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Cartrett makes huge impact upon Westbrook Christian pitchers


From left, Westbrook's Blaine Beaird, Matthew Reaves, Mikhail Cazenave, Jake Kilgo and coach Bob Cartrett stand during practice Tuesday. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times)


RAINBOW CITY — Bob Cartrett was enjoying the retired life.

After a successful baseball coaching career that spanned six decades and included three state titles, he began playing a lot of golf and working with youth league pitchers on their mechanics.

That lasted a few years until he received a call from Westbrook Christian coach Matt Kennedy, who wanted to meet with him over dinner.

It was a phone call that very well could have set into motion what the Warriors have a chance to do this week — win a state high school baseball title.

Sixth-ranked Westbrook plays No. 3 G.W. Long in the Class 2A state championship series in Montgomery. Game 1 is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday and the best-of-three series continues at 10 a.m. Friday.

Kennedy and the team’s top four pitchers gave Cartrett a lot of credit for the position the Warriors are in now. But it wasn’t Kennedy’s original intention to coax Cartrett out of retirement. He merely wanted to “pick his brain” after his Warriors had just lost in the state semifinals in 2009 to Lexington and learn how to better develop his pitching rotation.

Kennedy and all of his assistant coaches met with Cartrett one night in May for dinner with the desire to learn, but what they got was a whole lot more.

“Before we left, I looked at him and said, ‘Coach, I’m going to buy your supper, but before you leave I have a proposition for you,’” Kennedy recalled. “I said, ‘How about one day a week maybe you come and work with my pitchers?’ I told him to think about it and I would give him a call in August or September so he could let me know.”

The summer passed and it was time to make that call. Kennedy wasn’t prepared for the response he received, because not only was Cartrett willing to help, he wanted to be there every day.

“I said amen,” Kennedy said. “I started thanking the Lord because I knew from past experience working with him and (Etowah) coach (Larry) Foster what he could bring us.”

Cartrett began coaching in 1966 when he became the first baseball coach at West End High School. He also was the principal there and left to take the same position at Etowah High School in 1975. Then in the early-1980s, he joined Foster’s coaching staff, where he helped guide the Blue Devils to three state championships before retiring in 2004.

He’s been an incredible asset to the Warriors since he joined the team, helping Mikhail Cazenave, Jake Kilgo, Blaine Beaird and Matthew Reaves become a solid pitching rotation.

Combined, they are 24-7 with an ERA of 2.39 pitching against a brutal non-area regular-season schedule.

The players rave about him.

“That guy is special,” said Kilgo, a junior who is 9-1 with a 1.48 ERA. “He’ll correct one little thing in my mechanics and I’ll be throwing three miles per hour harder right down the middle. I don’t know what it is, but it’s almost magical.”

Blaine Beaird, a 6-foot-4 junior with a knuckleball as his go-to pitch and a 1.25 ERA, tries to soak up everything Cartrett says.

“He’s taught me a lot,” he said. “He makes sure you do what you need to do and puts you in a position to succeed. He’s a good positive influence for us and kicks us in the rear when we need it.”

Each pitcher would agree Cartrett is “old school.”

“He tells you how it is and doesn’t sugar it up for you,” Reaves, a senior, said.

Cazenave, the team’s senior ace, is 10-2 this season with a 1.12 ERA in 81 innings pitched.

“He’s been great,” Cazenave said. “He’s hard-nosed and expects you to put out the effort.”

For Cartrett, effort never has been a problem with this group.

“They have a tremendous work ethic,” he said. “The mechanics of pitching, you have to go over them over and over again.

“It’s hard to say something makes somebody a good pitcher. But there’s a lot of things you have to do and you have to work on it, especially condition-wise. This group has gone through it like that’s what you’re supposed to do. And they did it.”

Through the past few years, Cartrett has grown very close with his pitchers. He hopes they’ve gotten as much from him as they have given to him during his time with the team.

“They’re like my own kids, and I treat them like they’re my own kids,” he said. “When they need discipline, they get it. When they need to get a pat on the back, they get it. I’ve enjoyed everything about them. It’s fun to coach them.”

Kennedy enjoys having someone on his staff with the wealth of knowledge and coaching experience Cartrett has, but it’s the relationships he’s built with the players that has made a big difference.

“It’s not just the fundamentals of pitching, but teaching them to be good young men and teaching them how to mature,” Kennedy said. “See, I think there’s more to it. We love baseball and all, but at the end of the day it’s a ballgame. He’s taught them that, but he’s also taught them how to win.”

He’s hoping the Warriors lean on that knowledge this week against G.W. Long. Whatever the case, there will be a plan in place to give them their best chance of success.

“I can tell you right now, when they take the field, they will have already rehearsed what we’re going to do in the ballgame,” Cartrett said. “We work to prepare them for the game and each person is responsible for themselves.

“And the team is responsible for winning.”