By Kevin Price
Photography by Jennifer Johnson
Caleb Stewart will be going to college as an infielder and his future school of choice plans to play him at shortstop.
But the Ware County standout can actually play anywhere across a baseball diamond if need be which made him all the more attractive to the
college programs that spent time recruiting him.
“He’s played every position for us except first base,” said Gators’ head coach Jamie Ammons who actually plans to play his senior star at the
greet-em corner for at least an inning before the end of the 2021 season.
Stewart, a senior and four-year starter for the Gators, is our featured MVP in this issue of 912 Sports Magazine which focuses on some of the top
baseball players across Southeast Georgia this spring.
Stewart says it’s hard to believe he is already closing out his time in a Ware uniform, but added he feels fortunate to have a senior season with Covid- 19 still impacting academics and athletics in schools nationwide.
“It was always in the back of my head we might not play,” Steward says now. “We just had to focus on what was ahead of us when school started
and went full-fledged into getting ready to play.”
A preseason all-state pick in Class AAAAA by the Georgia Dugout Club, Stewart has signed with Georgia State University in Atlanta.
He will continue to blossom with the Panthers who compete in NCAA Division I and are members of the Sun Belt Conference, according to
“He’ll put the work in that it takes to be successful,” Ware’s coach noted.
Stewart has put together a stellar prep career with the Gators. He played in one junior varsity game as a freshman, but was already dressing out with
the varsity team from the get-go.
As a ninth-grader, he saw time on the varsity in the outfield as well as shortstop. His sophomore year, Stewart primarily played catcher for the
Gators. Last year, he played shortstop full-time before Ware lost its season
after only 10 games due to the Covid-19 pandemic which shut down spring
sports throughout the state.
And again this year, Stewart is back as the starting shortstop for the Gators.
“He’s a five-tool player,” Ammons said. “He’s got speed and power and he
hits for average. He has a strong arm. His best tools are his speed and power and just his overall hitting ability.”
Stewart can definitely rake with a baseball bat in his hands.
When this article was written in early March, he was batting .530 in the
early going with nine hits in 17 at-bats for the Gators. He had a homer and two RBIs while scoring eight runs and stealing nine bases in only five games.
Last spring, Stewart was hitting .559 when the season was halted by Covid.
He had 19 hits including six doubles and two homers in 10 games while
also swiping nine bases.
As a sophomore, Stewart finished batting .382 while stealing 16 bases. He finished his freshman season batting .286 with seven steals.
Stewart’s speed on the bases can cause serious trouble for the opposition.
“He’s definitely electrifying,” Ammons said. “I think he’s faster running the
bases than he is running in a straight line. He runs in the low sixes in the
(60-yard dash), maybe a 6.4 or 6.5 (seconds). He just looks different running the bases.”
Stewart experimented with switch-hitting early in his prep career, but has
settled on hitting from the right side. Ammons said Stewart has more power swinging right-handed and also better overall control of his bat.
Stewart agreed. “I feel like I see the ball better and have more power,” he said.
At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, Stewart takes the fundamentals of the game
seriously, especially when it comes to hitting. He watches YouTube videos
on the finer points of hitting and has analyzed his own swing with the help of his travel ball coaches who have professional baseball experience.
This summer, Stewart will play in a league for college players down in Florida to begin preparing for fall camp at Georgia State.
“That should be pretty fun,” he said.
Stewart said he entertained several offers from colleges to join their baseball programs before giving the Panthers his commitment.
“I felt like Georgia State had the best offer,” he noted. “They have a great
coaching staff to continue building the program. It’s a good fit for me all-around.”
And what about living in the big city of Atlanta?
“It’s a nice change. I feel like I’ll be alright with it,” Stewart said. Stewart said he plans to make the most of attending school in downtown
Atlanta. One thing he looks forward to watching the Atlanta Braves play in person. He hopes to take in several Braves games when he doesn’t have
class, practice or a game to play himself.
“As many as I can get to,” he said of going to Braves games as well as
concerts by popular musical acts that may tour in Atlanta and other big-time sports events held in the state capital.
“I like everything Georgia State had to offer,” Stewart said.
By Kevin Price
Photography by Michael Brinson
A Smart One
Blake Wood knows about protecting the plate with two strikes. One day, the current Glynn Academy baseball standout wouldn’t mind protecting the U.S. President.
Wood, our Scholar-Athlete for March-April, has his mind set on becoming a Secret Service
agent or perhaps an FBI agent when he is finished with school and ball.
