Change has come to the Rusk High baseball program.
Born of his nearly two decades of major league experience, first-year coach Robert Ellis has brought a fresh approach that he hopes will land his Eagles just where they want to be.
“My system may be a little bit more complicated than what some of the younger guys are accustomed to, but it’s all about trying to win,” Ellis, who spent 16 years as a pro player and three with the New York Mets as a player development coach, told Texas Scorecard. “We rely on all the new metrics as a form of development and a barometer for success.”
No matter what the formula, Ellis knows talent when he sees it. And he’s already deduced that the Eagles have plenty of that, especially when it comes to their strengths of pitching and defense.
Any conversation about Rusk almost certainly has to start with talk of their strong pitching, namely the sibling trio of Austin, Andrew and Landon Gates.
Ellis describes Andrew, who has signed to play at Central Alabama, as a fastball, slider, change-up specialist, while twin brother Austin, who also doubles as a catcher, is branded as a “strike-thrower” who wastes little time.
Younger brother Landon, who is just a sophomore, clocks in as perhaps the hardest thrower of the three, who, Ellis adds, push one another to no end.
“All the guys have been great and are always eager to learn and hear things presented to them in a different way,” he added. “The love be challenged and you can sense the excitement every day when they show up.”
Ellis said the senior leadership of the two eldest Gates brothers and utilitymen Byron Johnson and Brennon Lucien has made the transition easier on everyone.
“They’re baseball players, meaning you can plug them in almost anywhere and they’re ready to go,” he said. “Our entire program is built on our players being flexible.”
Ellis, who also has several years of high school coaching under his belt, rates his Eagles as good as any team he’s coached, including a couple of area teams that have advanced deep into the postseason.
“Athletically, we’re as good as any team I’ve coached,” he said. “As long as our offense is able to scratch out the timely hits to score enough runs, we can play with anyone around.”