By Morgan Bryce
Opelika High School has named Zach Blatt as its next head baseball coach.
In a press release announcing Blatt’s hire last Thursday, OHS Principal Dr. Farrell Seymore and Athletic Director Mike Hugh both stated their excitement to have him at the helm of the baseball program.
“His experience in developing players at the high school level, his unique understanding of our community’s baseball tradition and his ability to connect with our athletes is consistent with the expectations of Opelika baseball. We look forward to our program’s continued athletic and academic excellence under his leadership,” Seymore said.
Pugh added that Blatt’s strong work ethic and motor will be beneficial for the program moving forward.
“Coach Blatt is a very hard working, high energy coach that is going to be very successful for many years to come. I am very excited to have him as our head baseball coach and look forward to working with him.”
Blatt, who joined the baseball program as an assistant in 2013, was hired 10 days after Nick Richardson announced that he was leaving Opelika to fill in the same role at his alma mater, Tuscaloosa County High School.
After an interview with school officials earlier in the week, Blatt said the phone call notifying him that he had received the job was a bit of much-needed relief.
“It was good. I’ve been so busy with summer football that I’ve had plenty to keep my mind distracted and busy,” Blatt said. “It’s a relief knowing that this is my show now, and ultimately it’s my decisions which will come down on my shoulders.”
Blatt, an OHS alum and former pitcher on Auburn University’s baseball team, inherits an Opelika program that has won 66 percent of its games the last five seasons, including back-to-back second-round finishes and two 6A state quarterfinal appearances in the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
A member of the 2008 team that came within two wins of a state championship v. Hoover, Blatt said he has some unfinished business to attend as head coach.
“We gotta keep working. We’ve been a pitch away or a hit away from making it further in the playoffs the last few seasons, and I think our kids realize how close we’ve been,” Blatt said. “It’s just a matter of continuing to grind and hopefully get over that hump.”
The Bulldogs lose some key pieces headed into next season, including Jared Bartlett and ace pitcher and Texas A&M signee Jackson Reynolds, but Bartlett said he is confident in the younger groups of players coming up through the Opelika City Schools system.
“Reynolds will be tough to replace because you don’t find a whole lot of guys who can throw a 93 mph fastball in high school. But we have some young guys coming up that I’m excited about,” Blatt said. “Andrew Parr and Jace Rhodes (will be juniors), and we just have a ton of other guys who are going to compete and give us a great chance to win.”
For more information or updates on OHS athletics, visit www.opelikaschools.org.