New coach preps for upcoming season

Andrew Clausen

Moving to a new school and taking over an unfamiliar baseball team that is coming off an impressive 41-win season might seem daunting.

But for newly appointed head coach Billy Jones, it is a challenge he is up for.

“People told me I was crazy to take this job,” Jones said. “You never want to take a job after they had the best year in the history of the program. But, at the same time, I love that challenge. That part doesn’t bother me at all. I want to build a program. Something that, year in and year out, App is somebody that people have to deal with.”

Jones joined Appalachian over the summer after spending the last 15 years as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State University and at North Carolina State University before that. While Jones is just beginning to build relationships with the players and new recruits on this team, he’s also learning the nuances of head coaching.

“Coach Jones is more of a guy you can go up to and talk to – his door is always open,” senior Hector Crespo said. “Coach Pollard was a great coach too, but coach Jones is a guy that is going to let us take it to the next level.”

But Jones is not the only one on this team with big shoes to fill from last year’s season.

A lot of talent and leadership was lost from last year, some of which will compete for spots on major league clubs this spring.

“These guys have to develop their identity,” Jones said. “Last year’s club was last year’s club; they had an identity. They had some older guys that were also coaches on the field… we have guys here that might have not had that role and are trying to develop that role, and develop their identity and how they’re going to get guys to respond. That’s a process.”

Two key players from last year’s historic season, however, will return and are looking to fill the void left by the seniors who moved on.

Second baseman Crespo and preseason All-American shortstop Will Callaway will be the anchors for the Mountaineer’s starting line up.

“I’m excited to be a leader this year,” Crespo said. “We had some great guys leave, but they left their legacy and I’m just trying to build off that and continue the winning streak here and just everyday increase my role as a leader.”

The Mountaineers first test of the season will be against one of Coach Jones’ old programs, N.C. State. The three-game series will commence Friday, Feb. 15 in Raleigh.

Story: JORDAN DAVIS, Sports Reporter