The Red Terrors’ senior will start working toward those career goals this fall when he enrolls at
Florida State College - Jacksonville, where he will further both his baseball and academic
careers. Wood said he plans to ultimately major in criminal justice while hopefully continuing to play baseball beyond the two-year school in Jacksonville, Fla.
“I’ve always found TV shows like Criminal Minds interesting,” Wood said. “I like that kind of stuff.”
Wood also recently took a tour of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick
with a family friend which did nothing but peak his interest even more.
A preseason all-state selection by the Georgia Dugout Club, Wood said he was also getting
interest from Young Harris College and Georgia College and State University, but chose FSCJ largely because of its attractive Public Safety academic program.
“I also liked the baseball program. The coach really took a lot of one-on-one time with me,” he said.
The BlueWave saw Wood play during a December showcase tournament. He hit the first pitch
he saw with the team watching well beyond the outfield fence for a home run. He says that
sealed his commitment to the school.
“That was a sign,” he said with a sly grin. “The fences weren’t marked, but it was one of the
farthest balls I have ever hit.”
Wood verbally committed to FSCJ and head coach Brad Frick on Christmas Eve. He figures to
be a good fit on the team as a well-rounded student-athlete. The BlueWave squad posted a
3.33 team grade-point average in 2020 and ranked among the top-20 in the National Junior
College Athletic Association for its academic marks. Of the 26 players on the roster, 21 finished
last year with 3.0 or better GPA.
Wood, who transferred to Glynn prior to his junior year from Wayne County, currently holds a
3.9 GPA while taking dual enrollment classes since coming to Brunswick. He had always made
all As in school until making his first-ever B last spring when school closed due to the Covid-19
pandemic and course work had to be finished out online.
He completed his requirements for graduation after fall semester and is currently taking three classes this spring - Pre-Calculus, English 1102 and Forensics.
Wood said his parents stressed the importance of doing well academically to him at an early age.
“They laid the foundation, and now it’s up to me,” he explained.
His dad owns two successful businesses including a company that installs insulation, but Wood
quickly realized that kind of work wasn’t for him when he worked in the family business to earn spending money.
“He and my brother have the passion for it, but I’m not that guy,” Wood said.
He especially didn’t care for going into an attic on a hot summer day in South Georgia. “That’s
for the birds,” Wood said.
Wood is a pitcher and outfielder for the Terrors. Last season, he was swinging a hot bat at the
plate as he was batting a team-best .500 with 22 hits in 44 at-bats. He also led the Terrors with
11 stolen bases and 14 RBIs in the leadoff spot.
On the mound, Wood was off to a 4-0 start with a .759 ERA. He threw 27 innings, struck out 28
and walked 14.
Glynn was 12-2 on the season when spring sports were wiped out by the global pandemic and
was ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAAA by MaxPreps.
One of the top players in Region 2 to begin the season, Wood got off to a slow start at the plate,
but he figures to be a key contributor to any success the Terrors have in region play and beyond.
“I’m seeing the ball just as good now,” he said. “At the end of the day, I can only do what hitters
do. And, that’s hit.”
Glynn coach Trent Mongero said Wood’s overall smarts help make him a standout player.
“Typically, what you find is your best students are your better players,” said the veteran coach.
“If they have the skill-set to play the game, they can use their discipline and their minds to their advantage.
“Blake’s baseball IQ is above average for a high-school player. He’s ahead of most players his
age. He’s hungry for knowledge. He asks a lot of questions, wants to know why we do things
like we do. Players like him, they’re gonna be ahead of most others from a mental standpoint.”
Mongero noted that Wood is a natural leader who sets a good example in the locker room. He
also is willing to help the younger players improve by working with them.
“The best leaders pull. They don’t push,” Mongero said. “They bring the young players along
with them. Blake does that. You see it in the weight room and on the field.”
The St. Louis Cardinals’ pitcher talks with 912 Sports‘ Kevin Price
Posted 2/22/2021 at 12:45 pm
By Kevin Price
Update: Camden County has officially hired former head football coach Jeff Herron as the new coach of the Wildcats football program.
Camden County schools released a news bulletin mid-morning Monday announcing Herron as the football program’s next head coach. The news of Herron’s pending hire was first reported by 912 Sports Connection early Monday morning.
Multiple sources close to the situation told 912 Sports over the weekend that Herron had accepted the Wildcats’ post on Friday. We talked with several of them about Herron’s return for our earlier story which can be read in its entirety below. Herron said he would discuss Camden football with 912 after the new coach had been named.
Camden principal Steve Loden said the school is honored to have Herron return.
