For Kevin Howard, saying goodbye to so many special people is the hardest part.
For 14 seasons, Howard has been the head baseball coach at LaGrange College, and he has enjoyed tremendous success during that time.
Howard is ready for a new challenge, though, so he has decided to accept a position as the head baseball coach at Reinhardt University in Waleska.
“It’s a great opportunity career-wise, but it’s a tough decision to make,” Howard said.
For Howard, the tough part is leaving a school and a community that has meant so much to him and his family.
Howard has been the Panthers’ head coach since 2000 after he was hired by then athletic director Phil Williamson, who was also a former baseball coach at the school.
“The college has been wonderful,” Howard said. “I’ve got to say a huge thank you to coach Williamson for hiring me and giving me the opportunity to be a coach at LaGrange. Coach Williamson is a great man to work for and to be mentored by.”
Howard said it has “been a blessing” to be a part of the LaGrange community for nearly 15 years, and that includes his church home at First Baptist Church
“The community of LaGrange has been amazing,” Howard said.
Howard was the head baseball coach at Emory for six years before coming to LaGrange.
During his 13 seasons as the head coach of the Panthers, Howard’s teams went 372-266, and he has an overall record of 549-358.
The Panthers won the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national championship in 2003, and they qualified for the NCAA Division III national tournament in 2010.
The Panthers won either nine regular-season or tournament conference championships under Howard, and they were second a few other times.
Howard stresses to his players the importance of playing the game the right way, and he figures the wins will come as a result.
“I want my guys to always strive to win, to put your best effort forward,” he said. “You get enough guys doing the right things, and those things take care of themselves.”
Howard said the relationships he formed with the hundreds of players over the years has also helped make his time here special.
“I was looking in the locker room today, and you see all the pictures of the players who have ever played for me,” Howard said. “And I’m looking at those pictures, and I reflect back on how lucky I was to develop all of those relationships with all of those kids, and see them graduate.
“I may have had an impact on their lives, but they don’t realize what an impact they had on my life as well.”
Howard was also an active youth-baseball coach in Troup County, and he said those are special memories as well.
“I think back to the memories and how much fun I had in Troup County parks and recreation and being a part of four World Series teams,” Howard said. “It’s not about the World Series. It’s the relationships with those young kids, the relationships I’ve had with them.”
Howard and his wife Lisa have two children, a son, Jake, and a daughter, Madison.
Jake is a rising sophomore, and he was a member of the LaGrange High baseball team, and Madison was a cheerleader at Gardner Newman.
Howard said he spent a lot of time talking to his family before deciding to make the move.
“It’s a tough decision, but it’s the right decision,” Howard said. “I’m excited for the opportunity.”