Heber Springs Coach B.J. Greene gazed out at Panther Field Tuesday afternoon and talked about how any athlete should be proud to play at such a fine facility.

Heber Springs Coach B.J. Greene gazed out at Panther Field Tuesday afternoon and talked about how any athlete should be proud to play at such a fine facility.
The Panthers’ new baseball coach, who led Carlisle to the Class 2A state championship game this season, also recalled fond memories playing at the old field off Walnut St., where he figured Heber still held games upon taking the job.
Heber’s baseball park has actually changed twice since Greene last played in Heber, but the trout fishing certainly hasn’t changed. Greene, a Mansfield High School and University of the Ozarks graduate and baseball player, said he has been visiting Heber for about 15 years to fish the Little Red River.
Heber’s abundance of outdoor opportunities along with a family-oriented environment and tight-knit coaching staff helped sway Greene to leave Carlisle after five years of building its program to a championship contender.
“I like the area and the facilities,” said Greene. “Baseball, football, basketball…The facilities here rival the biggest classification schools in the state. I think any coach would love this opportunity. I’ve heard a lot about the kids from Coach [Steve] Janski, Coach [Darren] Gowen, Coach [Jeff] Bise, Coach [Mark] Brigance and the guys that have been on staff for a while. I’ve heard the kids have great work ethic and I think that’s what any coach would want to surround himself with. It’s a great community that is going to support the programs and from what I’ve gathered and been told.
“I am not going to say leaving Carlisle was not hard because I had a good group of kids and a great coaching staff. I had a lot of bonds that I made at Carlisle and it was tough to leave but I just felt this was an opportunity that might not ever come back around in my lifetime,” Greene said.
Hunting and fishing has helped Greene get acquainted with the area since his teenage years. “I love hunting and fishing. I’ve been coming to Heber Springs probably two or three times a year for the past 15 years, back to when I was 16 or 17 years old. Funny thing is I’ve never stepped a foot in the water on the lake. I have always trout fished so I am looking forward to that part.”
The Panthers’ new coach plans to marry his fiancé in December. “My fiancé has a 5-year old daughter and I think this will be an absolutely outstanding place to raise a family and that certainly played a part.”
Greene has an aggressive philosophy on offense and prefers to form defense around solid pitching depth and strong defense up the middle.
“We are going to be aggressive and try to steal as much as we possibly can. We are going to get thrown out some but we are going to keep trying to steal. In hit-and-run situations, I like to make the kids swing the bat and put it in play. There are 21 outs in a game and we’ve got to make them work for every one of them.
“We’ve also got to have good pitching. You’ve got to be good up the middle and that’s going to be one of my goals today in our first practice. I don’t have a clue what anybody can do but we’ve got to be good up the middle…catcher, pitcher, second, short and centerfield. My goal is to be a good hitting ball club with good pitching. If you can do those two things you are going to be successful.”
At Carlisle, Greene said five years of hard work on the field and in the weight room paid off this year. “In our run to the state championship I had four good pitchers. They could have been anybody in 2A’s No. 1. We built off that and then hit the weight room. The football guys that are baseball too are going to be in the weight room anyways, but the guys that are just baseball or baseball/basketball are going to get in the weight room and lift because we’ve got to get stronger. I attribute a ton of the stuff we did at Carlisle to the weight room. It will build arm strength and swing speed,” added Greene.
The Panthers will be competing as a team this summer in an extended high school season, which is a new step for the program. He said 17 players were expected at Tuesday’s first practice.
“This summer is really going to be for me to look and see,” said Greene. “With the 16 games we have scheduled, it’s going to give me an advantage to see how they act because to be honest we are probably going to see some teams that beat the brakes off us.
“I want to see how they react to that and how they react to beating some of the teams we are going to be able to compete with. I need to see all of that. Character is important. It’s not necessarily going to be all about baseball skills. And, they get to see me too and how I want to work. There are going to be some kids that may have been in one position for Coach Gowen that may not be in that position for me so they’ve got to be able to handle that.”
After playing under former Heber Springs Coach Jimmy Clark at the University of the Ozarks, Greene assisted at his alma mater for one year before taking a job at Hartford for one year. Greene then coached at Norphlet for two years before spending the past five seasons at Carlisle.
Heber opens its extended season schedule on Tuesday, June 4, when Maumelle visits Panther Field for a doubleheader starting at 5 p.m.