Gabe Woods is leaving is alma mater.
Woods, a former Albany High baseball player who has been the program’s head coach the past three seasons, stepped down last Friday.
Woods said he’s taking a job as a volunteer assistant coach at St. Thomas Aquinas in Hammond, but will finish out the school year teaching at Albany.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet thing,” Woods said. “My lifelong plans were to retire from Albany in 30-something years and hopefully leave it a better place than I found it,” Woods said. “It’s a great opportunity with (STA coach) Cole (Catalano), and I’m excited to get started.”
Albany principal Kim Freeman confirmed Wednesday former Hornets coach David Pittman will coach the Albany team for the upcoming 2020 season.
Adding Woods gives St. Thomas Aquinas a decided Southeastern Louisiana feel to its coaching staff with Woods, Catalano and his brother Chad, a former head coach at Newman and Northlake Christian, all having played for the Lions in college. Chad Catalano and Woods will be assistants for the Falcons, along with Logan Lamarca.
Cole Catalano also coached Woods when he was a member of the Bill Hood travel baseball team during Woods’ senior season at Albany. Woods signed with Ole Miss, where he played as a freshman, before transferring to Meridian Community College then Southeastern.
“Me and coach Cole kind of coach a lot of the same way,” Woods said. “We have a couple of different philosophies on certain things, but most things, we’re pretty much right on track with each other.”
Cole Catalano said that familiarity can only help the STA program.
“My system’s kind of the same as Gabe’s, and it’s going to be the same as my brother’s – different terminologies -- but we all coach the same way,” he said. “We play at that fast pace. We want those gritty guys that will run through walls. We’re going to steal bases. We really rely on pitching and defense, because the runs, at the end of the day, are always going to be there. We’re going find a way to score, but we’re really going to harp on the pitching and defense part of it.
“We’re very familiar, all three of us, with our coaching styles,” Catalano continued. “If you have two coaches that you can run out there you can trust and you know that they know what they’re talking about and know what they’re doing and they have a feel for the game, to go along with an assistant (Lamarca) who’s been with you for four years, five years, it’s a recipe for success.”
Woods spent five years coaching at Albany, two as an assistant and the past three as head coach. He guided the Hornets to the regional round of the Class 3A playoffs last season, leaving Pittman with a veteran team.
“They’re going to win a lot of games,” Woods said. “They’re going to play hard, and they’re going to be in every game. They’re going to fight.”
Woods said he’d like to think his time coaching at Albany was about more than just baseball.
“One thing that I was able to do was I was able to solidify the fact that I was going to hold people accountable,” he said. “We brought accountability to the program. We brought stability. We definitely instilled hard-working values in these guys – not only that senior class that’s going to graduate this year and move on, but also the grades under it. I expect Albany to do well for the next few years. It’s really, really tough for me. I get emotional thinking about leaving it, but at the same time, doors have opened up for me, and I’m excited to take that next step.”