Gillespie returning home to Fox Creek as head baseball coach

May 12—Roby Gillespie was reminded of one those stock questions asked in interviews intended to gauge career growth and goals for the future:

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Had Gillespie been asked that when he was a senior at Fox Creek, the answer would have been to be back at his alma mater.

A recent announcement from Fox Creek put Gillespie right on schedule — he will be the Predators' next head baseball coach.

"That's the dream spot, so I'm just excited for the opportunity," said Gillespie, currently an assistant coach at Strom Thurmond. "There is a lot of young talent over there that I'm looking forward to, but the thing I'm not looking forward to is having to play these guys twice a year. (Strom Thurmond) Coach (Nate) Horton and Mack Hite before him gave me a great opportunity and mentored me along the way and kind of drove me in the right way as well as Kevin Lynn giving me my first coaching job. I'm just extremely blessed to have this opportunity. It's crazy how it just falls in your lap when you're not expecting it."

Gillespie played for the Predators under head coach Wesley Brown, graduating in 2014. He was an assistant to Lynn for Fox Creek's 2017 Class AA state championship team, and he's been on staff for some championship contenders at Strom Thurmond under Hite and Horton.

As soon as the announcement was made in late April, Gillespie had people come up to him and ask him if he's excited. He's so locked in to the Rebels' current playoff run, though, that it won't truly feel like the Fox Creek job is his until this one is complete.

What's waiting for him at his next stop is a team with loads of young talent that recently contended for a district title as a No. 4 seed under interim head coach Andrew Peckham. It was the first time since the 2017 title team that Fox Creek advanced that far in the playoffs, and the Predators did it with seven underclassmen who appeared in at least 20 games.

Five of those are sophomores, led by top hitter Devin Hillary. Hillary batted a team-high .412 in 25 games and was also the team's leader in doubles and triples. Chance Weathersbee led the team with five home runs and was second with 16 RBI, Hank Greene batted .338 and Caleb Waters hit. 298.

The program will soon be his to mold as he sees fit, and he plans to draw on what he's learned from his mentors.

"Just creating a culture the right way that's focused on building great young men before building great baseball players," he said. "That's one thing that Coach Horton's really emphasized, and Coach Hite, was creating the culture of the kids first and then baseball comes second. That's kind of the culture I plan on creating.

"Just carrying that over from them, and if it comes to strategy, just guys who play really hard all the time. That's one thing that Thurmond's done the last four, five years since I've been here. A lot of dirtbags on the field, there's really not ever a clean jersey on the field, and you just love to see that hard-nosed, blue-collar type baseball. So I'll just try to carry that over to Fox Creek when I go over there. It's kind of how it was back when I was there in 2013-14 playing for Coach Brown."