Abraham’s goal: Return WC to glory|[07/23/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Warren Central baseball coach Josh Abraham is looking to turn around the Vikings’ fortunes by finding the “right group of guys.”

Abraham met candidates for the 2009 WC baseball team Tuesday afternoon on the first of a three-day tryout camp at Viking Field.

“I think this will be the most important three days for this program in a long time,” Abraham said. “I’m looking for the right group of guys to go to work with.”

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In the past two seasons, the Vikings have had little to show for their work under former coach Randy Broome. They won just 15 games, including a 9-19 mark this spring. Before the recent slump, the Vikings were mainstays in the Class 5A playoffs, making at least the quarterfinal round in 2005 and 2006. They won the 5A state title in 2001.

Abraham, a former player at Mississippi State, knows success. He’s spent the past four years as an assistant coach to Gary Enis at Tupelo High School. The Golden Wave advanced to the Class 5A championship series in May against Ocean Springs and finished 34-5.

“A lot of the guys that started for us last year, like (Mississippi State pitching prospect Chris) Stratton, I had those guys in the eighth and ninth grade year myself,” Abraham said.

That proved to be a very valuable experience for Abraham.

“I learned how to manage a team. And I learned how to continue to win,” he said.

It starts with a lot of work. On Tuesday, 29 players worked through fielding drills. Today, Abraham will evaluate their hitting skills. The three-day camp ends on Thursday with scrimmage work.

This could be a good tune up for several of the younger Vikings since many are playing in this weekend’s Governor’s Cup, which begins Friday at Halls Ferry Park.

“The biggest thing about our guys in Tupelo and the reason why they became successful is that they were hard-working,” Abraham said. “They got better each and every day. You find that kind of mentality in programs from Northeast Mississippi down through the south.”

As for his description of the right kind of guy that will become a Viking baseball player, Abraham gave this answer.

“Hard-working, ready to get after it. Ready to compete,” he said.

While hustle is the most important quality, finding talent helps.

“I’m looking for speed, arms and hitting ability,” Abraham said.

Eleven of the 29 present played either varsity or junior varsity last spring. “I had no idea how many we would have. But by the numbers I can see that there is interest in the program. This is my first chance to see the talent. I’m excited to be here,” Abraham said.