By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD – Eric McCombie played college baseball and coached on the collegiate level for 14 years.
But at the end of the day, "Coaching baseball is coaching baseball to me," he said about taking over as head coach at Effingham County High School.
McCombie replaced Shane Ramsey, who resigned before taking a head coaching job at Rome High School.
McCombie was an assistant for Ramsey for a year after leaving East Georgia State College.
"I know a ton of college coaches, but I'm not sure that gives me extra clout with the players," McCombie said. "If I had to coach my 9-year-old nephew, I'd coach him the same way. I've learned things work the same for young kids as they do for the older kids."
Practice hard, be fair, and show the players you care about them are keys to building a successful program, McCombie said.
"I tell the players not to think about the end game, worry about today and the end will take care of itself."
McCombie played college ball at La Roche University, a private school in Pittsburgh. He was recruited out of high school as a second baseman, but played multiple positions including catcher.
As a senior, he started in center field.
"I definitely have a good handle on the positions," McCombie said.
His coaching acumen has been shaped by several coaches along the way, starting with La Roche head coach Chase Rowe, who had a short stint as the Detroit Tigers' minor league hitting coach.
McCombie coached as an assistant under Rowe at La Roche for three years after finishing his eligibility before going to Georgia Southwestern for two years, Savannah State University for six years, then elevating to head coach at East Georgia for three years.
"The coaches I've been around didn't try to over coach," McCombie said. "If you're doing everything you're supposed to be doing in practice, the kids can take over in games."
McCombie takes over an Effingham County squad that finished 12-16 (8-10 in Region 2-6A) and failed to make the state playoffs.
But the Rebels ended the season on a high note by winning five of their last seven games and slowed rival South Effingham's push for a region title by winning the three-game series with the Mustangs 2 games to 1.
McCombie said rebuilding ECHS starts by getting the players stronger in the weight room.
"Not every one of our players will be a Division I player, but I want every one of them to look like a Division I player," McCombie said. "My goal (for the players) is to work toward being champions, as cliché as that might sound. I want them to wake up expecting excellence and if you set that tone from the beginning and you get buy-in, you'll be successful."