When Randy Carr stepped down as Sterlington High baseball coach earlier this week, there was no need for principal Dell Ashley and athletic director Jason Thompson to panic. Soon after Carr submitted his resignation, pitching coach Mark Sims was promoted to head coach.
“Sterlington's a great school and a great community,” Sims said. “I've lived here ever since we moved back from Hahnville. I'm so thankful to coach Ashley and coach Thompson for giving me this opportunity. I'm looking forward to coaching here for a long time.”
Bucky Chandler, who served as interim head coach for two weeks during the 2013 season while Carr was recuperating from shoulder surgery, will continue in his role as hitting coach and third base coach. Sims and Chandler will maintain their football duties, working with the secondary and wide receivers, respectively.
In 12 years as a head coach at three different schools, Sims has a proven track record. His career includes stops at Hahnville (2000-04), Ouachita (2005) and West Monroe (2006-11). Sims took Hahnville and West Monroe to the Class 5A State Tournament multiple times. In addition to guiding West Monroe to a state runner-up finish in 2007, Sims was the pitching coach for the Rebels' 1999 state championship team.
While at Hahnville, Sims coached four future professional athletes. Lefthanded pitcher Aaron Loup is now a member of the Toronto Blue Jays' bullpen. Doubling as a secondary coach, Sims was part of the Tigers' 2003 Class 5A state championship football team. He was the position coach for three current NFL players — New York Jets' strong safety Dawan Landry, Indianapolis Colts' free safety LaRon Landry and Tennessee Titans' running back/return specialist Darius Reynaud.
Sims says he was simply fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.
“I just got off the phone with Frank Harding, who is now an assistant principal at Hahnville. Frank and I coached defensive backs when I was at Hahnville and he helped me out with baseball. We got to talking about how we coached those four guys. We were pretty proud of ourselves,” Sims laughed. “Not that we had anything to do with it, but it was pretty amazing to have that much talent in such a short time frame.”
Sims began his coaching career as a volunteer assistant at Ouachita in 1997.
He spent the past two seasons as the Panthers' pitching coach and first base coach.
“Mark's a proven winner. He's won everywhere he's been,” Thompson said. “He's already familiar with the program and the kids.”
Carr, who twice accepted the head coaching vacancy on an emergency basis, will remain at the school as a teacher. He will also serve as an administrative baseball assistant and a football assistant.
Page 2 of 2 - Carr is currently in Atlanta with the Marucci traveling baseball team. Details of his specific duties have yet to be ironed out.
“Randy will coach football on the offensive side,” Thompson said. “He'll help Mark with the scheduling and fund-raising in baseball.”
Carr directed the Panthers to a state runner-up finish in 2009. Sterlington returned to the state finals under Jim Rushworth in 2010, falling to Northlake Christian. When Rushworth accepted a volunteer position on the ULM staff after the 2011 season, Carr returned to the Panthers' dugout.
Sterlington advanced to the second round of the state playoffs each of the past two seasons under Carr.
Sims says Carr leaves some big shoes to fill.
“Randy Carr is Sterlington baseball,” Sims said. “The last two years, we've gotten new batting cages and a new scoreboard. We have one of the best baseball facilities in 2A and you have to tip your hat to Randy for that. He's meant everything in the world to Sterlington baseball.”
Sterlington won the District 2-2A title last season, before bowing to eventual state finalist University Lab in the second round.
Graduation took its toll on the Panthers, claiming All-State pitcher Casey Sutton, catcher Kyle Dolecheck, center fielder and LSU-Shreveport signee Taylor Lockwood and pitcher/outfielder Allen Anders.
“Obviously, it's going to be hard to replace Sutton,” Sims said. “But we have a good group coming back. Austin Mills, Austin Haman and Kyle Vandergracht have been starting for a few years. Devon Murphy played a lot as a freshman last year. We have some people who are going to have to step up now. It's their time and it's our job to get them ready.
“Randy and Jim Rushworth did a heck of a job of getting everything going. We just have to keep pushing on the door until it finally opens for us.”
Following a stellar career at Ouachita, Sims was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies. A lefthanded pitcher, he spent nine years in the minor leagues as a player and one as a coach.
Sims and his wife, Lana, are the parents of a daughter, Easton (11), and a son, Sterling (8).