Adrian McCladdie loves baseball.
Greenbrier High School senior Adrian McCladdie, 18, gives advice to his players on the Columbia County Recreation Department's Dixie Juniors Boys 13-15 baseball team between innings at Riverside Park. McCladdie, along with longtime little league coach Richard Thigpen, coached the team for his senior project.
Photo by Valerie Rowell
So, for his senior project, the Greenbrier High School student wanted to investigate a new side of the game that he's played for as long as he can remember.
"Playing baseball, I've played it all my life, so I wanted to coach it," said McCladdie, 18. "So I could show the younger kids what I am doing to succeed. So I just thought it would be a good idea for my senior project to help out young kids."
McCladdie joined up with longtime little league coach Richard Thigpen before the Columbia County Recreation Department draft in August to coach the Braves, a Dixie Juniors Boys 13-15 team.
"He's real eager out there to teach these boys something," said Thigpen, whose 13-year-old son Rick is on the team. "He takes the extra steps most coaches wouldn't do."
Thigpen allowed McCladdie and a few of McCladdie's fellow Greenbrier baseball players to run the team for the fall season, which ended Thursday. The team finished with a 9-2 record, tied for first place.
McCladdie decided everything from practice schedules and drills to lineups. Though McCladdie was in charge, Thigpen said the two often discussed game strategy and lineup techniques.
"I was surprised when (Thigpen) said, 'You run the team,'" McCladdie said. "He'll help me, but I am learning more me running it by myself."
McCladdie plays first base and designated hitter for the Greenbrier Wolfpack, but he had to sit out this spring after knee surgery and to catch up on missed school work.
Before players on the Braves team practice, McCladdie has his own batting practice an hour before and invites any interested players to come early to watch and get some helpful batting tips.
"Don't try to pull the ball,'' he says. "Think opposite field. Try to hit the pitcher to keep your eye on the ball longer.''
McCladdie shares what he knows, the mechanics of hitting and playing the field, with the boys to make them better.
"He's cool," said Rick, the Braves' first baseman. "He's the best coach I've ever had. I get taught something at every game and every practice."
McCladdie, who sat anxiously on the sidelines while his team was in the field at a recent game, led the team to a first-place finish.
McCladdie has learned what being on the other side of the game is like. He said he worries about teaching the boys at practice, giving each member enough play time, arranging the lineup and screaming to get the 12 teen boys' attention, he said.
McCladdie also said he has learned the importance of patience. Such an experience, he said, should come in handy in the future.
"If I don't make it in the league playing baseball, I really want to coach," McCladdie said. "I don't want to get away from the game."
McCladdie said his players' level of dedication determines who plays on game night. Those who show up early and show they want to improve and play get extra consideration, he said.
In the end, he said, baseball is supposed to be fun and developmental.
"We like to play around with them," McCladdie said. "You have got to tease them to make the game fun. First of all, it's fall ball and recreation ball. You don't have any all stars and you don't go to state playoffs or anything. You are just there to develop and get better. I try to make it fun for them."
Thigpen said McCladdie's dedication as a coach shows.
"It's been an honor and a privilege working with him," Thigpen said. "He's done a real good job. He's got a heart for it."
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