wont even talk to Hester about all the reasons the decision was based on. Hester states as much in the same article. "It would be nice if I had a reason why I am not being retained and people would not hide behind titles and let people behind the scenes (determine my fate)," Hester said.

Are the members of the Lowndes County School Board ashamed that it would appear they have been kowtowed into a decision by the wife of the school board president if the real reason for the termination was reveled?

Buckley said there was "no deviousness" involved in the decision not to retain Hester. I will let the voters decide how to take that comment. From the comments his wife is making is sure doesn't appear that way to me from here. A non-explanation termination. No previous action plans in Coach Hesters file. A mother that wants to send her child to a private school instead of the school district her husband works for...
"Sometimes the right thing is not the most popular thing," Buckley said of the decision. "We all try to serve the taxpayers and the parents of the kids (of Lowndes County)."

If I were still a taxpayer and a parent in Lowndes County you would not be serving me much longer. Neither would the other seemingly weak individuals that make up the current structure of the Lowndes County School Board. And since when did serving the kids of Lowndes County take a back seat?

Listen to the dedication and commitment of your superintendent...

(Commercial Dispatch June 13) Halford also was unsure how his decision might affect his ability to win an election for another term as school superintendent. He said he didn't know if he would seek re-election when his term expires Dec. 31, 2011.
"If someone determines in 2011 this is a reason not to vote for Mike Halford as superintendent, I have no problem with that," Halford said. "I was looking for a job when I found this one."

I was looking for a job when I found this one... Can you imagine if a coach at any of the high schools in Lowndes County had the nerve to say that? You have to have more heart and pride in your work than to say something a weak as that.

I am hoping the Parents, the Taxpayers, and the Voters of Lowndes County keep this in mind next time they decide who is going to be protecting their children from someone like Coach Hester... A school board president who would consider sending his child to a private school. A superintendent that appears not to care about his district in so much so that he is always looking for a job. And other school board members that appear not to have a mind of their own when it comes to standing up to the President and his wife.


Article Comment NH Parent commented at 6/14/2009 11:50:00 PM:

Wow Ryan, you beat it all. Basing all your comments and decisions on a paper that has chosen to tell only what Hester wants out there. The thing with Amy Buckley was a thing of the past but he is the one who couldn't let it go. He needed some type of distraction from the truth and she was his best shot. Well, it didn't work. Mike Halford did his job and the board voted. Get over it.

You haven't got a clue at what has really happened within that program over the years. It got out of hand and the coach lost total control of himself in the dugout. About 15-20 players wrote what they saw, not the story the Tice family was telling after Hester met with them. This was handed to the administration and the process to terminate the baseball coach was completed. I might say that he was terminated based on what the boys saw during the altercation, not because he used the word stupid. When 3 or 4 players have to hold a player back from jumping on the coach because of what he was doing to his teammate and friend, it's time for that ADULT to get out of dodge. Putting your hands on a kid in a fit of frustration is a no-no at any school in this nation.

Before you make such a fool out of yourself again, get the facts straight and for God's sake don't believe everything you read in a newspaper.


Article Comment Former player commented at 6/15/2009 12:23:00 AM:

Somebody please help Amy Buckley pack her stuff up and move out of town. Idiot. And "NH Parent", Birney Imes (the editor of this paper), pubicly supported the board's decision to not retain Hester so what you talking about the paper only reporting what Hester wants???? Before you make a FOOL out of YOURSELF again, get the facts straight. Idiot. If you people want your kids to play for a coach that sings kumbaya at practices while everyone holds hands then go somewhere else.


Article Comment Sam I Am commented at 6/15/2009 12:53:00 AM:

Or they could just get a new coach like they did. Amy Buckley stood up to the guy like most people won't. I commend her for it. Hester's arrogance finally bit him in the rear.


Article Comment bryan commented at 6/15/2009 1:01:00 AM:

this Amy buckley sure sounds like a piece of work. when everyone else says "no comment"...she doesnt mind to talk to the media. and NH parent...its hard to "get the facts straight" when nobody is commenting except the newspaper is the only place to try to get the facts. but i dont agree with a coach getting in a altercation with a player. but i dont know all the facts either.


