DENHAM SPRINGS - - Trave Hopkins is officially Denham Springs High’s new baseball coach.
DSHS athletic director and football coach Brett Beard made the announcement in an e-mail Wednesday morning.
Hopkins, who was an assistant coach last season with the Yellow Jackets, takes over for Mark Carroll. Hopkins has been in charge of the program since Carroll’s departure as coach.
“We’re really excited and ready to get to work,” Hopkins said. “It’s the history of (the program), the direction that it’s moving, the whole town, the community. It’s got pretty much all the recipe it needs for success. We’re excited to get it going.”
Hopkins, who played professionally in Sweden and in the Central Independent League and the Frontier Independent League, has never missed the playoffs as a head coach, leading Kossuth (Miss.) High to a state championship in 2014 and a state runner-up finish in 2015. He also coached at Clinton High, a Class 6A school in Mississippi, leading the program to three district championships.
“He is a huge addition with a wealth of knowledge and experience as well as the energy to get our program back to the top,” Beard said in the school’s announcement. “He is amazing with our athletes and what our young adults need in their lives as they grow and mature. The development of our athletes as young adults and baseball players was critical in this decision. Everything we have been lacking in our baseball program elevates with his addition as the head coach. The standard is the standard.”
Hopkins said the coaching transition has gone smoothly.
“It’s been fine,” he said. “I’ve gotten a ton of phone calls and sit-down meetings with people just excited to see which way the program’s moving,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
“Any time a new head coach comes in, things are typically a lot different,” Hopkins continued. “I imagine that will be the same way here. Coach Carroll did a good job when he was here, and I imagine there might be some things that are the same, and I imagine there’s going to be a lot of things that are different. That’s normal under any changing of the guard.”
“I wish (Coach) Carroll nothing but the best,” Hopkins continued. “He’s been here a long time, and he’s done a whole lot of stuff in his 20-something years here, but at the same time, I want this program to keep growing. He did a good job with it, but I want it to keep moving forward from here.”
There are some aspects of the program Hopkins said he’s working on, starting with getting the team on a strength program, which he said is already under way. He said the team maxed out last week and started the weight program this week.
“One of the things that sticks out pretty big is just the need to get in the weight room, so that’s our No. 1 priority right now,” Hopkins said. “Outside of them playing their games and competing out there, the one thing we’ve got to take care of on our side is the weight room. That’s getting bigger and getting stronger.”
“The kids seem excited,” Hopkins continued. “There’s a lot of room for growth, and it’s going to do nothing but help them.”
When asked about putting his own stamp on the program, Hopkins said that’s not his focus.
“I’m not really worried about me at all in any of this situation,” he said. “My whole thing is what can we do to get those boys bigger, faster and stronger? What can we do to get their swings better, and what can we do to get them better at defense? Like everything, what can we do to get them better? What can we do to get the community more involved in the baseball program and excited about the baseball program? What can we do to get more students excited about coming to watch baseball games.”
Hopkins, who joined the DSHS program last December, said the cupboard isn’t bare when it comes to talent in the DSHS program.
“The seniors that graduated, those were some good players, and they’re going to be tough to fill, but we did start a good bit of sophomores last year, and we’ve got some guys that are going to be seniors this year that are going to be, I think, big pieces of the puzzle,” Hopkins said. “Also, there’s some kids coming up that I’ve seen through this Metro (season) that are going to be 10th graders that might even can press some kids like the sophomores last year did. It’s a good crop of kids.”
He said the program has 49 players in grades 10 through 12, and he’s using the Metro League season to evaluate those players.
“What we’re doing right now with the Metro is, we’re splitting them up into two JV teams and two varsity teams,” he said. “That way, everybody plays when they’re there for that game. That way I can evaluate them a little bit better instead of them just playing one inning because there’s so many kids.”
Hopkins said there’s also a certain style of play he’s expecting from the program.
“Excitement, energy, playing it the right way,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. We’re going to play hard. It’s not going to be a boring brand of baseball. We’re going to play the game the way you’re supposed to play it.”
“I’m real excited to see what these kids can grow to do and be, even if it’s more than just baseball,” Hopkins continued. “That’s the biggest thing is how many of them can be good daddies and everything else when they get older.”