Baseball has been a part of Steve Garland's life for more than 40 years, including 28 seasons of building one of the most successful prep coaching résumés Hamilton County has seen.
However, Garland has announced he's stepping away from the game to become an assistant principal at East Hamilton, where he has coached for 11 years as the only baseball coach in the school's short history.
"This was something that I always looked to do down the road, and I am very excited about the opportunity," Garland said. "But I feel very bittersweet about walking away from the field. I will desperately miss coaching because I love working with the young men on the field and love the game so much.
"I have shed tears over this decision. I have been a part of a baseball team (as a player or coach) every year since 1978. I will carry amazing experiences, memories and friendships with me, but this is a major life change. I am not burned out. My desire is to return to coaching at some point in the future. This is the type opportunity that I could not pass up, for fear that I wouldn't get this chance again."
East Hamilton opened in 2009, and the following spring, Garland guided the baseball program to 21 wins in its inaugural season despite having no seniors.
Although the Hurricanes did not have a home field for their first five seasons, they won 20-plus games in the first seven years of the program, including four district championships, three trips to the state sectional round and one Spring Fling state tournament appearance.
Prior to building the East Hamilton program, Garland coached Soddy-Daisy for 11 seasons, winning nine district titles and taking the Trojans to the state tournament for the first time in 27 years in 2004.
Garland has compiled 465 career wins and has also been a football assistant at both Soddy-Daisy and East Hamilton for all but two of his 28 years in athletics, working as defensive coordinator for both programs. He has also had 55 former players earn a spot on a college baseball roster.
"For me, there was no great time to step down because I still love the guys and the game so much," said Garland, who is the only active coach to take two different Hamilton County baseball teams to the state tournament and has been named district coach of the year nine times. "Coming on the heels of a canceled season (due to the coronavirus outbreak) is the worst possible time to step down. We only played one game in 2020, and I had intended to come back next season before this offer came.
"We've got great kids, including more than our fair share of talent, who played with passion and effort and gave of themselves on and off the field to build a competitive program."