Messenger file photo by Chris McCarthy
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Attalla, here we come.
After 13 years as head baseball coach at Gadsden City and Southside, Blake Bone is heading west on Meighan Boulevard to take the same position at Etowah High School.
Bone replaces Brandon Johnson, who in three seasons led the Blue Devils to two state playoff appearances. Eto-wah advanced to the second round in 2019.
Bone (pictured above) guided the Titans to a 12-18 record this past sea-son. Gadsden City made the state playoffs for the first time in five years in Bone’s first season in 2019.
“It’s a very appealing position, and I think there’s an opportunity to build something really special,” said Bone, who currently has 356 career wins under his belt. “We had some conversations with my family and people we lean on, and we came to a decision.”
In 10 years at Southside from 2007 to 2017, Bone guided his alma mater to 10 playoff appearances, four state semifinal berths, nine area championships and nine Eto-wah County Schools championships. His 2011 Panthers finished as Class 5A state runner-up. Only two of Bone’s Southside teams failed to advance past the first round of the postseason.
A 1996 Southside graduate, Bone played for four years at UAH. He was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 2000 Major League Baseball draft and spent five seasons in the organization’s minor leagues.
While acknowledging said it would be a bit strange in-habiting the home dugout at Larry Foster Field after so many games playing and coaching against Etowah, Bone pointed out that he does have an Attalla connection.
“Being at Southside for so long, it’s definitely a different outlook, but I grew up spending every summer at Camp Sibert, and some of my best friends lived in Attalla,” he said. “We respect what that program has accomplished, and we’re looking to get it back to where Etowah was winning and competing for state championship in the ‘80s and ‘90s (the Blue Devils won state titles in 1885, 1987 and 1996). There’s a lot of great players that’s come through that program. These kids weren’t born when [Etowah] won [its] last state title, so a lot of times they really don’t understand just how rich of a tradition this program has. That our goal, to bring back that tradition.”
Bone said that the Attalla community’s top-notch youth baseball feeder system was a factor in his decision to accept the position.
“The youth leagues are all in-house over there and play at the same park as the high school does. The community really supports baseball teams, from Dixie Youth on up. Everyone’s on board, from the mayor (Larry Means) on down.”
Bone, who will teach health at the high school, recently met with this high school players and shared his vision for the program, which will include discipline, excellence, a blue-collar work ethic and an elite mindset that focuses on the process rather than the result.
“You can add some things along the way and your focus may change a little bit, but at the end of the day, every program has to have its core values,” he said. “We have to make sure that we’re all moving in the same direction. I think in this case, we have to bring back that blue-collar mentality a little bit.
“We talked about the environment we want to bring and how important it is in making the right choices. Building a solid program means being good kids at home and in the classroom as well as on the ball field, which in turn will make them better students, better players and better teammates.”
EHS Principal Dr. Steven Hall was looking forward to having Bone on campus.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to hire Blake as our new baseball coach,” he said. “We’re optimistic about his vision for the future of Etowah baseball, and we think he’ll be a great fit for our community and create a great program for our kids.”