MORRISTOWN - The Union Local Board of Education didn't have to look far for a new baseball coach. He was already is the Jets' dugout.
Assistant coach Christopher "Pec" Schmitt was hired to pilot UL's diamond squad during a recent board meeting. He replaces Mark Cisar who stepped down to accept a position outside the school district.
"I'm excited," Schmitt said about the opportunity to coach at his alma mater. "I've been around these kids for a couple of years now, so I kind of know what to expect."
In addition to serving under Cisar, Schmitt also assisted Rich Mercer during his tenure.
"Those two guys were not only great baseball coaches, but great people off the diamond, as well," Schmitt allowed. "What they have done for UL baseball is great. I am honored to be coaching at the same school as those two. They both gave me the chance to coach at UL and I cannot thank them enough for that."
So, does he change anything that his previous two mentors have installed?
"I plan on changing a few small things," he noted. "I have about 30 kids coming out. We've started a weightlifting program, but I'm going to keep things as simple as possible so our kids can just go out and play baseball.
"We need to start from the beginning and get the fundamentals down," he continued. "I know Rich and Mark preached fundamentals and I want us to be even better than those teams were. We are going to implement a high-tempo practice so the kids are getting more reps than they are used to."
Schmitt was a pretty good player in his own right. The 2006 Union Local graduate earned first team all-Eastern District honors his senior season, as well as first team all-OVAC, all-EOBL and all-Times Leader. As a junior, he was second team all-Eastern District and all-EOBL. He was honorable mention all-Eastern District as a sophomore.
In addition, he was first team all-OVAC in football as a senior and honorable mention all-state in basketball.
He is also a veteran of six Ohio Valley Baseball League seasons. He played for Bob Sabo at St. Clairsville for five years and one season for Laney Simone Sr. at Maynard.
The cupboard is far from bare as several key components return for the spring.
"We have the majority of the team coming back," he said. "Eric Dunfee pitched really well last year and I am looking forward to him having another strong year on the mound. Griffey Girty swings the bat pretty good, along with Matt Dunfee and Tristan Bruce. I'm looking for them to drive in a lot of runs. I also know we have a pretty good freshman class coming in, as well."
Just because a lot of lettermen return doesn't guarantee a winning season, and Schmitt knows that.
"Our kids need to produce," he admitted. "We are going to be a fundamentally strong baseball team. Defensively, we need to make routine plays, and our pitchers must get ahead in the count and just throw strikes. We do not have anyone who is going to strike out 10 batters a night, so we need to rely on our defense to make plays.
"Offensively, we are going to go out and put pressure on defenses," he continued. "We are going to be very aggressive at the plate and on the base paths. The more pressure you put on the other team could lead to mistakes and that is what we are going to try and do."
As far as the Jets' schedule goes, there are no cupcakes.
"We are tested right out of the gate. We start out against one of the greatest coaches in the history of the OVAC in Dave Cisar and Magnolia," Schmitt added. "I highly respect him and his program. We, of course, have the rugged Buckeye 8 schedule, as well as a great program in John Marshall.
"We have a tough schedule," he offered. "But the kids will compete in every single game and never back down from any challenges that we may face."
Schmitt is also a 2010 graduate of Ohio University Eastern with a degree in Business Administration. He also played basketball for the Panthers.