Former Bradwell Institute baseball player Jeff Polk once played and practiced under the leadership of his father and BI baseball coach, Rhett Hellgren. On Monday, Polk walked onto the Tigers’ field as the new baseball coach for the Bradwell boys.
“I have the same philosophy as the former coach obviously,” he said, with a chuckle. “It will be a little new school and a little old-school, but pretty much the same philosophy.”
Hellgren, who stepped away from baseball to concentrate on his duties as the Tigers’ basketball coach, said yielding the team to his son was something special.
“It makes me feel really happy for him,” Hellgren said. “He works hard, and I am very proud of what he has become.”
Polk said his father’s philosophy of concentration and intensity is at the forefront of how he plans to run the team.”
“I am looking forward to it,” Polk said Monday as he put the players through a series of drills. “I play to win, so I am going to best the nine guys out that I can possibly have to get the win.”
Polk has been around the Tiger baseball program for eight years and has played the sport for more than 20 years.
He recalled the days before his dad coached, saying Tiger baseball had some down years for quite awhile.
“The program was pretty bad before Hellgren took over, and he has turned it around and I just want to continue that,” he said, adding that he is proud to pick up where his father left off.
Hellgren said he offered a few words of encouragement and guidance in dealing with the players, staff and parents.
“I told him to be as consistent as you can,” Hellgren said. “Sometimes, they may not see it the way you do, but as long as you feel like you are making the best decision for the situation, you will be able to live with yourself.”
Hellgren admitted it will feel a bit weird watching the game from the other side of the fence.
“But it is fine with me right now,” he added.
Hellgren said the upcoming region changes will make things challenging.
“The change in the region will be tough at first, because the competition is a lot tougher,” Hellgren said. “I like it because we are going to have to get better, and when you play good teams day in and day out, you have to rise to the challenge.”
Polk admitted it will be a challenge, but said he has several returning players from last year who will get the job done.
“We only started one senior last year the rest were sophomores and juniors, which benefits us greatly this year,” Polk said. “They played a lot last year, they know what to expect and the game is coming to them naturally.”
While looking at the potential new players who showed up for practice and tryouts, Polk said he was seeking kids who are fundamentally sound.
“There are a lot of young guys here, and they look all right so far,” he said. “In the past, we had some safety issues, but now they look like they are fundamentally sound and that is all I am looking for from the younger guys.”
Returning players like Patrick Sage, Chris Nunn, Stephon Felton, Ryan Desbiens and Chris Bell lead the squad.
The Tigers scrimmage at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at Tattnall County.
They start their regular season with a 6 p.m. game Feb. 21 at Liberty County High School.