It has been 13 years since Frankie Ward was last a high school baseball head coach. That is about to come to an end for Ward.
Ward, a longtime local coach who has been the athletic director for Lakewood High the past six years, will become the …
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Ward, a longtime local coach who has been the athletic director for Lakewood High the past six years, will become the new baseball head coach at Lugoff-Elgin High.
"I've always loved baseball," said Ward, who was a standout catcher with Furman High, the Sumter P-15's and Western Carolina before having a short professional career. "I always wanted to coach baseball again at the high school level. I've watched Lugoff's baseball program from afar for a while now and I consider it to be one of the best baseball programs in the state. Once that position came open -- it's not too far and I felt like it was a great opportunity to pursue.
"It's bittersweet," he added. "I'm going to miss my relationships with my administration and community and players that I've had at Lakewood, but going from having to worry about 12 programs to having to worry about one lets me focus on one thing."
Ward spent two years as the head coach at Manning in the 2006 and '07 seasons. He was 24-25 in his two seasons, winning a region title his first season while going to the state playoffs both years.
He has since worked as an assistant coach at Lakewood, Wilson Hall and Sumter in several sports as well as being the strength coach at Manning, Sumter and Lakewood before becoming the Lakewood AD. He's excited to commit his attention entirely to baseball again.
"I'm really excited. Lugoff is a great community with a lot of support for their baseball program," said Ward. "I'm excited about leading a program. I'm excited to help these young men grow through the game of baseball and helping them become men. Coaching baseball is something I love to do."
While Ward is thrilled to have the chance to coach baseball again, it's difficult to leave his community at Lakewood behind. He just hopes he made as positive an impact as he could during his time as a Gator.
"I feel like for a long time I've been in the Sumter School District and the old District 17 and District 2 for 18 years. I felt like I did a lot of good things with the kids I came across from a mentoring standpoint," said Ward. "Hopefully I made an impact with a lot of kids to be better men and women down the road when they're fathers and wives. For me, that's what we're here for."
Ward will be at Lakewood through June, when his contract expires. He said he'll help the transition to the next athletic director at Lakewood as much as possible. Ward is transitioning schools during a very confusing time due to the coronavirus pandemic, so he's not entirely sure when he'll actually get to meet his new team for the first time, though he has exchanged numbers with his future players.
"Everything is kind of weird right now (due to the coronavirus pandemic). My contract is through June 30, so of course I'll do all of my duties here while I'm under my current contract and then I'll transition over," said Ward. "We really won't have any more answers until things start to open back up. My goal is once June 30 rolls around, I'll get going pretty much full time over there and things will be opened back up."
Ward may be headed to Lugoff-Elgin, but he wants to do whatever he can to see Lakewood continue to grow after he leaves.
"I told our principal and the administration that I'll help that transition go as smooth as possible," said Ward. "I'll sit down with them and give them all the information they need because Lakewood was my community, I grew up in that community. I still want to see that program grow and continue to be successful, so I'm going to do everything in my power for that transition to be smooth."
Of course, Ward knows he'll probably be back at Lakewood as an opponent at some point, but he doesn't expect any bitter rivalries to start with his friends in Sumter County.
"It's just baseball, man," said Ward. "I have personal relationships over here and I always will have friends. We'll go to battle for two hours and whatever happens happens, and we'll be friends after the game. It'll be a little different being in the other dugout, but at the end of the day it's a chapter I'm excited to do and I'm looking forward to helping the kids in this community grow."
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