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Garner leaving Northridge for Starkville


Travis Garner coached Northridge for five seasons and will coach at Starkville High School next season. (Photo by Michelle Lepianka Carter | Tuscaloosa News)


TUSCALOOSA | Travis Garner, who directed the Northridge baseball program for five seasons, has taken a new job as head coach at Starkville High School in Mississippi.

“Northridge did a lot for me,” said Garner, a 32-year-old University of Alabama graduate. “They took a chance on someone with no head coaching experience and gave me the reins of a Class 6A program. I know I was a young kid when I got it, but I’m a better coach today. I’ll forever be thankful for that opportunity, but it wasn’t just me. We had a good coaching staff and good parents.

“When (former principal) Eddie Jaynes hired me as the head baseball coach, I felt I could do a good job with the X’s and O’s. It was a learning experience with everything else from dealing with parents to fundraising. I had to learn a lot about those things you don’t really see until you’re a head coach. The experience I gained there was very good for me. Without that experience, I don’t get the Starkville baseball job.”

Garner is from Sturgis, Miss., about 30 minutes from Starkville.

“I’m from Mississippi, so in a way this is going home for me,” Garner said. “The toughest thing about leaving is leaving the kids. I had a group of kids that worked real hard for me. Northridge will always have a special place in my and my family’s heart. It wasn’t the easiest decision in the world.”

After graduating from high school, Garner played baseball at Meridian (Miss.) Community College for two seasons before transferring to Alabama. He was a starting outfielder for the Crimson Tide in 2002 and 2003. Alabama, then coached by Jim Wells, won Southeastern Conference tournament titles both years and advanced to the NCAA playoffs. Wells was a volunteer pitching coach on the Northridge staff last season.

Garner’s Northridge teams won at least 20 games for five straight years. In 2012, the Jaguars won an area title and reached the Class 6A playoffs.

Starkville is a Class 6A school in the Mississippi High School Activities Association. A school spokesman said the Yellow Jackets reached the second round of the playoffs this year. Brian Jones, the head coach, left to take a job as head coach at Pearl High School.

“The main draw in Starkville is the unprecedented support they give to athletics,” Garner said. “They want to be good. The whole town supports it.”

David Akins, director of athletics at Northridge, said he hopes to name a replacement soon.

“We are in the process of evaluating our options and trying to get a coach in place,” Akins said. “Travis spent five years as a head coach at Northridge, and we’re proud of him for that. He won an area championship, and we’re proud of that. He’s getting the opportunity to go back home. We wish him all the success he could possibly have.”

 

Reach Andrew Carroll at andrew.carroll@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0223.