Former major league pitcher Les Lancaster has been hired as the new head baseball coach at Headland High School and veteran coach Bubber Birdsong will be his assistant.
Before taking over the Rams’ program, both are serving as assistant coaches this summer in two independent minor leagues – Lancaster for the Rockland (N.Y.) Boulders of the Can-Am League and Birdsong for the High Point (N.C.) Rockers of the Atlantic League.
“It brings old-school baseball back to Headland,” said Chris Padget, who is superintendent of education for Henry County Schools.
Lancaster, who pitched for the Chicago Cubs (1987-1991), Detroit Tigers (1992) and St. Louis Cardinals (1993), served as the pitching coach for Enterprise State this past season. The Irving, Texas, native moved to Dothan several years ago.
Lancaster replaces Seth Nolen, who was relieved of his duties as head baseball coach following this past season after 11 years.
“Actually, Les and I had talked a couple of years ago and I told him I’d keep him in mind if an opening came along, and it did and here we are,” Padget said. “The respect that he has for the game and to instill in the players and the parents – I think it’s going to be a good fit.”
Lancaster was not available for comment on Thursday due to coaching in a game at Ottawa, Canada.
Enterprise State coach Bubba Frichter spoke highly of what Lancaster brought to his program this year.
“He obviously brought a lot of baseball knowledge,” Frichter said. “Just his character – how he carries himself – you would never know he played professional baseball unless you asked him about it. He’s not your typical pro-ball guy, so to speak, that wants you to know he played professional baseball.
“Those people in Headland are very, very fortunate. I hope they realize what they’ve got and accept him and jump on board with him.”
Birdsong, who served as a coach at Abbeville Christian Academy from 1988 to 1999, has spent the past 14 years as head baseball coach at Baconton (Ga.) Community Charter School.
A native of Fort Gaines, Ga., Birdsong is eager to get back to the area. His son, Brett, is an assistant baseball coach at Enterprise High School.
“I had told Chris (Padget) a couple of years ago, if anything opened up I was looking forward to getting back in the area,” Birdsong said. “I’m looking forward to working with Les. I’ve heard good things about him, but have never met him. I’ve talked to him once on the phone and we’ve exchanged a few texts.”
Ironically, Lancaster is coaching in Rockland this summer, where Birdsong spent the previous two summers. Birdsong moved on to High Point this summer when the former manager of Rockland took over as manager with the new expansion team in the Atlantic League.
“It’s the fourth year I’ve been with this manager,” Birdsong said. “He understands my high school schedule and he understands I leave in July and go back. I just go up and do a little BP (batting practice) and kind of serve as his sounding board for a few months.”
Padget has a long history with the Headland baseball program and says he’s excited about being able to hire Lancaster and Birdsong.
Padget was a star baseball player at Headland during his prep days and then played two years at Wallace College and two more at Ole Miss, where he was an All-SEC outfielder. He spent seven seasons in the Baltimore Orioles organization before retiring as a player. He later coached at Ashford and his alma mater of Headland.
“When I got out of baseball, I didn’t watch baseball,” Padget said. “I’d go out to a high school game here or there to watch from afar, but after Les and I talked, my excitement for baseball is churning again.
“I thought I’d never feel that in my stomach. I’m just excited for the players of Headland.”
Lancaster managed several professional teams in Mexico and Taiwan, along with several independent league teams, before moving to this area.
“He’s got so much insight of the professional game and what it takes to get there – just to get these kids as prepared as they can possibly be,” Padget said.