The Long County Blue Tide baseball team just wrapped up a historic 2021 season in which they finished the year 17-14 and advanced to the Elite Eight. The team has consistently gotten better over the last four years and their success, no matter the attribution, can be traced back to one man: head coach James Hobbs.
Prior to Hobbs’s arrival, the Blue Tide baseball team had made the playoffs once in 2015 and only three total times since 2003. Since 2018, the team has made the playoffs every season, with exception to the 2020 season where the Tide was 14-1 and ranked number two in the state before the Covid-19 pandemic shut the season down.
“Just hard work. We work hard, we’re consistent, and working hard starts in the summer in the weightlifting program we do and the summer ball,” he said as he also credited the administration’s support. “The admin’s done a real good job of making sure that we have all the baseball players in weightlifting class starting in August so we work out all through the fall and during the season and get their commitment. They’re committed.”
Taking over a struggling program like the Blue Tide had been before 2018 can be challenging. Hobbs knows that and he said the biggest thing was trying to get the guys to know how to finish games and eventually winning big games “got contagious.”
“When I first got here, they didn’t even understand what winning was,” Hobbs said. “They hadn’t been very successful, so we scheduled, my first couple of years, not easy, but against teams that we could beat if we played good. As each year went on, our schedule got tougher and tougher to where we are competing and playing with good baseball teams all the time...We started winning big ball games, started beating good teams.”
On the flip side, Hobbs specifically pointed out the parents as being a big part of the team being able to turn things around. He also mentioned how it is “fun coming to work every day.”
“...working with kids who want to get better. They’re fun to be around,” Hobbs said as he also talked about the parents and their support. “ I can’t brag enough on the parents. A lot of baseball parents are sometimes over the top, but the ones here have been nothing but supportive.”
The Blue Tide baseball team will lose five talented seniors, four of whom have made consistent contributions to the varsity squad since at least their sophomore years. However, Hobbs knows that as long as they continue to stay the course and with a staff of great coaches the team should be able to compete in the 2022 season as well.
“Just keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve got a system here and it shows that it works. I don’t see a reason to change anything,” Hobbs said. “I’ve had great coaches here that have helped me all along. Coach (Tyler) Chambless and Coach (Trevor) Bryant has been with us every year since I’ve been here. We’ve had Coach (Brandon) Purcell and Coach (Matthew) Brown. Good coaches will help and good kids that will work hard and buying into the system that we are building.”
The Tide fell to Franklin County, the eventual state runners-up, in the Elite Eight of the 2021 AAA state playoffs. In their run, the Tide was on the road for all three series and Hobbs said his goal since coming here was to win a region title and host a playoff game, something that the Tide have not done since 2003.
“We want to host a playoff game,” Hobbs said. “We want to win the region one year, but we just really want to host a playoff game. That’s been my goal since I’ve been here to host and have a shot at winning a region title.”
With a large class of seniors and many starters returning for the 2022 season, it is not hard to believe that the Blue Tide baseball team will have success again. With Hobbs at the helm, the Tide should continue to turn in their favor.