February 4, 2011 8:31:00 AM
Don''t waste time with Chris Rose.
If you do, the new East Mississippi Community College baseball coach will leave you behind, or at least start without you.
If he has to go ahead and you''re not there, he will let you know about it and make sure you''re not late again.
That''s just one of the guidelines Rose has set in taking over for Tony Montgomery as the Lions'' new coach. The Rose era at EMCC will begin at 2 p.m. today when EMCC faces Georgia Perimeter in the Kevin Miller Baseball Bash at Gulf Coast C.C. in Panama City, Fla. The three-day event also features Wallace State-Hanceville (Ala.), Andrew College (Ga.), Alabama Southern, and the host school.
"It''s something we''re all very excited about," Rose said. "We have been practicing for a long time and feel about as prepared as we can be at this point in time. We just need to go play somebody."
Rose spent the previous five seasons as head baseball coach at Meridian C.C. He guided the Eagles to a 186-93 and led the team to MACJC state championships in 2008 and 2006 and a NJCAA Region 23 title in 2009.
He said the job at EMCC has "re-invigorated" him. His goal is to make that energy and his attention to detail infectious. He admits it is a process, but he said the Lions are focused on winning the top of the first inning against Georgia Perimeter and taking small steps as they adopt the mind-set he hopes will transform the program.
"The biggest adjustment is making not only the big things but the small things important," Rose said. "We have a standard and goals we have set and we expect to live up to. The coaching staff and everyone will be held to that."
EMCC returns nine lettermen from a team that went 23-25 last season. Sophomores Hilton Gibson (New Hope High School), Mitch Bohon (Oak Hill Academy), and Tyler Aldridge (Caledonia High) will lead the offense.
Gibson led the team in batting average (.338) and was second on the team in RBIs (28). Bohon, a West Point native, led the team with seven home runs, 12 doubles and 33 RBIs. Aldridge, from Columbus, led EMCC with 34 runs. He hit .288 with 10 doubles and 22 RBIs.
On the mound, EMCC returns more than half of last year''s team wins. Kameron Heiser (West Lauderdale), Will Edwards (Kosciusko), and Justin Pritchett (Northeast Lauderdale) will lead the staff.
Rose set the tone from the first team meeting when several players were late. He helped the players come to an understanding that time is important, they''re going to be on time, and there needs to be a sense of urgency in everything the team does.
Assistant coach/pitching coach Michael Wallace is an extension of that attitude. A former pitching coach/recruiting coordinator at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, Wallace built a relationship with Rose the past two to three years at baseball camps. He said the opportunity to work with Rose to change a program and to be involved with Mississippi junior college baseball was too much to pass up.
"Coach Wallace wants us to dominate everything we do," Rose said. "We have brought that to the offensive and defensive side every minute of practice. It is important that the game is fun, but it is fun to win, and we expect to win every time."
Wallace takes that mind-set a step further when he breaks a game down. He said the Lions can''t afford to let up or to take one pitch off because that lapse can be the difference in a game. He said the players have bought into the attitude and are responding well.
"It is not an easy chore to do," Wallace said. "Nothing worth having, those goals or dreams that we set at the beginning, nobody said that part was going to be easy."
Rose wants to impress to the players it has to mean something to put on an EMCC baseball uniform. He will stress hustle on and off the field and taking care of the details because doing that will help produce a better product on the field. He, too, has been pleased with how the team has responded. He said the Lions have to be disciplined at the plate and will have to rely on a line-drive attack. He feels the team will have to run the bases well and to be solid defensively. If it can do that, he expects plenty of good things to happen.
"Everybody wants to be a part of something special," Rose said. "I hope these guys set the tone and this class will be remembered for getting it moving in the right direction."
EMCC will play at Bevill State (Feb. 11), Jones County (Feb. 12), and Copiah-Lincoln (Feb. 15) before playing its home opener at 1 p.m. Feb. 19 against reigning NJCAA Region 23 Tournament participant Pearl River C.C.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.