Hodges moves on

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 19, 2003

GREENVILLE – When Brandon Hodges laid out his goals in the back of his mind; coaching collegiate baseball was definitely on that list.

Now, after a successful one-year stint at the helm of the Hertford County baseball program, Hodges is getting that chance much sooner than he may have expected.

Pitt Community College baseball coach Monte Little tabbed Hodges as his assistant coach during the summer, allowing the Hertford County native to join a program that is less than 10 years old, but that has already posted 274 wins against only 88 losses.

&uot;I looked at his background and he certainly had a desire to coach,&uot; Little said. &uot;We visited on the phone a few times and I had him visit with me here and saw he had a knowledge of the game.&uot;

Most of that knowledge will be directed in the area of pitching during the upcoming season, as Hodges will serve as the tutor for the 11 or 12 young men that pitch for Pitt.

&uot;He knows how to communicate with players, especially our pitchers,&uot; Little said. &uot;I would say he is a players’ kind of young man.&uot;

Tabbed as pitching coach and lead recruiter for the Bulldogs’ baseball program, Hodges has already worked with the team during Fall Ball and is now helping direct them during winter conditioning.

Little said his new assistant was already making his mark on the Greenville campus.

For his part, Hodges said his chance to coach at the college has been as good as he expected.

&uot;It’s going great,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s everything that I thought it would be and then some, especially learning the game under coach Little.&uot;

Hodges’ ability and desire to continue learning is a key issue for both men.

&uot;I am enjoying the experience,&uot; Hodges said. &uot;I want to coach at the collegiate level, but the main thing for me was the chance to come here and learn from coach.&uot;

Little said it was that desire that was key in his decision to bring Hodges to Greenville.

&uot;Brandon brings maturity,&uot; Little said. &uot;He brings loyalty, which is important to me as a coach, and he brings respect for the game.

&uot;In addition to that,&uot; he continued, &uot;Brandon brings something to the table that most coaches don’t – he realizes he doesn’t know everything about the game, the same as I don’t, but he wants to learn.

&uot;I think the fact that he realizes he doesn’t know everything is important and I think it is something the players pick up on and are attracted to,&uot; Little added.

Following a two-year stint as an assistant coach with the HCHS program, Hodges spent last season as the Bears’ skipper.

And, while he is enjoying the next step in his coaching career, Hodges said it was a difficult decision that he and his wife, Anna, faced when deciding to leave Hertford County.

&uot;The hardest thing for us was leaving home and leaving my kids at Hertford County,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s been tough on me. I hated to leave Coach (Charles) Simmons and all those wonderful players at Hertford County High School.&uot;

Hodges’ one-year stint as head coach at HCHS was by design as he took the job understanding a new policy allowing only teachers in the system to coach would take effect at the beginning of this school year.

Still the coach guided his team to unparalleled success in the regular season, posting a 17-5 record over-all and a 10-2 mark inside the Northeastern Coastal Conference.

&uot;I couldn’t have asked for a better year than the guys had last year,&uot; he said. &uot;They did everything I asked of them and then some.

&uot;The boys did it, I was just out there with them,&uot; he added. &uot;Baseball is coming back in Hertford County and it needs to stay that way.&uot;

Hodges’ modesty aside, it was under his direction the Bears’ program reversed seven years of losing to gain respectability and a second place finish in the NCC.

That success, along with the knowledge he has already gleaned in baseball was enough to gain him the respect of his peers in the coaching profession.

&uot;Brandon has a bright young mind,&uot; Bertie baseball boss Randy Whitaker said. &uot;Over the years of coaching together in American Legion and against each other we developed a lot of the same mind-set.

&uot;Coaching against him was like coaching a chess match, because we both knew what the other was thinking,&uot; he continued. &uot;He did a heck of a job with last year and earned an excellent opportunity at Pitt.&uot;

Little concurred that the Pitt job could be a stepping-stone in Hodges’ coaching career.

&uot;We have a pretty good reputation here at Pitt,&uot; Little said. &uot;We have a lot of kids who have gone on to the professional ranks.

&uot;His goal is to move on in his coaching and I think this is a great springboard, whether he decides to stay here or move on to a high school or to a Division II school,&uot; he added.

While Hodges’ future may be bright, he is busy enjoying the present.

&uot;This is exactly where I want to be right now,&uot; Hodges said. &uot;I will never forget where I came from and I will always appreciate that. I want to continue learning and growing as a man and a coach and the best place for me to do that right now is here at Pitt.&uot;