The first-year Bowdon coach vividly recalls the days when the Red Devils were perennial fixtures in the Class A state playoffs back when he coached at Heard County and Landmark Christian. And now that he’s taken the reins of the program at the Class AA level, his aim is to make it an upper-tier, state title-contender once again.
Of course, it’s going to take a lot of grit and growing pains to get there, but Eubanks is confident Bowdon is set for a Red Devil revival.
“They realize the tradition of what it has been here and they want to really get it back to what it was. They accept that role and that responsibility. So far, we’re taking steps and trying to get there,” Eubanks said.
Entering Saturday’s Diamond Dawg Challenge at Mary Persons, the Red Devils were 2-0 on the young season — earning wins over Mt. Zion and New Manchester — and the first-year Bowdon skipper has seen some promise from his young squad, which includes just four seniors.
“I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids, better effort out of them. Because of the weather and whatnot, our field is not completed and we’re having to travel each day to practice. We’re practicing on a non-regulation size field, but they’re giving us their best effort. They’re getting after it. We’re not having to ask them twice to do anything. Their effort is above and beyond what you expect from high school kids,” Eubanks said.
The Red Devils have been practicing at the Carroll County Recreation Department ballfields in Carrollton while waiting on their new facility to be completed. And while it’s not the ideal situation, Eubanks said his players haven’t complained one bit about the early-season inconvenience.
“So we’re having to go out there literally every day and draw out a 90-foot baseball field. It’s all dirt, so the kids are having to make adjustments there. But that’s the good thing about it. Our kids are seeing that it doesn’t matter where we’re at. It’s still baseball,” Eubanks said.
“Our focus is to control what we can control. Their focus is, and we talk about the little white ball, just focusing on the little white ball. It doesn’t matter if we’re in the parking lot or some smaller field somewhere like that, they’re focused on the fundamentals of baseball. They’re having fun, we as coaches are having fun and I think our parents are having fun. It’s a total effort and it’s an experience that will hopefully carry on throughout the year.”
Eubanks, who went 105-57 in six years at Cass High School before taking the Bowdon job and was 20 wins shy of 300 for his career at the start of the season, got an introductory run with the Red Devils during summer ball. He said it was a valuable time for both him and the players to feel each other out.
“Personality-wise, it was great to get here in the summer and get to know them a little bit. We were able to put some things in. It also let me see one glaring weakness in our program is we are very weak. We had to get in the weight room. The kids understood that and we put a conscious effort in and we started lifting weights in August and the ball is jumping off the bat now. They’re seeing the ball come off the bat and they’re seeing the velocity in their arms from throwing. So they’re seeing the dividends pay off from what the off-season program is,” Eubanks said.
Bowdon will be led by its four seniors — catcher Slade Parmer, center fielder Colton Johnson, third baseman Jared Stapler and pitcher/first baseman Dylan Morgan. Parmer is the only player that got significant playing time last season, with Stapler going down with an injury mid-season and Morgan getting some work on the hill.
The Red Devils feature a strong junior class that includes shortstop/pitcher Tyler McDaniel, second baseman Bailey Cheatwood, left-handed hurler Saywer Lane and left fielder Ben Vance. Eubanks also has a pair of freshmen in the starting lineup with right fielder Curt Eidson and Matt Gresham, who can pitch and play both corners on the infield.
And in order to have success this season, Eubanks said it’s going to take a collective effort, including several guys that will see time off the bench in spot roles.
“There’s no one standout player. We don’t have one player that we’re going to hang our hat on and say that’s our star. They all know their roles, they’ve adjusted to what their roles are and they’ve accepted what their roles are and we’re playing good team baseball,” Eubanks said.
With the move to Class AA and Region 5, the Red Devils keep ties with longtime rival Bremen, which is the preseason front-runner to win the region. Bowdon just happens to open the region schedule Tuesday at Bremen.
“It sounds like it’s going to be a dogfight. It’s fairly even throughout, and that’s a good thing,” Eubanks said. “Going in, you have to realize every night that you better be ready to play. There are no gimmies. It should make for a lot of exciting baseball.”
The other cause for excitement for the Bowdon program is the opening of its new baseball facility, which is nearing completion. The Red Devils have played all their early-season games on the road, but have set a March 15 date against Heard County to unveil the new field.
“It’s a beautiful place. You go down there and we’ve been taking pictures along the way and it’s something that the Bowdon community and Carroll County as a whole can come and see. I just can’t say enough. There’s enough tradition and this community’s very proud of what their baseball program has done in the past and now they have a facility that’s top-notch,” Eubanks said.
“We have to thank coach [Scott] Cowart and the Carroll County Board of Education for allowing us to have such a nice facility. When you come out on a double-A, single-A — any level, period — we’ll have one of the best baseball facilities in the state of Georgia.”