Danny Slaughter whirled the mower across the infield of Husky Field, motor humming as he tended to his grounds a few days before the regular season began.
The Howard baseball head coach spends a lot of his time on the field, a place he calls symbolic of the success of his teams through the years.
Slaughter is about to begin his seventh season as the head coach of the Huskies, the first six of which his team reached the GHSA playoffs.
“Now it’s come to where I expect us to have successful seasons every year,” Slaughter said. “Our players work hard, and that’s really all you can ask from a high school player. Work hard, do what you’re supposed to do and work to the best of your abilities. ... If we end up not having a good year, it will still be a good year because we’re here on the baseball field developing young players.”
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The Huskies had no on-campus field for the first four seasons the team and school existed, so Slaughter bussd his roster to fields around Macon to get their practices in.
“We didn’t have a field, and we’re just glad to have a field we can come from school to play on instead of getting on a bus and having to play on someone else’s field,” senior middle infielder Tupach Brown said. “(Slaughter) has worked hard and put a lot of time into this program.”
Howard is being recognized as the third season begins at Husky Field. The Georgia Dugout Club recently awarded it the 2014 AAAA Baseball Field of the Year.
Slaughter also was honored with a plaque for his 200th varsity win, the first several dozen of which came during his time as the head coach at Macon County. Slaughter’s Howard teams hold a 112-55 record since the school opened in 2008.
The Huskies’ 100th win came at home March 20, 2014, an 8-5 win over Mary Persons. A ball from the game sits in Slaughter’s office.
“It was really a surprise to me,” Slaughter said. “I knew 200 wins was coming up, but last year during the game, our field announcer announced after the game it was the 100th win for the Howard program. I had no idea. ... That’s a pretty big milestone.”
Like most coaches, Slaughter brushes aside the accolades, instead choosing to focus on the task of the season ahead. Howard lost three seniors from last year’s team -- big losses, said Slaughter, of players who hit .400.
With a tough pre-region schedule that begins Monday at GHSA Region 4-AAAAA’s Ola, Slaughter hopes to fine-tune his team to be prepared for when Region 2-AAAA play begins in March. Brown and fellow seniors Chris Mallinson and Noah Hatcher will try to get the Huskies back to the playoffs once again.
Slaughter will just be happy spending time with them on the field.
“We stress to them all the time, even though our goal is to play baseball, we want to teach them how to be productive citizens and help with character, because that’s going to take them a lot farther than baseball ever will,” Slaughter said. “I want them to be able to look back and say, ‘I learned much more than baseball when I was playing at Howard High School.’ ”