Southeastern Baptist College has entered lots of new territory over the past couple of years.
Last week, the private four-year Baptist bible college founded in 1948 began the inaugural season of its newly formed baseball program.
“Our goal is to win,” said Chargers head baseball coach Jody Babineaux. “I’d be lying to you as a coach if I didn’t say our goal is to put players on the field to win games. But we’re striving for victories inside the game, like with fundamentals, etc. We want to play solid fundamental baseball.
“We had a great fall of training and early morning workouts. Our guys are starting to gel. They just have to let the game come to them.”
Babineaux comes to Southeastern Baptist College with decades of experience.
“I started coaching at the age of 18 in Lake Charles, Louisiana,” said Babineaux. “We ended up winning the league that year. Our 11-12-year-old Little League team that I helped coach as well made it to the finals.
“The next year, I came back, and we won the league title again. I helped coached the all-star team again too.”
Babineaux left Lake Charles the following year for the Marine Corps.
After leaving the Marine Corps, the Lake Charles native joined the coaching staff at Jones College.
“Bobby Glaze hired me as a manager in 2004,” said Babineaux. “The next year, I was promoted to an assistant coach position.”
He remained on staff for the Bobcats until 2008.
Recommissioning the Laurel Blackcats — a semi-professional baseball team founded in 1932 by Dayton Hair — is what Babineaux is most known for. The Blackcats disbanded in 2006 but later returned in 2010 when Babineaux took ownership and management of the team.
“I got to work with collegiate players and was able to built relationships with college teams and coaches,” said Babineaux. “I also took a job with the Laurel School District as the Middle School coach for three or four years during that time until I was deployed [to the Middle East].”
Last summer, Babineaux was named head baseball coach of the Southeastern Baptist College.
“I was told SBC had an opening,” said Babineaux. “So I put my name in the hat [so to speak] to see what would happen, and I got hired.”
Developing programs from scratch are difficult and come with a lot of hard work. Babineaux says he’s up to the challenge.
“Any time you start something, it’s a bloody [undertaking] for the first person,” said Babineaux. “It’s because it’s all-new, and you’re the one that has to develop the culture, etc. It starts with you.
“My main goal is to bring kids in that are about what you’re trying to accomplish. They have the understanding that you’re trying to build a program, not necessarily a championship program right off the bat, but men with championship character.”
Despite challenges like COVID-19 and the short window to recruit, Babineaux put together a 20-man roster.
“I was very fortunate to land in a very rich baseball area,” said Babineaux. “It’s a blue-collar [to the core]. When I was at Jones College, I got to see that firsthand.
“Because of my relationship with area coaches from my time at Jones, I was able to tap into the area and pull out some great players.”
All but a few are freshmen.
“Deontay Robinson is one of our experienced players from the collegiate level,” said Babineaux. “He graduated from Hattiesburg High School, and he played at Selma University and Tougaloo College for a time. He brings a lot of experience and leadership to the young team. He’s a solid hitter, and he knows his role on the team.
“Then we have Noah Hillman and John Sullivan, who also cames to us with college baseball experience. Both came from Coahoma Community College. We needed guys like Robinson, Hillman, and Sullivan to come in and help lay the groundwork.”
The Chargers’ home base is Wooten Legion Fields on 1215 West Drive in Laurel.
“Our program is a sleeping giant within our conference (National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association),” said Babineaux. “Right now, no one knows about us. But as we keep going, we hope to change that.
“The City of Laurel has helped us tremendously. They’ve renovated this facility for us, and that helps us feel like we have a home.”