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Ledford baseball coach departs for administrative position


 

Kemp Smith has been a fixture at Ledford for a long time — first as a star athlete and then for a decade as a teacher and coach.

All that changed Tuesday morning when Smith, who had been the Panthers’ head baseball coach the last five years, was named an assistant principal at East Davidson.

“It was easily the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Smith said. “Not only giving up baseball but also giving up my alma mater. I’ve been a Panther all my life. I have a lot of memories here, a lot of strong relationships here.

“But I’m excited about the opportunity.”

It also means that Ledford will need to find a new baseball coach.

“We’re going to open it up for applications and interviews,” said Ledford Principal Jonathan Brown.

Smith had a career record of 57-58 at Ledford. The Panthers made the state playoffs all five years and the 2012 team won the Mid-Piedmont Conference championship.

A 1999 graduate of Ledford, Smith played varsity baseball all four years and was on the varsity football team three years.

Then it was off to nearby High Point University, where Smith played baseball for four years.

“I was a Panther then, too,” he said.

Smith was an assistant baseball coach under Chris Adams. In fact, he got his first head coaching experience in the 2008 2-A state playoffs after Adams was ejected in a third-round win at West Lincoln and drew a two-game suspension. Smith went 1-1, directing the Panthers to a fourth-round win over Starmount and a loss in the first game of the best-of-three state semifinal series with East Rutherford.

“I got a taste of what it was going to be like,” Smith said.

Smith earned his master’s degree several years ago with the idea of eventually going into administration, so the promotion granted by Davidson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Fred Mock isn’t exactly a surprise.

“I knew the day would come,” Smith said. “The opportunity was presented to me. With East Davidson being only 15 minutes down the road, I’m real familiar with East. I have some connections over there, so I think it was a good fit.”

The timing may have been a bit of a surprise, though, because it happened in a hurry.

Smith got the call last Thursday, met with Dr. Mock on Friday and was offered the job that morning. The school board ratified that decision early Tuesday morning.

Opportunity also means letting go for Smith, given his baseball background that goes back such a long way.

“Like I said, I’ve been a Panther all my life,” Smith said. “I always wanted to coach the baseball team. “But with this opportunity, it was hard to turn down at this point in my life.”

Having to find a new baseball coach is something Brown wanted to do but he coached the sport 13 years at Central Davidson before going into administration.

“I’ve been there and there have been others when you make the decision to go into it,” Brown said. “We just appreciate all that he has done at Ledford.”

Brown said he and athletic director Donald Palmer would spend about two weeks receiving applications and then start the interview process.

And Smith probably isn’t done coaching entirely. He has daughters who are 5 and 3.

“I’m sure I’ll be coaching softball at some point in the not too distant future,” Smith said.

Mike Duprez can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 218 or mike.duprez@the-dispatch.com.