By MIKE STROM
Special to The Advocate
It has been an emotional 72 hours for new Jesuit baseball coach Kenny Goodlett and the Blue Jays baseball program.
Rocked by Joey Latino’s mid-season decision to step down as head coach on Monday, the Blue Jays debut in the first game of the Goodlett era at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Destrehan in the opening round of the Gerard Oubre Memorial Tournament.
“I’m very honored to be a part of a program like Jesuit,’’ Goodlett, 39, and a Blue Jays baseball assistant coach for 12 years, said Tuesday following his appointment on Monday afternoon. “It’s obviously a unique situation. But we’re going to hit the ground running.’’
Jesuit (7-5) enters the Oubre Tournament having lost its last two outings in 4-3 and 10-6 decisions to Hahnville and Barbe during a 2-2 run through last weekend’s Barbe Marucci Invitational Tournament in Lake Charles.
The immediate goal for the Blue Jays seems simplistic enough, a return to normalcy, following the sudden departure of a highly-respected leader, who in eight seasons directed the program to one prep state championship, three Catholic League titles, three American Legion state crowns and a Legion World Series championship.
There will be no re-inventing of the wheel.
“I’m stepping into a job where I like the philosophy that we have,’’ Goodlett said of his ascendance into the lead role of arguably the top prep baseball job in the state. “We have strong roots at Jesuit. We just want to keep the kids going.
“We open district (9-5A play) next week. So it’s not like we’re going to go in and try to change things right now. Not that I want to. I’ve been with Joey for seven years and it’s been rolling along.
“People (may) think you’re going to change (things). We’re not. We just have to keep the boys playing, continue to grow as a team and we’ve got to get through this tournament and get into district and start to peak.’’
The Blue Jays have had two practices under their new leader since being informed by Latino following a brief Monday workout that he was stepping down for reasons the school termed as “coaching burnout.’’ As students they also are dealing with third-quarter exams.
“The kids saw a coach and saw a mentor go. Obviously they were emotional,’’ Goodlett said. “But they went into exams, came back out and we had a spirited practice. Joey is a good friend of mine and mentor and obviously we just want the best for him.’’
Named Jesuit coach for this season and beyond, Goodlett brings 16 years of coaching experience to his second head coaching assignment. He directed St. Martin’s baseball for two seasons, guiding the Saints to two state playoffs appearances in as many seasons along with a district championship in his first year.
Since joining Jesuit for the 2006-07 school year, Goodlett has worked as an assistant under two other head coaches besides Latino. His first year coincided with Sam Dozier’s final season, which produced a 2007 state championship and was followed by three seasons with Tim Parenton.
“We are going to continue to work on proper technique, being positive with the kids and making sure that we get the most out of them as ballplayers and as kids,’’ said Goodlett, whose responbibilities at Jesuit have been to coach catchers, outfielders and hitting. “We want to play the game cleanly.
“We want to have good pitching on the mound. We want to play error free baseball. That’s what Jesuit baseball has been and that’s what we want to continue to do. We want to manufacture some runs this weekend to get a (win).’’
Only two position starters, senior center fielder Michael Torry and sophomore catcher Parker Serio, return from last year’s 23-13 team that advanced to the Division I quarterfinals. Only three to four seniors start on a regular basis.
The Blue Jays face a Destrehan squad that enters the Oubre Tournament having won its last two games to improve to 6-8. The reigning District 7-5A champions are scheduled to pitch one of the state’s top right-handers in LSU commitment Landon Marceaux.
The three-day, eight-team Oubre Tournament opens with three games on Thursday that also have Brother Martin (6-6) playing at Hahnville (9-6) at 4 p.m. and Holy Cross (7-5-1) playing at Central Lafourche (10-6) at 6:30.
Jesuit then moves into Catholic League play at Shaw (0-13) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the opener of a two-game series that continues three days later with a 5 p.m. meeting at John Ryan on March 23.
“We’ve been having pretty good pitching so far,’’ Goodlett said. “What we need to do is clean up our fielding game. Right now a couple of errors here and there are really hurting us and we can’t allow baserunners on. It’s typical baseball. We have to play a clean game like everyone else to win.
“It’s not an easy schedule (Jesuit plays) and Joey did that on purpose to challenge the kids, to get them ready for district and get them ready for the playoffs. Obviously, it is our goal to play good teams and hit our peak at the right time.’’
But first things first.
“I understand the responsibility I have,’’ Goodlett said of his new post. “The first thing is to get these kids ready for Destrehan and the Oubre Tournament. We have to get them back to a norm and let them know that we’re still rolling, that they have to continue to play.
“For me personally, it’s straight to putting together practice schedules and pitching rotations. It’s working with the kids. It’s finding out about injuries. I’ve stepped in and I’m all in. I have to make sure that we are ready and ready to compete to the highest ability that we possibly can, as Joey would do when he was coach.’’
Gerald Oubre Memorial Tournament
Thursday, March 15
Jesuit (7-5) at Destrehan (6-8), 3:30 p.m.
Brother Martin (6-6) at Hahnville (9-6), 4 p.m.
Holy Cross (7-5-1) at Central Lafourche (10-6), 6 p.m.
Friday, March 16
Holy Cross vs. Hammond (6-8) at John Ryan, 3:15 p.m.
Lake Charles Prep (4-6-1) at Hahnville, 3:30 p.m.
Brother Martin at Destrehan, 4 p.m.
Central Lafourche vs. Hammond at John Ryan, 5:45 p.m.
Lake Charles Prep vs. Jesuit at John Ryan, 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 17
Central Lafourche vs. Lake Charles Prep at Hahnville, 8:30 a.m.
Brother Martin vs. Hammond at Destrehan, 8:30 a.m.
Holy Cross at Hahnville, 11 a.m.
Jesuit vs. Hammond at Destrehan 11 a.m.
Brother Martin vs. Central Lafourche at Hahnville, 1:30 p.m.
Lake Charles Prep at Destrehan, 1:30 p.m.
Holy Cross at Destrehan, 4 p.m.
Jesuit at Hahnville, 4 p.m.