By R. Alan Richardson
The Lady Diamond Dogs softball team has a long history of success over the past several years. With Doug Connelly stepping into the Athletic Director’s chair to replace long-time coach and AD, Steve Cisson, Morgan County High School has named Connelly’s successor. Jason McBay has been hired as the new man in charge of the program.
McBay comes to us from Heritage High School where he has been the head coach for the past four seasons. His success and resume speak volumes about why the Bulldogs decided to bring him onboard. During that time he has compiled a record of 106 wins against only 27 losses while bringing home 8-AAAAA region titles in 2013 and 2015. This past season his team made the Elite Eight and made it to Columbus for the finals of the State Championship. It was the first time since 2002 that the school has been that far into the playoffs. McBay has been the Region Coach-of-the-year in three of his four seasons at Heritage. McBay said, “I’m proud of the fact that in my four years at Heritage we have had seven players to sign to play college softball at some level.”
He attended North Alabama High School, and then moved on to the University of Alabama Huntsville where he was recruited as a pitcher. After graduation McBay first taught at Russellville High School and served as a pitching coach at Calhoun Junior College before moving to Conyers. The 39 year old talked about his first encounter with Madison saying, “I was a youth minister at Elkton Road Baptist Church and we were on our way back from a youth camp in South Carolina. The van broke down on exit 114. A man stopped and asked if we needed help. I wish I could remember his name. He picked us up in their church van and took us to the church where we hung out at the Life Center for about three hours. The van was worked on at Youngblood Ford and either he or the church paid the bill. I guess my journey has come full circle now that I’m at Morgan County High School.”
McBay then talked about his relationship with Connelly and how it all came together. He said, “Doug and I first met as assistant coaches when I was at Heritage. We played in the Morgan County Bulldog Classic Tournament. Being in different classes and not in the same region, we began to share ideas about new ways of doing things as head coaches. That led to us attending national clinics together where we rode and stayed in the same room. We would rehash our seasons. We’ve also coached senior all-star teams together the last two seasons, so knowing and competing against him helped me get my foot in the door. He told me that he could get me an interview, but I would have to close the deal myself.”
The new coach wanted to thank his family of three with this comment, “I couldn’t do any of this without my wife, Traci, and my girls. They are five, four, and eight months. We were looking for a place where a sense of community and family values were a high priority. Madison definitely fit that concern for us.”
The softball team lost three very valuable seniors, but has a nice core of seven seniors returning with tons of experience in high-caliber and playoff softball. McBay finished up with these words, “On day one I asked them what their goals were and they all said it was to win a State Championship. Their goal is my goal and their expectations are very clear. I’m looking forward to working with the excellent coaching staff we have in place of Billy Dooley, Trent McElroy, Allison Griggs, and Kemp Crawford.
Traci and I have been looking and planning on moving out to Morgan County for some time now. God definitely had that plan. I had a job offer at two other schools and was just waiting for the science positions at Morgan to be posted. I guess God’s timing is perfect because the day I met with Dr. Woodard and was officially offered the job was the same day that I had to let the other school know my decision. Within a two week window, I interviewed at Morgan, got an offer on our house, got offered the Morgan job, and found a rental house – not in that order!
Becoming head softball coach at Morgan County was seriously icing on the cake. When Coach Connelly received the athletic director’s position, I was thrilled that he chose me to be his replacement. Doug has always been a great friend and we have a lot of mutual respect for one another. I am very humbled that he chose me. I will not be changing a lot that he did (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!) Instead, I’ll just make small adjustments here and there.
The team I have inherited is a special group of girls. They proved that with the state runner-up finish last season, however, what I have learned about them in only one week with them is even more important than that. They are great young ladies that genuinely care about each other. Their sense of school pride and unity will carry them further than they can ever imagine. I’ve also noticed that they are intelligent ball players. Their instincts are something that cannot be taught. I can’t wait to work with them every single day.
Our biggest challenge may be in daydreaming about the end. I will do my best as their leader to remind them that state championships are won in the off season, in practice, and inside your heart where nobody sees it. Nobody will lie down in front of us and give us anything this year. If anything, we now have a target on our back. Our region alone is one of the strongest in the state with teams like East Jackson, Franklin Co, and Jackson Co. We will have to fight and scrap for everything this year. For this reason, we came up with the idea of “#1MOREgan”.
Our goal is to win a state championship but we will do that by using last year as our fuel. What if you had ONE MORE at bat? What if you had stayed after for ONE MORE bucket of ground balls? What if you could face Jana Johns just ONE MORE time? What if you had ONE MORE year to make it right? I believe this group of seven seniors will find easy inspiration and this team will follow their lead. I’m excited to be a Lady Bulldog!! We all have high expectations, but I have faith that we will rise together.”