Article Comment bryan commented at 6/15/2009 1:04:00 AM:

this Amy buckley sure sounds like a piece of work. when everyone else says "no comment"...she doesnt mind to talk to the media. and NH parent...its hard to "get the facts straight" when nobody is commenting except the newspaper is the only place to try to get the facts. but i dont agree with a coach getting in a altercation with a player. but i dont know all the facts either.


Article Comment hk commented at 6/15/2009 10:48:00 AM:

the altercation was between a coach and a player.. they are past was not something worth messing up so many lives over. I have never seen a coach that has not yelled at a kid. I have seen t-ball coaches lose their cool! No one that the school can find to work for them---will have a clear slate of never yelling at a kid! There is not a coach alive that has not.. so--good luck New Hope --trying to find someone to work in your soap opera.. good luck--you will finally be NO HOPE now.. are you proud of what you have done to this man? Drama.. gossip.. you should all be ashamed and as for the school board--elections are coming up.. I hope the community will remember this.. politics! Drama and Gossip.. you have lost sight of the real point.. A winning coach--a man's JOB!! I hope you are all proud.. Coach Hester--I do not have a say--but if I did--you would still be working..


Article Comment politics rule the day commented at 6/15/2009 10:55:00 AM:

Who will be the next COACH??? Batts, Chism, Montgomery, Adams????? I think I know who'll it'll be because today politics rule the world!!!!! I think the coach will be from where one incident occured????? guess who????


Article Comment Ryan Cornelius commented at 6/15/2009 11:06:00 AM:

What exactly should I base my opinion on? Hearsay and gossip? I am just telling you what it looks like from my perspective since I live in Orlando FLORIDA, and can only get my information from a newspaper, and not from the gossip mongers in NEW HOPE...

And show some pride and respectability in your comments by posting your name next time. Otherwise you are just another anonymous nobody that is afraid to stand up like the Lowndes County School board that wont even tell Coach Hester why he is being terminated.


Article Comment Politics Rule commented at 6/15/2009 11:59:00 AM:

Maybe we can get Amy Buckley to be the head coach and have her husband as an assistant cause she is wearing the pants in that family. I guess we all know who the pitching coach can be, Steve Younger. Watch for the knife in the back Amy, its been done in the past.....Let's see what happens when Amy starts foul mouthing the players like she has done at games. What a class act..


Article Comment Sam I Am commented at 6/15/2009 1:40:00 PM:

Politics are talking about class and then you start bashing people? Is that your definition of class?


Article Comment CEE commented at 6/15/2009 5:16:00 PM:

I hope the "new coach" at New Hope understands that some players better play, even if they stike out looking, or commit errors that puts runners in scoring positions, it is going to be ok 'cause they really didn't mean to do it and they are the best player (s) on the team. So "New Coach" shouldn't hurt their feelings by telling them they did a poor job today 'cause most of the time they do a pretty good job..... sounds stupid doesn't it?
Parents need to let the coaches coach and the players play, period. In programs that are competitive every year, the players that play ARE the best on the team and the ones that work the hardest. The teams that win are the ones that have tough standards and if you can't take it as a player or parent, then find another school that is more suited to your needs, like Heritage Academy.
I have seen Coach Hester from the other side of the field on many occasions watching as my husband's team faced his New Hope team. I see a coach that expects the best of his players and is very passionate about the game. Isn't that what makes him a good coach? It is a shame for the kids that it has come to this and a shame for the program. Best wishes to Coach Hester and his family and also to the kids that play baseball at New Hope.
And one more thought... Did Mrs. Buckley actually stand up in the stands and yell what was listed in an earlier post??? WOW .....If so....what a lady!


Article Comment NH Parent commented at 6/15/2009 5:54:00 PM:

We totally agree that the best 9 should be on the field, we are all for discipline in every aspect but does your husband call his players 'Gutless peices of s---"! Tell seniors no one at the next level wants them because they are pathetic? Does he scream the P word? Throw a kid in dugout? And to answer your good question, No Mrs. Buckley did not yell any wrong words. She said 'Don't say stupid coach" after he yanked the kid's hat around to spit in his face. He made a scene, even threw bats and broke a players iphone. I saw the child's mom (Bogue) crying her eyes out. Weeks later Mr. Bogue called Mrs. Buckley a "hero" said no one had ever taken up for his sons. This paper is so bias we want her to tell all !!! We are behind her 100%. Any new Coach will be better than the one we just got rid of!!