“Coach Herron has an enduring legacy of building football programs that produce not only state champions but also student-athletes who are defined by their outstanding character and sportsmanship. We are excited for this next chapter in Camden County football and look forward to seeing our community turn out to support the Wildcats under the lights of Chris Gilman Stadium this fall.”
Posted 2/22/2021 at 08:00 am
By Kevin Price
The Camden County Wildcats plan to make an official announcement regarding a new head football coach this week which will end weeks of speculation regarding this important issue in a community where high school football is a big deal. And based on what 912 Sports Connection has learned in recent weeks, this upcoming announcement will most likely create a fervor
unlike any other inside the county lines and also places well beyond because of who the next coach will be for the Wildcats which compete in Class AAAAAAA in the Georgia High School Association.
Multiple sources have confirmed to 912 Sports that former Camden head coach Jeff Herron has accepted an offer to return as head coach of the Wildcats which have been looking for a new coach since Bob
Sphire resigned as the team’s head coach on Feb. 4.
“It’s going to be like a revival,” said Allen Rassi, former president of the Camden Wildcat Quarterback Club who remains an active supporter of the football program. “I’m excited for Camden County. I
believe our administration and our school system have handled this in a first-class manner.”
Herron coached the Wildcats for 13 seasons from 2000-2012 and won three state championships with the program during that time.
Herron declined comment with 912 Sports on Sunday night but said he would comment on the Camden coaching search when a new coach is named.
Sources close to the search have told 912 Sports that an official announcement from Camden County Schools regarding the hiring of
Herron will likely be made this week and could be forthcoming as early as today.
School officials would not confirm the hiring of Herron over the weekend, but Camden athletic director and former head football coach Welton Coffey did respond in a text message to 912 Sports that an announcement will be made soon. 912 Sports plans to be in Kingsland Monday to report on Herron’s
return as head coach. His hiring is still pending approval by the Camden County Board of Education.
We will provide updates on this story as it develops.
Please be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for any breaking news as it happens. We will continue to provide the latest information on 912Sports.Net as well.
We have been following the Camden coaching search since Sphire submitted his resignation earlier this month. 912 Sports was aware that Sphire could be leaving the program following Camden’s 2020 season even before the Wildcats lost in overtime at Parkview in the opening round of the state playoffs in late November. Sphire is returning to Kentucky, where he grew up and also previously coached, to become head coach at Highland High School in Fort Thomas.
He won a state championship with Lexington (Ky.) Catholic in 2005 prior to coming to Georgia and becoming head coach at North Gwinnett which he established as a state power before coming to Camden prior to the 2017 season. Sphire was 23-20 in his four years at Camden, taking the Wildcats to the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs the last two years. This past season, Camden finished with a 5-6 record.
Herron is currently an assistant coach at Tennessee Tech, where he once served as a graduate assistant coach at the outset of his career.
The Golden Eagles opened their spring season Sunday at home against Austin Peay after not playing this fall due to concerns about Covid-19. Tennessee Tech won 27-21.
912 Sports learned Friday night that Herron had agreed to return to Camden for a second stint as the Wildcats coach. He also requested Camden not make his acceptance public any earlier than Monday so
that he could wait until after Tennessee Tech’s game on Sunday to inform his position players of his decision in hopes of not creating a distraction for the team prior to the game. It is believed that Herron plans to finish out his commitment with the Eagles and remain with the team for the remainder of the spring
season. He could still get his offseason program installed with the Wildcats while doing so by having chosen assistants handling the day- to-day operations within the program until he can be in Camden again
on a daily basis. His son Major Herron is a middle-school coach in Camden while former assistants under Herron are still employed by Camden including offensive line coach Greg Slattery who also has been a head
Herron is the most successful coach in Camden football history as he led the Wildcats to three state championships while establishing the program as a state power in Georgia’s largest classification and making it one of the elite prep football programs in the nation. The Wildcats were 154-18 in 13 seasons under Herron and made the playoffs every season during his previous tenure. The Wildcats also played in several nationally televised games during his time with the program.
Herron’s overall record as a head coach is 312-54. He has never had a losing season in 29 years as a head coach.
“He cultivates a culture of belief,” Rassi said. “Look at where he’s been - Oconee County, Camden County, Prince Avenue Christian, Grayson and T.L. Hanna, and now coming back to Camden. Everybody has to buy in on it, and you want to be a part of it. No matter what your role is, even if you’re just sitting in the stands ringing that cowbell, you want to be a part of it.”
Herron is currently tied for the best overall winning percentage all-time among head coaches in Georgia with the legendary Larry Campbell who was the longtime coach at Lincoln County and has the most wins
all-time by any coach in Georgia with 477 career victories during a head-coaching career with the Red Devils that spanned four decades.
