PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - The most celebrated high school baseball coach in the area has stepped down. Bobby Howard resigned as Central Red Devils head coach on Wednesday.
Howard cited the need for "a new and different voice for the program," but stating categorically that he is not retiring from coaching.
Howard was 45-29 in two seasons running the Red Devils, taking the team to the AHSAA 7A playoffs each of those seasons. The bulk of his 991 coaching victories came at Columbus High, where he led the Blue Devils to 12 state championships, 11 30-win seasons, and was twice named the national prep baseball coach of the year -- in 2004 by USA Today, and in 2012 by ESPN-HS.
He coached dozens of players who went on to play college ball, and a large number of players that went on to the pros, most famously Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, who thanked him as part of his Cooperstown induction speech.
Central Principal Tommy Vickers praised Howard in a written statement.
"Central High School is very appreciative of the time that Coach Howard was our varsity baseball coach," Vickers wrote. "He instilled a tremendous amount of values and work ethic into our student athletes. The on the field accomplishments of winning an area championship and going to the playoffs back to back years for the first time in over ten years is second only to his commitment to developing quality young men for life. We wish him the best of luck and celebrate having been a part of a tremendous career."
Vickers said he expects to name an interim coach to run the program until a full-blown search is completed and a new head coach is hired.