By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
As the old adage says, “all good things must come to an end.”
After 14 seasons as head coach of West End High School’s varsity baseball team, Southside native Chad Hall recently decided to step down.
Hall said the decision to resign was not a hard one to make.
“My wife Jamie and I have talked a lot about it recently and we think it’s the best decision for us. When baseball season rolls around next year, our daughter will be three years old and our newborn will be three months old. She told me she wanted me to do what I wanted to do, and I decided I needed to spend more time with my family.
“I think it’s the right time to go. The program is in great shape right now and I know Joe [Payne] and Clint [Brannon] will do a great job with it. I will still be around and will be working with the players with hitting, fundamentals, or whatever. I will help them out if they need it, but for the most part, I will be a spectator for the first time in my life.
“I met with the players one night after workouts and told them my reasons. They were all receptive and understanding about the decision. I’ve been playing or coaching this game since I was seven years old, for around 31 years. From T-ball up through my days playing college ball (at the University of North Alabama) and into coaching, I’ve not had a break, not for one season. I’m excited, but I know I will miss it.”
West End was a consistent baseball school and made the state playoffs every year from 1987 to 1995, including semifinal appearances in 1991 and 1994. However, the school had not posted a winning season since 1995 when Hall took over the struggling program in 1999.
Hall’s first group at West End featured players such as Payne, Brannon, Derrick Watkins, Shane Fore, David Chapman, Daniel Thomas and Jason Rhoden. Hall had plenty of young talent upon which to build a reputable program, and his impact was immediate.
In his second season as head coach, the Patriots made it to the 2000 Class 2A state finals in Montgomery. West End won the first of a three game series against American Christian, but dropped the last two to finish as state runner-up.
“That was a special group of kids,” Hall said. “It hurt a lot losing it at the end, but it was fun to watch them play so hard and find ways to win.”
The 2000 season was not Hall’s only success in Walnut Grove. During his 14-year tenure at West End, Hall’s teams made playoff appearances nine times and were area champions six times. The Patriots made it to the state semifinals twice and the quarterfinals once.
Hall recalled winning the Etowah County tournament of 2006.
“The last true county baseball tournament was in 2006,” he said. “There were two separate brackets, one for the bigger schools and one for the smaller schools. We were, of course, in the smaller bracket but managed to win it. In the finals, we faced Etowah and beat them. That was very exciting for us. We knew we had a good team, but to win that tournament just threw us over the edge. The tournament was early in the season and it really set us up for a great season. We made it to the semifinals that year. That was a real successful year for us.”
Ricky Watkins is the current varsity softball coach at West End. He served as an assistant coach to Hall for nine years.
“Chad did a great job here for a long time,” Watkins said. “Coaching with him was some of the most fun I’ve ever had coaching. He runs a great program and has a great mind for the game. I based a lot of what I have done coaching softball on the same philosophy we used in baseball. Not only is Chad a great guy, he is a great friend to me.”
Hall pointed to the West End community as a major factor in his teams’ success over the years.
“We’ve had lots of highs in the past 14 years. The program is in great shape right now and our facilities are top notch for Class 2A. We have a great group of kids and have a great support of the community. Our community has embraced us and has been the backbone of the success of this program.”
Hall said he will miss more than just the game.
“My biggest joy in coaching is working with the players and seeing them progress from the seventh grade to seniors. I enjoy seeing them work hard and be able to contribute to the team. I have seen many kids over the years who contribute to our success who probably weren’t the best players, but they worked hard and were successful. I really love to see that! West End has a bunch of kids that don’t mind working really hard and they have parents who support them. You can’t ask for much more than that.”