Springfield’s busy offseason of coaching turnover took another turn Tuesday.
Springfield principal Spencer Harris confirmed Chris Blanchard is the school’s new baseball coach, taking over for Michael Rutland.
It’s the first head-coaching job for Blanchard, who was an assistant under Rutland last season.
“I think it’s going to work well,” Blanchard said. “The kids know me. The kids did a great job last year buying in to what me and coach Rutland and coach Boog (Louis Dugas) were doing, so that’s always a positive.”
Blanchard, who served as the Bulldogs’ pitching, is the son of former Central coach Randy Blanchard and was also on the staffs at Parkview Baptist under M.L. Woodruff and Darron Mitchell.
“All these guys have just helped me learn a tremendous amount throughout my coaching career so far,” Blanchard said. “Even the football coaches I coached under and the coaches I played for – everybody had a hand in helping me learn as much I’ve learned so far. I’m excited to hopefully continue what coach Rutland started at Springfield, and I get my opportunity, and I get a chance, and hopefully I can make all of these people proud.”
He also spent time at Denham Springs High, running the freshman program under Mark Carroll, which he said helped prepare him for his first head-coaching job.
“He let me have my own practice plans, let me create my own lineups, let me try to develop ninth-graders each year, and that helped me understand things about coaching that I can now use,” Blanchard said of Carroll. “I can’t thank him enough for those four years of responsibility and freedom.”
Harris, who made spring time hire in Billy Dreher as the school’s girls basketball coach and John Hii as the boys basketball coach, said it was difficult to overlook Blanchard’s pedigree and experience at some of the state’s top programs.
“He’s kind of been around some pretty good baseball programs and kind of been groomed to be a head coach just growing up that way,” Harris said.
Blanchard inherits a roster that lost a core group of seniors from a team that went 12-16 and advanced to the Class 2A state regional round. He said he’ll lean on his returning players in an effort to get the Bulldogs into the next round.
“I see young guys that can step up, play big parts and get a lot of playing time that they might not necessarily expect," Blanchard said. "With that being said, I also expect some of these juniors that are now going to be seniors (to) step up and maybe take on a little bit more responsibility or a little bit more of a leadership role on the team. Be the guys that want to be on the mound in certain innings or certain games, and be the guy at the plate that wants to get the big hit and those types of things."
Rutland, who was the Bulldogs’ head coach for two seasons after serving as an assistant coach, was a paraprofessional at Springfield.
"It's not a situation that I was unhappy or felt that he did a bad job or anything, because I don't," Harris said. "I think he worked hard ...
“I think Michael Rutland is a great guy,” Harris continued. “Sometimes on small campuses we don’t have the luxury of having as much turnover in positions and as much flexibility for positions as maybe a 5A school can have, and that was kind of where we were stuck at."
Rutland said it's a unique situation.
"I had talked to Spencer when school had ended, and kind of throughout the spring and told him that if there's no teaching positions open, then I'm going to have to look at other places," Rutland said. "He agreed, and they were trying to help me out giving me good references and (things)."
Harris wished Rutland well in his next endeavor.
“Long-term, I know that he (Rutland) needed other opportunities that I really couldn’t provide," he said. "So we needed to focus on making sure that we had someone in that we could build our program around, and I really think Chris will do a great job.”
Rutland said he is keeping his options open regarding his next move.
"I'm just looking at other things, whether it be coaching or teaching, or maybe outside of coaching and teaching," he said. "I'm not real sure yet. I haven't finalized what I'm going to do yet."