SULPHUR — Even though he coached teams to eight state titles, Kyle Achord wasn’t prepared for the rush of emotions he’s felt over the past eight days.
“I can say this … I get way more nervous now than I did when I coached,” Achord said. “It’s like a roller coaster. But I’ve also told people that at age 25, Gannon knows a lot more than I did. He may be young, but he knows the game. He’s been a baseball sponge all his life.”
It is no surprise that one of West Feliciana baseball coach Gannon Achord’s biggest fans is his father. Kyle Achord coached Central Private to seven Mississippi Private School Association titles and Catholic High to one Class 5A title before retiring from coaching in 2011.
When the elder Achord took a job as team sales director for bat maker Marucci, it seemed to be the perfect way for a former coach to stay “in the game.” When his son became head coach at WFHS after spending one year as a Saints assistant, things moved to a new level for the Achord family.
First-year head coach Gannon Achord led the Saints into their first LHSAA tourney title game against South Beauregard at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA state baseball tournament on Saturday in Sulphur, pushing the stakes even higher.
But the 3A title game was suspended in the top of the third inning because of stormy weather with the Saints up 3-1. It will resume at 1 p.m. Sunday
“From the time I was in pre-K and kindergarten at Central Private I was with my dad,” Gannon Achord said. “The instructions were the same. Every day when the bell rang, I walked back to the baseball field.
“So until I was old enough to drive, that was my life. I went through phases. For a while, I’d take my glove and go out in the outfield. Then I was in the dugout, and later on, I was on the infield when I figured I was ready to practice with the team.”
Kyle Achord talks about all his son’s other influences. An uncle who coached at Carson-Newman, former Central Private and current Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll, ex-Central Private coach Jason Kinchen and former Central coach Leo McClure are just a few.
The concerns Kyle Achord had when his son took over at WFHS didn’t involve baseball. It had more to do with managing a program and players.
“Gannon has had some other people who have helped mentor him through the process … people like Robb Odom (West Feliciana athletic director),” Kyle Achord said. “Along with coaching the baseball part of it, I can also see how he’s had an impact on the culture.
“One of the things he’s stressed is never giving up on a play. He’s told his players to follow through and even arm fake a throw if they don’t field a ball cleanly. They got a runner out on that in the playoffs. It proves you never know what can happen.”
The Saints also proved anything was possible by rallying from a 1-0 deficit to St. Louis Catholic to claim a 2-1 best-of-three series win in the quarterfinals. The two Saturday wins over third-seeded St. Louis included a seven-run rally.”
“That Friday night they were ahead 3-1 and lost in the seventh,” Kyle Achord said. “My wife and daughter and I talked about it, and that was like the lowest of lows. And then 24 hours later we were celebrating. It was incredible.”
The former coach also offers a tip of the cap to his son for using a fake steal in which a player fell down intentionally between first and second base. It led to the go ahead run against St. Louis.
“I’d never make that call, but he did, and it worked,” Kyle Achord proudly said.
Gannon Achord also offers a tribute of his own.
“When I got the job, my dad reminded me to keep the important things in focus, like family,” he said. “He says baseball is just a part of life, not all of it.”
What a season of memories for the Achords. Yes, memories last a lifetime.
St. Amant is accepting applications for a softball coach. Several teaching spots are available. Scott Nielson resigned after 14 seasons. Nielson led the Gators to the quarterfinals this spring.
May 27 is the deadline to apply. Fax résumés to (225) 391-6037 or send via email to Athletic Director David Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org. Résumés can also be mailed to Oliver at St. Amant High School, 12035 Highway 431, St. Amant, LA 70774.