Mark Carroll won’t be returning as Denham Springs’ baseball coach.
Carroll said he was informed of the move after a meeting with DSHS principal Wes Howard and athletic director Brett Beard on Friday, May 28.
“They just want the program to go in a different direction. That’s the one thing they told me,” said Carroll, who coached the Yellow Jackets for 21 seasons. “Then they gave some issues, we didn’t have team discipline this year, and we’re not developing players.
"We’ve got players in professional baseball, got a lot of them in college, so I really don’t think that’s too valid a point."
Carroll told the News he didn't understand from where the new complaints were coming, not only because they're unusual, he said, but because they never reached him.
"We’ve never had complaints about communication until this year, but apparently we had some parents complaining about some stuff and they were not coming to me and would not be sent to me to let me deal with it,” Carroll continued.
“It’s hard to believe this is happening. It really is. You’d think after 21 years and the time I’ve spent in this school and in this community and with this program, we’d be allowed to do this still,” Carroll said while noting he is not retiring. “I’ve got a daughter that just finished the 10th grade and one in college. I can’t retire right now.”
Said Howard: "It was our determination that it was time to move our baseball program in a new direction and new leadership."
"It was a difficult decision."
Howard said at this time DSHS assistant coach Trave Hopkins will lead the program.
Carroll, who earned his 700th career win this season, informed the team of the change over the weekend during the Denham Springs Wood Bat Tournament.
“It was tough on me,” Carroll. “It was a very emotional talk for me at times trying to keep my composure for a little bit. A couple of them looked at me kind of in shock, and we had another ball game to play that afternoon. A bunch of them came up to me and shook my hand and thanked me for helping them.”
The Yellow Jackets went into this season with just one starter returning and won three of their last four games to earn the No. 32 seed in the Class 5A playoffs and a trip to face No. 1 Barbe, where DSHS was no-hit in a 3-0 loss. The team finished the season 12-20, marking the first time in his 37-year baseball coaching career a team Carroll was associated with had a losing record.
“Our last game with Barbe, we’ve got five sophomores starting and it’s a 1-0 game with the No. 5 team in the nation, I think our kids had figured some things out a little bit,” Carroll said.
“They said more positive stuff to each other in that game than a bunch of them had all year added together, but it’s hard for me to fathom that I don’t get a chance to come back and coach that group.”
Carroll said that positivity has carried over into the summer.
“You can tell there’s a big change attitude-wise, effort-wise, and we knew that going in,” Carroll said. “We knew that was going to be the case because of the kids we had coming back.”
Carroll said this wasn't how he pictured his coaching tenure at DSHS ending.
"I've spent 20-something years here, and my wife and my kids have been raised in this community, gone to this school, and this is where I put my heart and soul, no doubt about it," Carroll said. "I think the number of hours we put in, the relationships with our players trying to help them and work with them and our program and keep our program as consistent as it's been, I think that kind of speaks for itself pretty much, but it's very, very tough when this is how this goes."
"I've been in this profession for a long time," Carroll continued. "I've seen stuff like this happen before to other people. You just never expect it to happen to you if you do things right. If you're upfront and honest with people like I always try to be, some people don't really like that, but that's the way I'm going to always do it."