For the first time in 33 years, Southern's baseball team has a new coach, a new way of doing things and a fresh start.
His name is Kerrick Jackson. As the successor to Roger Cador, the Jaguars' skipper for the past three decades, Jackson has massive, legendary shoes to fill.
“I think the goal is to just continue to grow as the season goes along,” Jackson said Wednesday. “You’ve got the transition of me coming in as a new head coach after things have been done here in a certain way for 33 years."
The Jaguars, who haven’t had a winning season since 2012, have a 2018 team loaded with players recruited by Cador, not Jackson. There’s a learning curve for Southern as it begins the shift from Cador’s mannerisms to Jackson’s brand.
“We’ve had a good transition with that, I believe,” Jackson said.
“For me, to place any expectations other than challenge our kids to go out and get better every day would be unfair to them. So, that’s what I’ve told them since day one. This is going to be a process for us. We haven’t been good in a long time. We can’t think that we’re going to be good overnight.”
Since his hire last summer, Jackson was able to add one player, Tristan Rojas, who is expected to be the Jaguars’ opening day designated hitter.
As for the others, they’ve had to adjust to their new coach.
“It’s a good group of kids,” Jackson said. “They have a pretty good work ethic about them. They’re very, very hungry for knowledge. They’re very hungry to learn more and more about the game. We have a competitive bunch. There’s some anxiety, as there always is when you’re going into it. But I think there’s so many things that are new this year, there’s a little bit more (anxiety). So just trying to keep them level headed and calm.”
Southern begins its season with a Friday doubleheader at the New Orleans Youth Academy's Wesley-Barrow Stadium: The first game is at noon against Illinois-Chicago, followed by a 3:30 p.m. first pitch versus Grambling.
The Jaguars are scheduled to meet Illinois-Chicago again at 2 p.m. Saturday, a game televised on MLB Network as part of the network’s coverage of the “Andre Dawson Classic,” an annual collegiate tournament named after Hall of Famer Andre Dawson to highlight historically black colleges.
“I’m expecting our guys to go out and be competitive,” Jackson said. "With the way that we’ve kind of geared things to this point, we’ve really, really preached going out and being fundamentally sound from a defensive standpoint. … We’re going to have some ups and downs, potentially, on the offensive side of the ball. But when it comes to pitching and defensive aspects of things, we have to be consistent. We have to be solid in those areas.”