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FCBOE names Jake Ward new Vina baseball coach

When Greg Hamilton stepped into the superintendent’s office at the beginning of the year, he left a vacancy at Vina High School that needed to be filled immediately – a part-time classroom teacher, of course, but also the head baseball coach position.

The Franklin County Board of Education voted Tuesday to transfer Jake Ward from his positions as PE aide at Tharptown Elementary and ACCESS facilitator at Belgreen High to the opening at Vina, where he will serve as half-time PE teacher, half-time social science teacher and baseball coach.

Hamilton expressed confidence in Ward’s ability to lead the Vina team.

“He’s a former player from UNA,” Hamilton said. “I think he’ll teach the kids fundamentals. He’s a good young coach … Twenty-one years ago, this school system let another young man have a chance as a coach, and I felt like (Ward) was the best candidate for the position.”

Ward played baseball at Russellville High School and at Shelton State for two years before signing with UNA. He said he’s excited for the opportunity at Vina.

“I know they’ve had success in the past down there, and I saw it as a great opportunity,” Ward said. “I didn’t want to miss out on that chance.”

In 2014 Ward won the Division II Golden Glove award for being one of the best defensive players in the league for the 2014 season at UNA. He finished the 2014 season with a 1.000 fielding percentage and no errors and was responsible for 123 putouts and six assists from the center field position.

The American Baseball Coaches Association named Ward to the ABCA/Rawlings National Gold Glove Team for 2014 as one of only nine players in the nation.

He was the first UNA player to ever be named to the All-American Gold Glove Team.

Ward, who played centerfield himself, has coached middle school and summer teams.

“It’s hard to follow Coach Hamilton,” Ward said. “I’m going to jump right in and bring a positive atmosphere. As a new face – I’ve got some high expectations I have to live up to.”

Ward said he was able to meet the majority of the team last week, and, even though most of them are in basketball season, he plans to start working on throwing right away. Practice can officially begin Jan. 30.

“I have a good concept of some of their strengths and weaknesses,” Ward said. He’ll be working with a few seniors and juniors to form a team with a solid seasoned foundation.