Jed Hixson has replaced Seth Rhine as Grayson's head baseball coach.
Just over a month after the completion of a historic season, Grayson's baseball program is getting new leadership, sort of.
It was announced Monday that Seth Rhine is stepping down as the Rams' head coach after accepting one of the school's assistant principal positions.
However, school officials didn't look far to replace Rhine as longtime assistant Jed Hixson was tapped to step in as the new head coach.
"We're excited to have Jed on board," Grayson athletics director Brent Tisdale said of Hixson. "He's been here the whole time. He's a great guy with character and integrity."
The 36-year-old Hixson, who played high school baseball at Stone Mountain and college ball at Georgia State, spent the previous five seasons as an assistant to Gary Powell at Dacula before joining Rhine's staff in 2005.
This will be his first head coaching job, though he does inherit a very strong squad that returns 15 rising seniors -- including eight returning starters -- from a team that set a school record with 27 wins and made the program's first appearance in a state semifinal series this past spring.
Three of those returnees -- centerfielder Austin Meadows (Clemson), right-handed pitcher/first baseman/outfielder Taylor Allum and left-handed pitcher/outfielder Chris Erwin (both Kennesaw State) -- have already made college commitments, with Meadows perhaps being a top prospect in next year's MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Just as important, the length his tenure on the Rams' coaching staff gives him a lot of familiarity with those returning players, and vice-versa.
"That's part of the reason I made the decision (to accept the job when offered)," Hixson said. "There might've been other opportunities for me to become a head coach, but with Seth moving up, I felt like it was important (to stay at Grayson) for continuity sake.
"I'm very excited, but also a little apprehensive with the talent we've got coming back and expectations so high. I hope I don't mess them up."
Based on the experience Hixson gained by his side, Rhine has little fear of that happening.
Hixson was on Rhine's staff for all by one of his nine seasons as Grayson's head coach, during which time he guided the Rams to a 159-100 record and a berth in the state playoffs in all but one of those seasons.
"I'm glad Jed accepted the role," Rhine said. "It would've been a lot to ask those kids to try to adjust to a new head coach and a new system, along with trying to win a state championship."
It wasn't easy for Rhine to let go of the reins with the Rams, coming off a 27-9 season and being a legitimate state title contender and being scheduled to compete in the National High School Invitational at the USA Baseball training complex in Cary, N.C., next spring.
But with his desire to move into school administration and the time constraints that come with it, he says he is comfortable with his decision.
"Last year, I was doing some administration under a different title," Rhine said. "Apparently, I did a good enough job for (Grayson principal David) Hopson to ask me to be a full-time assistant. ... It's time for me to try something different."
-- Sports Editor Will Hammock contributed to this report