Henry County High School’s new head baseball coach is a hometown kid who has achieved one of his dreams in becoming the Patriots’ coach.
Shane Kemp has been hired as the new HCHS coach, replacing Benji Bona, who resigned last month after two seasons.
Kemp was a baseball and football standout in his playing days at Henry County, and he wound up playing two years of college baseball at Columbia State Community College, followed by two years at Middle Tennessee State University.
After his collegiate playing days were finished, he moved on to the River City Rascals, a team in the professional independent Frontier League. The team is based in O’Fallon, Mo. Kemp played for the Rascals for two years.
“I gave baseball up because $1,800 a month wasn’t really enough for me and my family to get by on,” Kemp said.
After returning to Paris, he has devoted nearly five years to coaching the Paris Thunder travel team, which has enjoyed great success in various competitions in multiple states in that time. Kemp began coaching a group of players who were mainly 9- and 10-year-olds at the time and has stayed with the same group through the ensuing five years.
He also was an assistant coach for Doug Barner in 2017 when Barner, another former MTSU player, was Henry County’s head coach.
Kemp graduated from HCHS in 2000. He played for Paul Putman when Putman was the Patriots’ baseball coach.
“When I was in college, I actually had talked to Paul about maybe taking over the Henry County job when he retired,” Kemp said.
The timing was bad, though, since Putman stepped down while Kemp still had a year left to play at Middle.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to come back to Henry County to coach,” Kemp said.
He considers himself a defensive specialist when it comes to coaching.
“We’re going to be extremely fundamentally sound,” he said of the 2020 Patriots.
His Paris Thunder players, while competing in a large tournament in Branson, Mo., won almost every skills contest held in conjunction with the tourney.
He said he would like to have a pitching coach on his staff at HCHS. Kemp played shortstop and pitched while in high school, then was a shortstop at Columbia State before moving to center field at MTSU.
He said he has played for some outstanding coaches in his career, including Steve Peterson at Middle Tennessee and the late Painter at Columbia State. Petersen is the Blue Raiders’ all-time winningest coach who retired in 2012. Painter won more than 1,000 games in his junior college coaching career.
Kemp said one of his coaches while with River City was former major league star Jack Clark, who spent 17 full seasons in the major leagues, including a stint with the St. Louis Cardinals, when he was a member of the 1985 and 1987 National League championship teams.
Henry County is expected to have a very competitive team next year. The Patriots fared well the last two years under Bona, who compiled a 41-22 overall record, but were in a tough District 10-AAA which included strong programs at Clarksville Rossview and Clarksville High School.
“I think we’re looking really good. I’m going to tell our players that we should be state contenders. I want us to get back to the level the program was at when I was playing for Coach Putman. I’m going to tell the players that you only get out what you put into something,” Kemp said.
He said tryouts for next year’s team will likely be next week. He’s already talked to Brian Webb, the coach at Inman Middle School, about helping him during the tryouts, and said he hopes to get county middle school coaches involved, too.