Former Cavalier gets head-coaching position
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
For Kane Keith, the opportunity to lead players as a coach is about more than just teaching the Xs and Os.
“I believe in being a life-long learner, and ever evolving,” said Keith, a Callaway High graduate who has been a coach on the Georgia College baseball staff the past three seasons. “Coaching baseball is what I do, but it’s not who I am. I’m on a mission to positively impact as many people as I can. I’m grateful that baseball has given me the platform to do so.”
For Keith, that platform is about to become a whole lot larger.
Jason Eller has stepped down following four seasons leading Georgia College’s baseball program, and on
Monday, Keith was selected as the interim head coach.
After transferring from Gordon College, Keith played at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville for two seasons before joining the staff in 2018.
Now, Keith will get an opportunity to lead the baseball program at a school that has come to mean so much to him.
“The impact that Georgia College has had on me is tremendous,” Keith said. “I wasn’t born here, and I wasn’t raised here, but I certainly grew up here. It’s very special to my heart.”
Keith is appreciative of the administrators at Georgia College, who have shown immense faith in him.
“I can’t think Wendell Staton, our director of athletics, and the vice president of student life, Dr. Shawn Brooks, and our president, Dr. (Steve) Dorman enough for this opportunity,” Keith said. “They’ve been fully supportive. It really is a dream.”
Keith is also grateful for the support of Jason Eller, who he first played for, and then coached with, at Georgia College.
“He was my coach for my senior year of college, and he’s the guy I’ve been able to work alongside the past three years,” Keith said. “He taught me more about the game of baseball than words can describe, and I’ll forever be grateful for him, for giving me the opportunity to begin my coaching career. He has done such a tremendous job of preparing me for this opportunity. That’s why I’m so thankful for him, and him sharing his experiences with me. He’s taught me so much about the game of baseball, more than I can ever imagine.”
Keith was a standout player at Callaway High, and he completed his prep career with a phenomenal senior season both on the pitcher’s mound where he was the team ace, and at the plate where he hit better than .400.
Keith’s high-school career came to a close with a loss to Dodge County in the second round of the 2013 state playoffs.
Keith, who even in high school had expressed an interest in becoming a coach one day, remembers some kind words delivered by Callaway head coach Dusty Hubbard following that season-ending setback.
“My senior year of high school, we got beat by Dodge County in the playoffs,” Keith recalls. “When we got off the bus that day, coach Hubbard shook my hand and said you’re going to make yourself a great coach one day. I’ll never forget that moment and how special that is for me.”
Hubbard, like Eller, has been an inspiration for Keith.
“I can’t think coach Hubbard enough for his leadership as my high-school coach,” Keith said. “He’s continuing to impact people, and that’s awesome.”
Following his time at Callaway, Keith played at Gordon College for two seasons before transferring to Georgia College in 2016.
After appearing in seven games with three starts in 2016 with no record, Keith was one of the Bobcats’ best pitchers in 2017 when he appeared in 14 games with nine starts while posting a 5-0 record.
That 2017 season was especially memorable for Keith because he got to play alongside his younger brother, Perry Keith, who transferred to Georgia College from Gordon College.
Georgia College won the Peach Belt Conference tournament that season, and the Keith brothers both helped make it happen.
In the semifinals of the conference tournament, Perry Keith threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief as Georgia College got past North Georgia 6-5.
In the championship game, Kane Keith started and threw seven innings and was the winning pitcher in a 6-5 victory over UNC-Pembroke.
When Kane Keith made the transition to coaching in 2018, he was able to spend even more time with his brother.
When Keith found out on Monday morning that he was going to be the new head coach, he shared the news with his brother, and the rest of his family.
“My family means the world to me, and they’ve done nothing but support me during this entire journey of getting into coaching, and during my playing days as well,” Kane Keith said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without my parents and brothers.”
Keith’s first act as head coach was to have a virtual meeting with the players on Monday morning, and he didn’t shy away from touching on a subject that has dominated the national conversation in recent days.
“We had our first team meeting this morning, and I was able to tell the team before it went out on social media,” Keith said. “The first conversation we had was about the George Floyd incident, and how I as a head coach am going to be active in education our student-athletes on social and racial injustice.”
On the field, Keith takes over a team that was in the midst of a special season when everything came to a close because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Georgia College had only lost twice and was preparing for a home series against UNC-Pembroke when the remainder of the season was canceled.
“Our 2020 season, we were 13-2 when our season ended,” Keith said. “Our culture is so good here.”