The Lenoir City High School baseball program will have a new head coach in the dugout next season.
Jeff Cortez, LCHS co-athletic director, announced Thursday that Aaron Simmons will take over the program following Dusty Langley’s departure.
Simmons comes from Heritage High School in Conyers, Ga., after the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Coming to Lenoir City, it’s sort of been a blessing in disguise. Once the interview process began, they were more so, it felt like a family,” Simmons said. “It was a comfortable atmosphere, a very good atmosphere just coming over there at Lenoir City. They’re trying to build and build, and that’s what I love. I love being a part of something like that, and you can tell good things are about to occur there and that’s what drew me in the most. It just felt like the perfect fit.”
He received his first high school head coaching opportunity in 2009 when he took over a struggling Sequatchie County High School program and won three district championships and coached current St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Dakota Hudson.
Simmons left SCHS after the 2014 season and in 2017 became the head coach at Dade County High School in Trenton, Ga., where he captured a region title and qualified for the Sweet 16 in 2018 and 2019.
Cortez noted Simmons’ overall experience stood out during the interview process.
“Looking at resumes, he checked all the boxes,” Cortez said. “He’s got head coaching experience, successful head coaching experience. He’s helped develop kids to get to Major League Baseball, to get to various colleges. I think one of the unique things on his resume honestly was that he had been at Sequatchie County and transitioned into a full-time job as a travel ball coach. That puts him in a unique situation where’s he coaching a 17-and-under team, and what that specifically means is he’s in direct contact with colleges.”
Simmons played at Chattanooga State Community College and went to Lee University where he was a team captain and was named to the National Intercollegiate Athletic Association All-American second team.
He went onto play one season in the minor leagues with the Charlotte County Redfish and believes his playing experience will prove beneficial in helping teach players.
“I was a position player through college ... and so I did that and once I got to independent ball professionally, and I became their closer for two or three weeks,” Simmons said. “(Cecil Fielder, team manager) crafted my swing a little more and my pitching a little more, which gave me so much more knowledge about how to do things. He broke me down in a mechanical way of how to do certain aspects. On the pitching side, I think every pitcher has their own strength and their own weakness and you’ve got to feed on that. That goes with your hitting philosophy, too, because I’m an offensive guy.”
Over the last three seasons, Lenoir City has combined to go 20-58. Cortez hopes Simmons will provide an immediate spark.
“This is big for our program, you know, Aaron’s the kind of guy that we believe will keep Lenoir City kids in Lenoir City,” Cortez said. “We’re no longer going to help Loudon baseball be successful on the backs of Lenoir City kids. This is huge for us. It’s a program-changer for so many reasons — player development, college opportunities and he’s been there.”
Simmons expects to have the Panthers competitive in District 4-3A over the next few seasons.
“The district we’re in is probably the toughest in the state of Tennessee, which is awesome at the same time because you’ve got to find a way to mold that foundation as a winning program,” Simmons said. “We’ve got to keep the kids where they’re supposed to be, keep them in check, do things the right way. I’m an intense coach and when you get in between those lines, it’s a mentality of, ‘OK, well there’s nobody better than us.’ The Farraguts or the Hardin Valleys, you’ve got to play them to the best of your ability and push yourself to the extreme as a player. That’s the way it’s going to be instilled.”