Trinity Presbyterian School administrators wasted little time in naming longtime assistant baseball coach Jarrod Cook as the successor to Ken Whittle, the only coach the school has ever had.
Cook, a Georgia native who played baseball at Auburn University Montgomery for Q.V. Lowe and has served as the pitching coach for Whittle the past 12 years, will have a daunting task replacing a Hall of Fame coach in his first head coaching job.
“I know that’s out there and a lot of those questions will be asked,” Cook said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge, I don’t look at it that way. I would just say it’s an opportunity. What Coach Whittle has built, I’m not even trying to get to that. What he’s done, I don’t ever see it being repeated. The wins and losses are going to come, the championships, hopefully, are going to come and go, I just hope to build relationships with these kids and their families and just be a good model for these guys.”
Whittle started the Trinity baseball program in 1981 and coached the Wildcats over the next 41 seasons, compiling 783 wins in 1,154 games and winning six state championships. Over the last 32 years, his teams made the playoffs every year but one and reached the quarterfinals of the playoffs 17 times.
Cook, who joined the coaching staff in 2010, has reached the state playoffs every year (except for the shortened COVID year of 2020) and won state championships in 2012, 2013 and 2015. Cook was named the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year in 2015. Although Cook was an obvious choice to take over as head coach, Whittle said he was neither asked nor offered any advice on the hiring.
“That is strictly a decision that the administration made,” Whittle said. “I didn’t want to get involved. They have to make their choices, they don’t need my recommendation when they’re looking at the future of the program. But I felt like that would be a good choice. He’s been part of the program, he knows our kids, he understands our kids and he’s paid his dues.”
Cook understood the sentiment in hiring Whittle’s top assistant, but said he kept an open mind about the hiring process.
“It could have been 10 years ago or I could have waited this long, but God had a plan,” he said. “I’m just blessed to be where I am and have the job that I have.”
He pitched in 2001-03 at Southern Union Community College, then for AUM in 2005 and 2006, where he helped the team compile an 87-49 record and a trip to the 2006 NAIA World Series. He remains in the school record books, tied for seventh in single-season wins (11 in 2006).
He remained in Montgomery after his college career was over, teaching at Holy Cross and serving as an assistant coach at Montgomery Academy (2007-09) under Russ Brooks before earning a job at Trinity, where he has coached basketball, football and baseball at the school at various levels.
The multi-tasking -- he was coaching spring football for the Wildcats as the school announced his promotion in baseball on Monday -- is something he believes strongly in.
“We’ve got some guys on the lower levels that if it works out they can come up to the varsity with me and help,” Cook said. “I want them all involved. It’s good for our kids to get instruction from our whole staff because our staff is good.”
The current varsity staff of Brad Parker and Jon Shamburger will remain in place with no additional coaches at this point. Cook will maintain his role of pitching coach while adding the duties of head coach.
“I’ll still work with the pitchers and call pitches,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s something I’ll ever be able to give up because that’s my passion.”
And while astute baseball fans may discern a slight difference in the product on the field in 2022, Trinity’s second-ever head baseball coach believes Whittle’s formula was tried and true.
“Coach Whittle and I always agree that we’ve got to play great defense, we’ve got to be really good on the mound and we’ve got to execute on offense and put pressure on other teams,” Cook said. “I think those three phases of the game will never change. They’ll be some things we do different, sure, some things we do alike. I’ve got some things with the small-ball game that’ll be a little different for the guys. But I want to be able to find an identity for our team and what works best for our guys to get the job done.”