Russellville High School pulled off quite a coup on Thursday, hiring one legendary baseball coach to replace another one.
When longtime coach Lou Kendall stepped down at the end of the school year, he left some pretty big shoes to fill, but Greg Shelton, who spent 29 seasons at Franklin-Simpson, should be up to the task.
“We are super excited to have coach Shelton coming to be our next baseball coach,” said RHS principal Kim McDaniel. “his experience and background and everything else he brought to the table are unbelievably strong. This was an easy hire to make.”
Shelton, a Logan County native, got his start coaching American Legion baseball in the summer of 1974 while he was still a student at Western Kentucky University.
“This is almost like coming back home,” Shelton said. “They say things always run full circle - and I feel like that’s what is happening with me taking the job at Russellville.”
Shelton became baseball coach at Franklin-Simpson in 1976 and in 29 seasons there amassed an overall record of 678-315-2. his record also included six Fourth Region championships, two sectional titles and a state title. He was also named the Kentucky baseball coach of the year on two different occasions.
After retiring from teaching in Kentucky, Shelton then went to Beech High School in Tennessee to lead that baseball program. He was recently honored by that school for winning his 800th career game.
Shelton said he had spoken jokingly to RHS players Corey Wright and Barrett Croslin about the open job for the Panthers this summer, but knew he couldn’t take the job without having a teaching position to go along with it.
When former basketball coach Dennis Pardue left RHS for Garrard County earlier this month, though, that opened up a physical education position that was perfect for Shelton.
“When I came and talked to them about the job, I’ve never been made to feel more wanted in my life,” Shelton said.
This upcoming baseball season, Shelton will be taking a Russellville team to Franklin-Simpson and playing on a field that has been named in his honor.
“We would always come up and bring Beech to play in Franklin’s tournament every year,” Shelton said. “It’s a strange feeling being in that other dugout. I never really wanted to come back and compete against Franklin.”
Those tournament games never had much on the line. But the district tournament games this season will.
“Now these are games that are really going to mean something - it’s definite competition,” Shelton said. “The thing I want Franklin people to understand, I gave my all those 29 years I was there. And then I gave some of my time to Beech, and now I’m going giving some of my time to Russellville. But those years I was at Franklin, I really gave them all my life.”
Shelton said he knows that being successful at Russellville in baseball doesn’t always come as easy as it does at bigger schools.
“With a small population of students, a lot of times the talent level isn’t as big,” Shelton said. “I respect Lou so much for everything he was able to do there.”
The challenge of winning big at Russellville is part of the reason Shelton took the job.
“I felt my juices kind of flowing again and I am looking forward to that and challenge,” he said. “We’re going to go to work and try to be as good as we be.”