Both Herron and Campbell own an .847 winning percentage as a head coach in the state. Herron has 287 victories as a head coach in Georgia which puts him in the top-15 for most wins all-time in state history.
Herron has won five state titles and is the only coach in the history of Georgia high school football to win state championships as a head coach with three different schools. He also won state championships
at Oconee County and Grayson in addition to the three he won at Camden. During his first stint with the Wildcats, Herron led them to 12 consecutive region championships. Camden once won 28 straight games and also won a Georgia-record 58 consecutive games in the regular season. The USA Today ranked the Wildcats in its Super 25 poll in six of Herron’s final eight seasons with the team. Camden was named Georgia’s team of the decade for 2000-2010 for its success on the field.
“The biggest thing I can say about Coach Herron coming back is that he knows what to expect from us and we know what to expect from him,” said Artie Jones Jr., who is on the board of directors for the Camden quarterback club. “We know him, and he knows us, and he
can hit the ground running.
“By far, he’s the most successful coach in Camden County football history. I know I like his coaching style. He brings out the best in all of his athletes. He doesn’t hold them back. He doesn’t care whether the
score is 0-0 or 50-0, he wants you to play your hardest and do your best.”
Camden won its first state championship in 2003, beating the Valdosta Wildcats 21-7 in the final game at storied Cleveland Field before it was
renovated and then named Bazemore-Hyder Stadium at Cleveland Field to carry the names of Valdosta’s most-known head coaches in their illustrious history.
Camden won back-to-back state crowns under Herron in 2008 and 2009. The Wildcats defeated Peachtree Ridge in the 2008 title game and prowled past Northside-Warner Robins in the 2009 state final.
Herron became Camden’s head coach the first time following a state-championship season at Oconee County in 1999 which was his third
season with the Warriors who went 33-6 in his time with the program. Oconee, which fell to Pierce County in this year’s Class AAA state final, had only won eight games in the previous four seasons
combined prior to Herron’s arrival.
Herron left Camden following the 2012 season and coached at Prince Avenue Christian in Bogart for three seasons, going to the quarterfinals and semifinals in those three years while compiling a 31-
6 record in his three years with the school.
He coached at Grayson in 2016 and led the Rams to a 14-1 record and a state championship in his only season with the Gwinnett power which won this year’s state championship in Class AAAAAAA under
Adam Carter. Carter hails from Herron’s coaching tree along with Franklin Stephens who has won several state titles as a head coach. Stephens coached several seasons at Ware County and is now head
coach at McEachern in Cobb County.
Herron left Georgia following his only season at Grayson to coach at T.L. Hanna in Anderson, S.C. He led Hanna to records of 11-1 and 14-1 in the 2017 and 2018 seasons with his 2018 team playing for a state championship. His two Hanna teams won region championships
and the 2018 team also won the Upstate championship before losing in the state final.
Jones said there might be critics out there who don’t think Herron can rekindle the magic again at Camden, but he believes the Wildcats are
making a smart choice in turning to Herron again as they look to again contend for state championships.
“In this world, you’re not gonna get 100 percent agreement on anything,” Jones said. “We could bring in the coach who just won the Super Bowl, and there would be critics. “Football is big business, and our program has been the heart of Camden County. It brought us together as a community when he was
here. We had 4,500 or 5,000 people following our team when we went on the road, and the other team liked to see us coming because we generated a lot of revenue for them.
“Camden has been losing a lot lately. When you only have 400 or 500 people following the team, that is pretty bad. I want to see our stands
full again, and the only way we are gonna be full again is to start winning. We want a winner and we can win. We have the kids here to do it. We are gonna have to build it up again, get that spirit going again.”
Of course, Herron is the one who created that buzz around the Wildcats for all those years.
He actually retired from coaching after his second season at Hanna and sat out the 2019 season before joining the staff at Tennessee
Tech in early 2020 prior to the postponement of the fall season due to concerns related to the Covid19 pandemic.
Carter, who led Grayson to that aforementioned state crown this past season, believes Herron will be successful again in Camden.
“He will make an immediate impact on those guys,” Carter said. “It won’t take long. He’ll be in the dogfight in Region 1 this year, they’ll be in the mix. He’s the best there is at what he does.” Carter said an older Herron is as good as the Herron that arrived at
Camden back at the turn of the century.
“He’s got a lot left in the tank. He’s not going into it washed up I promise you.” Carter said. “They’ll be ready. You can take that to the bank.”
Sign up to hear from us about new stories and podcasts
Our popular Thursday Night show has been moved to Monday during baseball season!
Be listening for live baseball coming soon!