Article Comment NH Parent commented at 6/15/2009 5:55:00 PM:

We totally agree that the best 9 should be on the field, we are all for discipline in every aspect but does your husband call his players 'Gutless peices of s---"! Tell seniors no one at the next level wants them because they are pathetic? Does he scream the P word? Throw a kid in dugout? And to answer your good question, No Mrs. Buckley did not yell any wrong words. She said 'Don't say stupid coach" after he yanked the kid's hat around to spit in his face. He made a scene, even threw bats and broke a players iphone. I saw the child's mom (Bogue) crying her eyes out. Weeks later Mr. Bogue called Mrs. Buckley a "hero" said no one had ever taken up for his sons. This paper is so bias we want her to tell all !!! We are behind her 100%. Any new Coach will be better than the one we just got rid of!!


Article Comment Cee commented at 6/15/2009 8:13:00 PM:

My point is this, Coach Hester has been the same since he first started coaching, right? It just seems to me he has had great teams and players come through his program and I am sure many of those players played for him by choice. If not then they found other schools. At some point his coaching style became unpopular, maybe it was unpopular for a long time, but it took until now for something to change? It appears that this year, there were people who decided there needed to be a change. When it was their child and they were in a position to have something done, it happened with the non-renewing of coach Hester's contract as baseball coach. In reality, I have to wonder if the parents thought because of their position in the community or what they have done for the program, made their child immune to the cussing when you mess up. Seems from what I have read on postings, that there were parents that were friends with the coaching staff, and thought maybe their child wouldn't ever get that cussing when he messed up.
I have noticed in my years as a coach's wife, that parents love you when it is thier child that is playing, getting praise, or getting write ups in the paper, colleges looking at them, etc. But when they have a bad game, bad year, the excuses start and the blame. As for my husband, no I don't think that he as ever used those words when talking with a player. But I do know that sometimes things are said to get a reaction out of a player, make him work harder, try harder. Maybe not what a parent wants to hear, but you know sometimes players are lazy, they don't go the extra mile all the time, and they need a little something to get'em going.
If you really mean that the new coach will have full rein to do with the program what needs to be done, then that is great. Just hope he isn't any worse.


Article Comment baseballparent commented at 6/15/2009 8:55:00 PM:

Amy this is not park baseball. When you reach this level you play when you earn the right to play and not PAY TO PLAY. Do you think every kid should have to listen to you vulgar mouth every time you get mad? Grow up and get over it!!!


Article Comment Sam I Am commented at 6/15/2009 9:10:00 PM:

I would expect people who support someone as arrogant and classless as Hester to come on here and act classless themselves....which is what you see in most of the posts.


Article Comment New Hope Parent Also commented at 6/15/2009 9:39:00 PM:

Someone took off my previous post, Fact, This great lady that some of you are praising is the same person that threaten last year to move her child to Amory because he didn't get enough palying time. She has admitted to trying to persuade her son to go play his senior year at Amory and Heritage. But like most liberals think she was just trying to help the program and these kids have played together since they were 7 years old. Was she going to pay for the whole team to play at Amory or Heritage? Don't be a Cool Aid drinker. She is a real team player.


Article Comment NHBB Parent commented at 6/15/2009 11:24:00 PM:

New Hope Parent. You must be a newby to NH baseball cause I remember last year she had a son who won every award at baseball banquet. So, get off your Kool-aid . This year son #2 never missed an inning so what else you got?


Article Comment the man commented at 6/16/2009 12:49:00 AM:

To New Hope Parent Also:

You copied and pasted a premium article to a free site that is only available by subscription. Please do not do that again.

the man


Article Comment meme commented at 6/16/2009 11:57:00 AM:

Ok, I'm tired of seeing everyone bash Coach Hester. I know he is not perfect, but neither are any of you. I'm sure little Johnny has heard worse at home from you. Maybe not..but if you have spent any time at the games, you know AMY BUCKLEY has 10 times the foul mouth as ANY man. Why is she allowed to even sit in on any games. She is one classy lady..ha..I can say Dr. Buckley you got you one fine woman there..Also, not only me, but have heard many say, they will find a new Dr. You and Mike Halford are a joke. Mike even stated in the paper how his boy came out a better person after playing for Hester. In the next sentence he is doing what is best for the kids..He is constantly contridicting himself. He might as well forget running again..who wants a coward in his position. We want a MAN..not a coward. This NH program will go downhill..Mark my word. These poor kids. How embarrassing that you have a mom or dad running your coach in the ground. Let the boys grow up..I am sick and tired of everyone bashing the man who put NH on the map. I feel for the person who tries to step in his shoes..


