New head coach Antonio Calvin wants to revive Vicksburg baseball

Published 7:57 pm Thursday, June 7, 2018

It’s only been 10 years since Vicksburg High played for a baseball state championship, but often feels like a lot longer. The Gators haven’t finished with a winning record since 2012, and hasn’t won more than 10 games in a season since 2014.

To revive the floundering program, Vicksburg has turned to a guy who is both familiar with its past success and who knows a little bit about turning teams around.

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Former Greenville coach Antonio Calvin, a 2001 VHS graduate, has been hired as the Gators’ next head coach.

“Because Vicksburg is home. Because I remember what we used to be like. Then it just became appealing to me to be able to come back and be a part of the resurrection of this program,” Calvin said of his reasons for taking the Vicksburg job. “I know that it’s a great opportunity and the kids deserve it. We were able to do a lot in Greenville, and I’ve made sure that me plan going into any situation is to leave it in a better place than I found it. I know that we did Greenville that way. Vicksburg is just another opportunity to further that mission.”

The 35-year-old Calvin was Greenville’s head coach for the past two seasons.

He had a modest 21-29 record, but that was only two wins shy of the total from 2013-16 combined. The Hornets made the Class 6A playoffs this season — they lost in the first round to Southaven — and nearly upset Warren Central in March.

“Baseball was a different monster there. When we took over they had been averaging three wins per season. Once we took over two years ago, we jumped to 14 wins. We built a fairly decent reputation there,” Calvin said.

Calvin sees a lot of similarities between what he inherited at Greenville and what he’s getting with Vicksburg, and is taking a similar approach. Discipline and accountability, he said, will be cornerstones of his program,” he said. “Regardless of the type of kid you have, I think discipline is very important. Once you instill that, and make them responsible for their actions on the field or off of it, then I think that translates into wins.”

From a procedural standpoint, Calvin is also following his old playbook. After talking with parents of players, he opted to cancel the entire summer schedule — most teams play about 20 varsity games in June — and focus instead on practice. Schedule conflicts with a number of players involved in other sports, as well as a need to strip things down and start over, were behind his decision.

“They were concerned about the summer schedule and the challenges our kids were going to face during the summer. So they decided to just cut their losses with it all and stop the bleeding,” Calvin said. “A lot of our parents are just sick and tired of losing. That’s a lot of the conversation I’ve been hearing. So the easiest way to do that is to just scrap it all and start over. That’s the same exact thing we had to do in Greenville. We scrapped summer baseball and started over, and we were able to grow rapidly.”

As he gets his system into place, Calvin also has plans to build a winning tradition at Vicksburg by going back to the one he grew up with.

The school produced college and pro players like Robby Goodson (Mississippi State) and Roosevelt Brown (Chicago Cubs) at a regular rate during Calvin’s playing days, and he has maintained relationships with them. He said it helps for current players to see what’s possible from guys who have walked the same halls.

“I’m going to reach out to those guys and have those guys come back, and just sit down and have a conversation with these guys,” Calvin said. “They’ve been losing for a little while, and so they don’t understand the adrenaline that you get from winning, and winning the right way. Anybody can beat up on a team that’s not very good. But to be able to compete and win against teams that are state ranked, or are historically good programs, that’s a feeling no drug can give you. We want to experience those things. We want to do things the right way here. I believe that will translate to success. If we can get some of those past players that were part of those glory years to come back and be a part of it, the mystique of those guys will rub off on our current players.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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