Coach Knight reflects on first season with the Leopards

Alexis Meeks
Sports Editor

When first year head baseball coach Jordan Knight took the position to coach the Malvern Leopards, he knew all about Malvern’s baseball tradition. His goal for the Leopards was to build a mentally and physically tough caliber team that could compete against the best in the state. But, due to COVID-19, the 2020 season was cut short after the Leopards had played just five games.
After football season, Coach Knight and the Leopards began preparing for the 2020 season. The Leopards got their first taste of competition when they opened the season with a benefit game against Bryant, Coach Knight’s alma mater and one of the best baseball programs in the state. The Leopards fell to Bryant 11-0, but Coach Knight was proud of how the Leopards played against a state championship caliber team. The Leopards regular season would then take them on the road for their five games. The Leopards competed against Camden Fairview, took part in the Border Battle in Texarkana, and had taken conference rivals Nashville into extra innings in their last game before the cancelation of the season.
“It has been a joy to work with our baseball boys,” Coach Knight said. “Obviously there are challenges that we face everyday, but as a coach it was amazing to see how much we have grown.”
Although the season ended early, Coach Knight said that players were beginning to get to a place where they wanted it to be both mentally and physically. “All credit goes to the boys for that, because they were and are willing to embrace whatever is necessary to be the best they can be,” he said. “This year has left me desiring to be with my baseball team more than ever!”
Currently, schools are under a “COVID-19 Dead Period” handed down by the Arkansas Activities Association. This means that coaches are prohibited from engaging in any type of face-to-face contact with their team. Fortunately, Coach Knight has been able to remain in contact with the Leopards through the use of technology. He has been able to stay in contact with his team through texting, calling, and GroupMe. “I cannot express how thankful I am to be able to have these outlets just to simply hear from the boys,” he said. “I miss them deeply!”
COVID-19 has changed what “normal” is, but it has also given a different approach to coaching. Coach Knight believes that it has effected coaches mental approach. “As coaches, we always preach not taking time for granted and treating everyday as though it is your last practice or game ever,” he said. “It is now more apparent than ever that things can be taken away from us at any given moment, so as a team of players and coaches we must approach every practice and game with the greatest work and attitude possible.”
Although the 2020 season is over, the goal remains the same for the Leopards; to grow into the best program in the state, and to leave no doubt Malvern is the best baseball program. “This year allowed us to grow mentally and physically and it gave our young team a taste of great competition,” Coach Knight said. As a young team, many players will be back next year to help Malvern reach its goal. “Our younger boys were able to practice and experience varsity baseball at the highest level possible,” Coach Knight said. “We were a very young team this year, so the joy as a coach is we get almost everyone back.”
The Leopards will lose four senior members this year, Christian Warren, Perry Allen, Alan Alvarez and Colby Bergan. They were the first senior class at Malvern for Coach Knight, who says they will forever hold a special place in his heart. “These four young men embody the exact definition of what we want our baseball players to act like and be like in Malvern,” he said. “They will be remembered in our baseball program forever.”