By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD — Even before Shane Ramsey decided to head south for a change of scenery, he was known to Effingham County High School baseball fans.
Ramsey directed Heritage (Conyers) to a 2019 state championship and along the way his Patriots spoiled the Rebels’ 31-win season in the semifinals of the Class AAAAAA state tournament.
But an early season, non-region game with ECHS and the hard-fought, three-game state playoff series gave Ramsey an appreciation for the Rebel players.
“I noticed the Effingham County kids really competed at the plate,” Ramsey said. “We played them right before our region schedule so when we got to play them at state, we knew what we were in for.”
Fast forward two years and now Ramsey knows the challenges ahead as the Rebels head coach.
Ramsey took over the program after being approved at the May 20 school board meeting. He moves up after working as an assistant to Chris Johnson.
“To be able to get a team to buy in and compete and believe, there’s nothing better,” Ramsey said. “That’s what gets me going. That’s what I want to do here.”
Johnson remains at ECHS as strength coach coordinator and assistant head football coach.
“After sitting down and soul searching with my family and praying, I decided to step down from baseball,” Johnson said. “It just came down to doing what’s best for my family and it will allow me to do some other things with the strength program as well. I think (Ramsey) will do a great job.”
Ramsey, 48, grew up in Dalton and played junior college baseball as an outfielder at Truett McConnell.
At Dalton, he played with Georgia Southern University baseball coach Rodney Hennon and, at Truett, he was a roommate of Rodney Holder, the brother of former ECHS head football coach Buddy Holder.
Ramsey has been in coaching for 17 years, seven as a head coach — three at Dalton and four at Heritage. With the Patriots, he compiled a 91-43 record and won region titles in 2018 and 2019.
Ramsey and his squad knocked off Pope for the 2019 and the school’s first state championship.
But shortly after he had an itch to come south.
“We were ready to move,” said Ramsey about making a surprise change with his family. “(Heritage) had a new principal, a new athletic director and the pipeline (of talent) was drying out. And we wanted to get our younger kids (ages 4 and 8) into a great school system.”
Ramsey called Johnson about an open position on ECHS’ staff and worked with Rebel pitchers and catchers the last two seasons.
Ramsey taught physical education at Ebenezer Middle School last year but will move to Effingham County Middle School as a strength coach next year.
He’ll take over an ECHS baseball program that finished 15-13 last season, 8-10 in Region 2 AAAAAA play. The 2021 season brought mixed emotions. The Rebels won a non-region series with eventual Class A state champion Metter and took two of three games from Glynn Academy, which advanced to the Class AAAAAA Elite Eight.
But ECHS was swept in two key showdown series with Richmond Hill and South Effingham.
Ramsey said the program’s future will be determined by work during the summer. He’ll have his players lift four times a week with a focus on analytics.
“We want to make kids more explosive,” Ramsey said. “We want bigger, faster, stronger.
“We have kids who want to get better, kids who are disappointed on how things finished and are biting at the bullet to get going. I think the future is bright. There’s nobody more excited than me to be the head coach here.”