Family ties are going to cost the Henry County High School baseball program its third head coach in the last four seasons.
Patriot head coach Benji Bona announced Tuesday night at the team’s banquet that he was stepping down after two seasons as the team’s head coach. Bona guided the Patriots to a 22-9 record this season with a 13-3 mark in District 10-AAA games. The Patriots are 41-22 over the last two seasons under Bona.
The Patriots finished third in the district standings and came within one game of being able to play for the district championship.
Bona replaced Doug Barner who coached the 2017 season after long-time Patriot mentor Brian Welp stepped down after the 2016 season. Both Barner and Welp stopped coaching to spend more time with their children. Bona intends to follow suit as his youngest son, Eli, heads into his junior year at HCHS.
“I’m not sure that I can really explain it to everyone but I just want to spend more time with my son while I can,” Bona said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.
Bona explained that when he took the job as the Patriots’ coach, Eli Bona was a member of the baseball team, but Eli decided soon after that he was done playing baseball and wanted to concentrate on football. Eli Bona is a quarterback on the Patriot football team.
“So coaching baseball in the spring took a lot of time away that I could be with my son, especially with him also playing football. I want everyone to know that I’m not unhappy with anything else about the program. We have had a great group of guys to work with and I have had two great coaches to work with in Lance (Smith) and Marty (Valentine). They have been a great deal of help and I couldn’t have gotten through this without them,” Bona said.
Bona would like to see Smith agree to become head coach, especially with a solid group of returning players.
“We graduated a lot of good players this year but this program is stocked with another talented group coming up. There are good players moving up from the middle school and next year’s eighth-grade class is going to be good too. The overall program is really in good shape,” Bona said.
Bona plans to continue teaching physical education at Harrelson School and doesn’t rule out a return to coaching some day. Bona spent many years coaching both baseball and football in middle school in Henry County before becoming the HCHS baseball head coach.
“I’ve been coaching for twenty-five years now with twenty-three of them being here. I really enjoy being a teacher at Harrelson and I’m just going to do that for awhile. You never know. I might do that a year or two and find out that I miss coaching so much that I need to get back into it. We’ll just see what comes down the road. Right now, I know I have been missing spending time with my son and I want to do that while I still can,” said Bona.
He said he thanks everyone who has helped out with any of the teams that he has coached. He praised the way Henry County supports all its athletes and said he is proud to have been a small part of all that.