If you had asked Brad Porter early last week, he would have told you he was almost sure he would retire at Tiftarea.
On Wednesday, he took the head baseball coaching job at Valdosta.
Things happen quickly in sports.
"[Tiftarea] has been an extraordinary place for us. I can't say enough about the kids, and the families. My son loves it here," he says. "But God presents opportunities, and you seek out his will. If you believe it's his will, then you follow. So we're following."
Porter will take over the Wildcats program from Bart Shuman, who is retiring after 20 years with the team. With 359 career wins of his own, Porter has his own hefty high school baseball resume.
But he still knows it's never easy being the guy replacing a legend.
"I think you go in with the mindset of not trying to replace Bart Shuman," Porter says. "The things that he's done, and the man that he is stands alone."
Porter led Tiftarea to the state playoffs in four of his five seasons in Chula, including a state runner-up finish in 2014 and two Region 3-AAA titles. Before his stint with the Panthers, Porter was the head coach at Coffee and Madison Co. (FL). Now he's ready to take on the challenge of big-time GHSA baseball again.
He hasn't met with the Wildcats yet, but knows several players from his Genesis Baseball Academy based in Valdosta. When he does have that first team meeting, Porter knows what the message will be.
"You walk in the door the first day, and you say we want to move forward. We want to continue the tradition of Wildcat athletics because it's not just baseball that's been successful," Porter says. "We're Wildcats. We expect to be successful at everything we do. We expect to be great people and carry ourselves with class. Now let's get about that business."
Though Porter and his family feel they're being called to Valdosta, it doesn't make it any easier leaving Tiftarea. He says speaking to his former team was heartbreaking.
"These kids are extraordinary. It's a group of kids that has changed my life. I'm a better coach and a better man today because of being here," Porter says.
Tiftarea has not named a replacement head baseball coach. The Wildcats are coming off a third place finish in Region 1-AAAAAA in 2016, and a second round state playoff appearance.
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