Article Comment Leeroy Jenkins commented at 6/16/2009 12:46:00 PM:

Offer the job to Tony Montgomery.


Article Comment ted richards commented at 6/16/2009 2:02:00 PM:

stacy got a raw deal. i think the voters of this county need to look at hiring a new board of education completely. why can't people sign their names to all these e-mails or are they to ashamed to? stacy if there is anything i can do for you feel free to ask. my name is on this e-mail


Article Comment baseballparent commented at 6/16/2009 2:43:00 PM:

Sounds to me like some of you are current or past parents with sour grapes that your little boys were not good enough to start at New Hope. Why not fire everyone in the school system that has said or done anything that goes against the politically correct world. That would mean that we would have very few left in the system. Sam I Am you are a joke and sound like you or yours needs a baby bottle and diaper. Grow up and get in the real world, life is not a cake walk and there will always be someone to get on you are your precious child


Article Comment What next? commented at 6/16/2009 3:58:00 PM:

Over the past several months as this tragedy has unfolded may people have been hurt by peoples actions and words. I would like to say that Coach Hester and his entire family has showed great class during this. Coach Ball still stands out there coaching those kids and Coach Hester's daughters tend to the concession stand. I think I would have told all the Hester haters to run it yourself and let them have it. Maybe that's why I'm not a coach. My hat is off to you and the way you and your family have handled all this under the current situation. I wish you the best and your family the best cause you will get through this. As far as the ones that caused this and pushed it to the end, please go somewhere else. To see you out there watching games and knowing what you did makes me really question who you think you are and how great your child is. I just hope the kids don't turn out like a lot of the moms and dad's..


Article Comment NH Parent commented at 6/18/2009 1:08:00 AM:

Coach Ball still stands out there and coaches because that is what he gets PAID to do during the summer. The Hester girls also get PAID to run the concession stand. That has always been their summer job so it's not like they are doing anything above and beyond what they have always done. I know of one summer coach who left because he wasn't getting paid for working his tail off. Hester's contract doesn't end until June 30th, but that has nothing to do with the summer program. That is strictly volunteer for those who work it and an easy way for his kids and friends who are disabled to make money during the summer. Just remember that when those lights are on every night of the week, you are paying for those, not the summer program who is using them.


Article Comment ls commented at 6/18/2009 8:08:00 AM:

NH Parent you are pathetic. Please get a life and quit spending your time on this message board trying to counter every positive comment. You are ridiculous!!!


Article Comment Just another day in NH commented at 6/18/2009 8:40:00 AM:

I believe it was all personal vendetta - have you seen the way the softball coach treats the softball girls - if it wasn't personal against Coach Hester then she would be out on her butt as well.


Article Comment Gotta Say It commented at 6/18/2009 6:12:00 PM:

NHPARENT, You want to talk about Coach Hester getting on to the boys. You should hear how some of the parents/ADULTS speak to and treat the girls in the concession stand, who are also just children. The girls are yelled at, cursed at and belittled, by the many of the same ones who are so against Coach Hester. Talk about hypocrisy! How about some of the parents take the concession stand and stay in there for 12 to 16 hours, having to hear people gripe. I guess what it comes downn to is that it won't be Coach Hester's concern or the concern of his family and friends. HMMM, who's going to work next summer, if there is a Dizzy Dean at New Hope? If you believe in fairytales then I think a lot of the sweet people who wanted Coach Hester gone are going to step up to the plate and take care of the things around the field. (NOT)) We shall see and I for one can't wait.


Article Comment Sam I Am commented at 6/18/2009 7:12:00 PM:

I'm sure New Hope will be fine. There are only hundreds of other high schools in MS that run baseball programs. Hester didn't invent it.


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