Rocket coach likes chances

Friday, February 27, 2015
Longtime Alabama high school football coach Jimmy Nave takes over the Forrest baseball team that went to the state tournament last season. Photos by Anthony S. Puca

Only something you love and are comfortable with can draw a man out of retirement.

Just ask Jimmy Nave, who was settling in to retirement after a 27-year career as a football coach at three north Alabama high schools when the Forrest baseball coaching job came open after former coach Chris Parker left for East Hickman.

Intrigued by the position, Nave conferred with his confidants and took the helm in September.

Learning the team

"I started late, so what I have had to do is come in and learn everyone's personality and find out what makes them click," said Nave. "We are going to maintain what we had and try to improve."

"What is unique and will help us is there is an awful lot of competition and these guys know it, but their desire to win and the leadership is evident."

Nave, an Athens, Ala. native and teammate of former Major League Baseball player Gary Redus on the Athens College baseball team, began his coaching career at Tanner High School where he coached baseball and football for the Rattlers.

After a 12-year stint at Tanner, Nave coached football at Hazel Green High School for nine years before finishing his coaching career at Bob Jones High School.

Local ties

Nave has ties to the Chapel Hill community, hired at Tanner by Forrest graduate Jim Ezell, who is the brother-in-law of legendary Forrest football coach Murrey Holton, who passed away in April 2014.

"I've known Jim since 1977, he played football with my brother at the University of North Alabama and he gave me my first job, so he has been a family friend for a long time," said Nave.

"Murrey used to come to Tanner all the time and hang out with us and talk football, talk the horns off a billy goat."

Nave teaches personal finance and driver's education at Forrest.

Great program

The Rockets went 51-28 in Parker's brief two-year stint, winning the regular season District 9-A title last year, the first since 2006.

"Everything that I have heard, Coach Parker did a great job," said Nave. "When I first saw the opening here I called Jim and he said they love their baseball in Chapel Hill."

"I wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now, why would I want to go somewhere that baseball was just something to do, I want to be where the community loves it and backs it, that's what drives me."

The Rockets have 28 players on the current roster and are loaded with talent, including seniors Logan Hollingsworth, Tanner Garvin, and Austin Harmon.

Senior Logan Hollingsworth (22) will once again be the ace of the Rockets' pitching staff.

Hollingsworth is the ace of the pitching staff and plays in the outfield when not on the mound.

"Logan's work habit is awesome, the kids look up to him and he is a leader," said Nave. "He is going to be our go-to-guy."

Garvin is No. 2 in the pitching rotation, sporting a devilish breaking ball and is the starting first baseman.

"I have been impressed with his ability to throw the ball and he is hitting the ball good in the cage as well," said Nave.

Hard workers

Harmon is coming off an injury-plagued 2014 season, but is healthy once again and is ready to use his speed to roam center field and create some runs for the Rockets.

"He is blessed with good speed and he can track the ball and gets a good jump on the ball," said Nave. "He is working hard in the cage to get to put the ball in play and that is all we want him to do."

Vanderbilt commit Alex Brewer, entering his junior season, was the leading hitter on the team last year and had one of the biggest hits in Forrest history when he slammed a three-run homer in the seventh inning at Summertown in the state sectional round, propelling the Rockets to its first state tournament appearance since 2006.

Vanderbilt commit Alex Brewer (20) looks to lead Forrest back to the state tournament.

"Alex has really worked to get where he is and he continues to work hard, but he has got some God-given talent too," said Nave. "He loves the game, he is very sincere in what he does, and I am very impressed in what I have seen and his future is very bright."

'Tough as pine nut'

Nave also has another junior leader in catcher Boone Sweeney, who takes over the backstop job this season.

"Boone is another one of those guys, like Hollingsworth, Brewer, and Garvin that these kids look up to as a leader," said Nave. "Plus, he is as tough as a pine nut."

Landon Jones mans the hot corner for the Rockets and swings a big stick, something Nave is well aware of.

"The kid has a lot of power and I use him for an example often about how he swings the bat and watches the ball all the way to the bat," said Nave.

Junior Bryce Oliver will get a lot of playing time at first base and in the relief role on the mound this season.

Ryan Yelensky, Kain Harrison, Austin Welty, and Jesse Pruitt round out the talented junior class for the Rockets.

Younger talent

The sophomore class is a strong one with Slayton Wild, Jonathon Lykins, Jacob Jones, Michael Dyer, Jordan Jent, Jaylen Smith and Lucas Welch, who are all ready to contribute on a daily basis.

The freshmen newcomers are Layne Allen, Ryan Moses, Dylan Eady, Jarvis Lyttle, Chase Karaczewski, Hunter Beckman, JT Ferguson, Dylan Pendley, Dustin Brashear, Hayden Pate, and Drew Daughrity.

Nave stated that he will allow the younger players to participate in the Marshall County Babe Ruth League this season, something they were unable to do last year.

"When they are not playing there, they will be playing here. How can you get better if you're not playing?" said Nave. "We are also going to have an 18-game JV schedule, so these young kids should be playing four days a week."

Tough district

The Rockets are in one of the toughest Class A districts in the state with Community, Eagleville, Huntland, Middle Tennessee Christian, Moore County and Fayetteville, something Nave knows very well.

"Everyone I talk to, everywhere I go, all I hear all the time is how good all these teams are and how stiff the challenge is," said Nave. "That is what we want and I don't think anyone will be running away with this while we are all beating up on each other."

2015 Forrest Rockets Schedule

Date and time Opponent

Monday March 9 6:00 PM Coffee County

Tuesday March 10 6:00 PM Cascade

Wednesday March 11 4:30 PM Ravenwood

Thursday March 12 3:30 PM Lawrence County/St. Patrick's Day Tournament

Monday March 16 6:00 PM Community D

Tuesday March 17 6:00 PM Community D

Friday March 20 6:00 PM Lincoln County

Monday March 23 6:00 PM Fayetteville D

Tuesday March 24 6:00 PM at Fayetteville D

Thursday March 26 5:00 PM at Cannon County

Thursday April 2 6:00 PM at Lincoln County

Monday April 6 4:00 PM at Moore County D

Tuesday April 7 6:00 PM Moore County D

Friday April 10 4:30 PM Harpeth

Saturday April 11 3:45 PM at CPA/Top Tenn. Invitational

Monday April 13 6:00 PM at Eagleville D

Tuesday April 14 6:00 PM Eagleville D

Friday April 17 6:00 PM at Coffee County

Monday April 20 6:30 PM at Middle Tennessee Christian D

Tuesday April 21 6:30 PM Middle Tennessee Christian D

Thursday April 23 6:00 PM at Cascade

Saturday April 25 1:00 PM Huntland D

Monday April 27 6:00 PM at Huntland D

Tuesday April 28 6:30 PM at Ravenwood

D: Denotes District Game