By T. Scott Boatright
New Ruston High School head baseball coach Zack Smith was introduced to RHS players and their families on Thursday during a press conference at the RHS Auditorium.
“When we opened this position up after Coach White decided he was going to retire, we knew we were going to draw a lot of interest, and we did,” said RHS Principal Dan Gressett in opening the press conference. “There were a lot of very qualified candidates from all over the state. We interviewed several good candidates. And at the end of the day a coach who’s been on our staff for five years, a coach that won four state championships as a head coach before coming to us, and a coach that can build on the success that Toby White had was our man.
“This guy is obviously invested in the Ruston community. He’s invested in Ruston High School and we’re excited to have him as our next baseball coach.”
Smith, who has been an assistant for Bearcats baseball for five years and is the former head coach at Forest High School, where he won four state championships and was runner-up another year, then took the microphone to address those in attendance.
“This opportunity means a lot to me and my family and I’m going to make this program the highest standard we can at Ruston High School,” Smith said. “I want to thank Coach White for allowing me five years ago to be a part of his staff and instilling the Christian values and beliefs in his program that I truly believe in. I truly want to build on that success he’s laid here at Ruston High School.”
Smith admitted there will be some nuances he’ll add to the RHS baseball program.
“I want to say to the parents and players there’s going to be some change,” Smith said. “I pray that you welcome the change. I also believe that I’m going to make you be your best. I’m going to make you accountable. I’m going to make sure you have energy and enthusiasm. And I’m going to make sure you’re selfless and that you’re going to show toughness. Those are going to be the principles here for the Ruston High baseball program.”
And he left no doubt what his ultimate goals are as the new head baseball coach at Ruston High.
“It’s been since 1967 — 54 years ago, that this high school has won a state championship in baseball,” Smith said. “My coaching staff and I are going to do everything we can to change that. … I can’t wait to get to the work of accomplishing our mission of serving the young men of Ruston High School.”
After the press conference Smith explained his plans in more detail.
“I definitely wanted this job — it’s something I’ve worked for since I got into coaching,” Smith said of coaching at the Class 5A level. I thought the process went well. I thought I had a good plan coming in and I presented that plan and I’m looking forward to helping develop players from the junior high through the varsity level. I just want to serve the kids here at Ruston High School.”
Smith thanked White for the opportunity to join the RHS staff five years ago.
“Toby is a guy who’s really disciplined and believes in the weight room and wants the kids to be accountable,” Smith said. “He’s a family guy — a very good guy and I truly do appreciate him and the success he’s had here. I’m just looking to build upon it.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work — a lot of time, a lot of sacrifice from the players and from the coaching staff and a lot of energy,” Smith said. “I’m looking forward to trying to make that happen.”
And he explained some of the changes he has planned for the RHS baseball program.
“I just think I need to put my stamp culturally on the program,” Smith said. “Toby did things his way. And I’m going to add some new ideas and new ways of doing things.
“Forest was a great experience and taught me that you have to develop from the sixth-grade level all the way up to the 12th-grade level. We didn’t have the athletes 1-9 like we might have here at Ruston High, so I had to learn how to develop each kid in order to be successful. We’ve implemented a Cats organization where we do instructional practices for the younger kids. And I want to get involved with the junior high and implement my plans to them also.”