Baseball team changes skippers at Blue Ridge

As part of one of the toughest 1A baseball districts, Blue Ridge is turning to a new coach to keep the Tigers on the right path.

Blue Ridge has named John Ramsey to replace Matthew Todd, who stepped down to become the assistant principal at town’s elementary school and spend more time with his 2-year-old daughter Mattilynn.

“Having a kid kinda changes your perspective a little bit,” Todd said. “I want more time with my daughter and my family. I still get to stay in Blue Ridge.”

Blue Ridge finished 15-11 this past spring and was 7-7 in district play, three games out of a playoff spot with a roster that will return seven starters. It was the second straight fourth-place finish for the Tigers after three consecutive region final appearances — the last culminating in the best season in school history as the Class 1A runner-up.

It is the first head coaching opportunity for Ramsey, a Bells graduate who spent the previous three seasons as an assistant at his alma mater. The Panthers tied Tom Bean for fourth place in District 11-2A in a move up from seventh the year before.

“It’s an opportunity I’ve been looking forward to, something I’ve been building to in my career,” Ramsey said. “The expectations at Bells started to change with our success. It was an exciting year to be in the mix.”

Todd took over his alma mater in 2008 and totaled a 125-52-2 record with four district titles, four regional tournament appearances and a state tournament trip in that six-year span. He is the program’s all-time winningest coach, surpassing current Gunter coach Todd Hogan’s prior mark of 82.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to take over a program that’s been so successful the last couple years,” Ramsey said. “Lays the groundwork to keep that tradition going.”

Blue Ridge made the region finals in both 2009 and 2010 before breaking through to the state tournament for the second time and first since 2000, when Todd was a player. After an 11-1 run-rule victory against Overton, the Tigers lost, 7-2, against Johnson City to finish 29-6-1. The victory total tied the program’s single-season record that had been set the year prior.

Todd was a three-time district coach of the year and named a Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star assistant in 2012.

“I can’t say enough about the kids I had,” Todd said. “In those six years I had eight or nine go on to play in college.”

District 16-A has had a different team win the Region II title each of the past three seasons. The streak started with Blue Ridge in 2011, followed by Dodd City last spring and Trenton a few months ago. The district has had at least one team play in the region final every season since 2008.

“That was a blessing and a curse at the same time,” Todd said. “I think we played in the toughest district in the state. If you got out, you knew you’d play awhile.”