Brian Shackelford is excited to be coming back home.
The 1994 graduate said potentially coaching at his alma mater had been on his mind for “a few years” before the McAlester Public Schools Board of Education officially hired him this month to replace his former teammate, Justin Bond.
McAlester went to the state tournament twice when he played there — once during his freshman year in 1991 and again when he was a senior. That was right before the Buffs went on a run of six state title game appearances in seven years from 1995 to 2001 under the guidance of then-head coach and now MPS Superintendent Randy Hughes.
Shackelford hopes to do for his players what Hughes did for him.
“The way he instilled everything in us just to work and be a team, everybody wanted to play for him,” Shackelford said of Hughes.
The new coach said he saw a few McAlester games this season. Shackelford noticed there’s a lot of talent the Buffaloes have, and said he likes what he sees. He praised the freshmen group the Buffs had in 2019, and likes the experience they have going forward in hopes of restoring the program.
Shackelford is looking hoping to develop his players so they can go on to the next level. This is his first high school head coaching job, but his time as an instructor for D-Bat Academies kept him around the game. Staying around baseball and teaching it helped him get ready for this.
He believes a player has to know what to do before the pitch happens.
“You have to be ready to go every pitch and playing with urgency out in the field,” he said. “You don’t see that today in a lot of young kids...It’s just because they haven’t been taught it or they haven’t had enough experience, but just preaching that in practice is what makes everybody better.”
Shackelford said every pitcher is different when it comes to handling one. The former major leaguer said other coaches may want to have everybody throw the same way, but he believes in doing what works best for his arms.
If one pitcher has one series of pitches in his arsenal and a different pitcher has another, he plans to stick with that.
Another difference when it comes to pitching is that he also wants to give freedom to his arms.
“A lot of coaches and teams now, they all call the pitches from the dugout instead of a pitcher, and pitchers aren’t able to shake,” Shackelford said. “I want guys to know what they want to throw in situations that they want to throw it.”
He said on Tuesday it would probably be within the next week or two that he intends to meet with his players.
“I’m excited for the whole experience, and being able to hopefully help and lead this team to lots of state tournaments,” he said.
Contact Corey Stolzenbach at firstname.lastname@example.org