CEDAR BLUFF - When Jim Nelson was growing up playing baseball, it was his dream to someday become a coach.
After graduating from Cedar Bluff in 2010 and the University of Alabama at Huntsville in 2014, Nelson got that opportunity at Fort Payne in 2015 as a middle school coach. A couple of weeks ago, the opportunity was presented to him to come home, and Nelson answered the call to become the new Tiger varsity head baseball coach.
Nelson replaces Andrew Kinney, who took softball head coaching position at Albertville back in May.
"I felt like I was led to come home," Nelson said. "It was an opportunity to live out a dream. I'm excited to be home. I feel like it's a great opportunity."
Nelson is one of Cedar Bluff's most decorated baseball players. As a senior catcher in 2010, he led the Tigers to the Class 1A state semifinals by batting .532 with 11 homers, 24 doubles, four triples, 65 runs, 37 walks, 23 stolen bases and 51 RBIs. His name is still scattered throughout the Alabama High School Athletic Association baseball record book.
"I've heard a lot of good things about Coach Nelson, about his playing time here, the type of character he has and his desire to want to come back to his home school," Cedar Bluff principal Rusty Thrasher said. "Coach Kinney left our program in a really good spot, and we feel fortunate to get Coach Nelson to come back to his home school and lead our baseball program and continue to push us to greater heights."
Nelson said he wouldn't have left his position at Fort Payne for just any position. He hopes he's able to maintain the excellence his predecessors have established at Cedar Bluff.
"Coach (Taylor) Talbot built this into one of the top 1A baseball programs in the state, and after he left, Coach Kinney took over and kind of kept them where they were at. They remained one of the top programs in the state," Nelson said. "I was in a position at Fort Payne where I was really happy to be where I was, and I didn't want to leave for just anything. This was an opportunity that came open and I feel like this is one of the places to be in baseball, especially 1A baseball."
Nelson said so far the kids seem to be on same page as him. He said he's not too concerned with coaching them up so much this summer as he is to find out "what our identity is as a team."
"The group of kids we have out is a great group of kids," he said. "The kids here at Cedar Bluff and in this county as a whole are some of the best kids you can find anywhere. I feel like so far they've been real receptive to everything.
"I feel like I've got the opportunity now to come back and help these kids do things now that I've been through it and know how it works and what happens. My goal is to help them to create something where they have no regrets, to know they got everything out of baseball or football that they could have. For baseball, I want them to look back on it, have a favorable memory and say 'We did everything we could do.'"
In other Cedar Bluff coaching news, Thrasher said second-year volleyball coach Deidra Davis is now the head coach of the Lady Tiger varsity softball team. She replaces Mandy Walker, who guided Cedar Bluff to an 18-24 record last season and their third consecutive berth in the North Regional Tournament in Huntsville.
"Coach Walker wants to watch her child (Jordyn) play, but she knows it's in good hands," Thrasher said. "She wouldn't have stepped away unless she knew the program was in good hands. That was something we talked about for the last few months.
"Coach Davis did a fantastic job with volleyball last year, and softball almost comes second nature to her. She has gotten to know our girls, our program, our school and our community. She loves it here, and I think she'll be able to continue carrying our girls to greater heights. We've got a great core of girls who are coming through right now. She works them hard during athletics and she works them hard at practice. She took a large role in the coaching responsibilities this year in softball, even being a first-year coach. It was an easy transition to have Coach Davis move up. We're very fortunate to have her."