Lee Hyde is going to back to a familiar setting.
So too is Matt Whitton.
The two Wiregrass high school baseball coaches both have a change of roles.
Hyde, Enterprise’s head coach last season, is moving into administration as assistant principal at Wicksburg, a place he coached at for 12 years before coming to Enterprise. His wife has taught at the Houston County school the last 15 years and the couple’s two sons are in third and fourth grade in Wicksburg.
Whitton, a 2007 Enterprise graduate, has been hired to replace Hyde as the Wildcats head coach. Whitton was the head coach at Charles Henderson the last year and a half after spending six years as an assistant coach at Enterprise under Shawn Gilmer and J.D. Pruitt.
Hyde officially resigned last Monday and is set to begin his new duties at Wicksburg on Wednesday. Whitton was hired Tuesday night and is expected to begin his new role at Enterprise on Thursday.
“Any time you get a chance to go back where you played and you lived is always a blessing,” Whitton said Tuesday night. “I am excited to be going back. I am ready to get back there and put my stamp on the program.
“They have had two great head coaches (Pruitt and Hyde) there the last few years, so the program is in good shape. I am excited to be going back there and I am ready to get settled in.”
Whitton, who guided Charles Henderson to a 29-8 record and to the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs last year, played two years at Enterprise State and two years at Huntingdon College in Montgomery after graduating from EHS.
Following his playing days, he spent a semester helping the Enterprise State baseball program as an assistant coach before becoming a junior high head coach at Enterprise and eventually moving up to an varsity assistant coach role at Enterprise High.
“Matt was a great assistant coach when he was here at Enterprise as he did an outstanding job,” Enterprise athletic director Trent Trawick said. “He got a shot at Charles Henderson and did a great job there, getting them where they were last year. We felt he was a good coach to build on what coach Pruitt built and what coach Hyde continued. We think coach Whitten can take us to the next level.
“He has a vast knowledge of baseball. He is an alumnus of the school, so he has a passion for EHS, the community and the players.”
Whitton took over a Charles Henderson program in 2017 that was in shambles following a 0-10 start and the resignation of coach Josey Shannon. He quickly rebuilt the program, finishing out 13-8 and reaching the first round of the playoffs. He followed that up with his 29-8 season this past spring.
He admits he will do some things similar to how Pruitt and Hyde did at EHS, but also expects to put his “stamp” on the program.
“Our goal is to not get out-competed by anybody we play,” Whitton said. “We will play a blue-collar style and try to grind everything out.”
Whitton says his philosophy is rooted in defense.
“I would say the infield,” Whitton said of his main focus. “When I was here with coach Pruitt, I ran the infield for the entire program. I am passionate about it. I dove 100 percent into it, researching as much information as I could on it.
“It drives me as a coach to have a really good defense. They always said pitching and defense wins championships and I believe that. I pride myself on having a good defense.”
He added offenses and pitching often change, but that “defenses never changes.”
“We will be fundamentally sound, we work hard on defense and we will communicate on defense,” Whitton said.
Whitton will begin off-season workouts as he joins Enterprise. Pitchers and catchers can begin throwing on January 6, 10 weeks from now, and the season, as mandated by the AHSAA, can open on Feb. 13, three and a half months from now.
Whitton’s path to the Enterprise job began when Wicksburg lost its assistant principal, Steve Dasigner, who became the Houston County Schools System’s Transportation Director.
Hyde, who coached at Wicksburg from 2006-17, was hired to fill that assistant principal job.
“It is something that me and my wife have been bouncing around for a while – getting into administration,” Hyde said of the move, one he described as a “family decision.”
“This made sense as our kids go to school there and she teaches there. It is right down the road from where we live. It was the right opportunity to try and do that.
“I was not searching for a job. This just popped up. I had a great experience at Enterprise. I loved working at Enterprise. The people at Enterprise were great. The other coaches and administration were so supportive.”
The Wildcats, playing in highly competitive Class 7A, finished 17-20 and advanced to the first round of the playoffs in Hyde’s only season.
A graduate of G.W. Long where he played for legendary coach Earl Miller, Hyde was a standout pitcher for the Rebels who later starred at L.B. Wallace and played at Troy University.
As the head coach at Wicksburg, his teams amassed more than 200 wins over 12 years. He guided six teams to 20 or more wins with another team winning 19 games. Three teams, including his final one in 2017, made the Class 3A state quarterfinals.