SPRING GARDEN – Cole Murphy got to see for himself what the Spring Garden baseball team is capable of as a player during his days at Gaylesville, and more recently, when the Panthers played at Class 7A Hewitt-Trussville in late March of last season.
The 25-year-old Murphy has been an assistant baseball and football coach the past couple of years at Minor High School near Birmingham. The Tiger baseball team was also scheduled to play Hewitt-Trussville that afternoon, so he arrived a little early.
“I didn’t even know Spring Garden was playing Hewitt-Trussville until I got there, but I got to watch them,” Murphy said. “Trussville was the No. 1 team in 7A at the time. I think Spring Garden had one or two people on base, and it was like the meat of Spring Garden’s lineup, so they had to bring their ace in who had offers to Alabama and Ole Miss, a D-1 type of pitcher, to win the game (2-0).”
Little did Murphy know then that he was catching a few glimpses of his future baseball squad.
Murphy was hired at Spring Garden on Wednesday afternoon following approval of the Cherokee County Board of Education. The baseball job, left vacant after Tony Benefield resigned at the end of last season, is Murphy’s first head coaching position. Murphy will also be an assistant coach on the Panther football team this fall.
A standout all-around athlete at Gaylesville before graduating in 2014, Murphy signed a football scholarship with Birmingham Southern, where he played at defensive back and linebacker through the 2017 season.
Murphy spent part of the day Thursday meeting some of the Panther players and coaches during workouts, and once again came away with a good impression.
“It’s my first head coaching job, but the good thing is there are a lot of great coaches here to help me,” Murphy said. “We’re still going to have some players coming back. Coach Benefield has been helping me out. Our pitching core is pretty much staying the same from this past year. He said the guys stepping into positions of the seniors, he said those guys have developed over the years and will be able to step in and do their job. That’s really exciting. It excites me a lot after playing against Coach Benefield, knowing the type of coach he is, the way he’s had success in baseball, and the type of program he’s built. Me coming in and him still being at the school and helping, it makes me feel less nervous. I know he’s still there and I can get his help.
“I’m excited for football too (working with the Panther backs). I’m going to be helping Coach Howard out and be a part of the program they’ve built over the years. That’s really exciting as well.”
Murphy said it doesn’t feel weird to him coaching at one of his high school rivals. He’s just glad to be back close to home, and he hopes to pick up and add to what the Panthers have already accomplished.
“I’m excited and ready for this next chapter,” Murphy said. “Seeing them (the baseball team) compete that way (against Hewitt-Trussville), that’s going to be the standard I want and expect from them. I got to see that in person, so that’s going to be my mindset and standard for the baseball team this coming season. They know they can compete that way and I know they can compete that way. It’s not just people telling me. I actually got to see it.”