A couple days after announcing his retirement from coaching, Pat Olmi was back out at the baseball field helping conduct tryouts.
He can’t get away from the game. As a baseball lifer, the game is more than just in his blood — Pat Olmi is baseball and vice versa.
The Harrison County School Board accepted Olmi’s retirement as the Harrison Central High School baseball coach Monday.
The decision was a tough one, but after 35 years in coaching, including 20 as the Red Rebels skipper, he said it was time.
“I prayed a lot about it and just felt like it was the right time,” he said.
Even Wednesday afternoon, Olmi, who was 122-74 over the last eight seasons and a two-time Sun Herald Coach of the Year selection, said the decision hadn’t sunk in just yet.
“He’s awesome,” Harrison County athletic director Bobby Trosclair said. “You’re not going to meet a finer guy out there. He has done it for a long time and seen a lot of people come through.
“He was coaching high school baseball when I was playing. He has built an amazing program and it’s a high-profile opening because of Pat Olmi.”
Olmi knew from an early age he wanted to coach baseball.
“I came from a little town in Shaw where everyone played baseball. I remember growing up, watching those guys play and they were always in the playoffs somewhere,” he said. “I met some coaches when I was in high school and thought the world of them. I knew in 10th grade that’s what I wanted to be.”
He attended Mississippi State and was a graduate assistant under legendary coach Ron Polk before taking a coaching job at Rolling Fork in the Delta.
The HCHS program Olmi took over in summer 1996 needed some major TLC, but soon enough the Delta native had the program headed in the right direction.
Long Beach coach Shane Rutledge was one of Olmi’s first assistant hires. Rutledge had a solid foundation, having played for Mark Ross, Cooper Farris and Bobby Halford — but he describes his time learning alongside Olmi as invaluable.
Early on, Rutledge said they were piecing together their lineups, just trying not to get run-ruled. Within a few years, Olmi had changed the culture and they were annually qualifying for the playoffs.
“We put together a competitive team, but it took quite a while for Pat to change the culture,” Rutledge said. “By 1999, we were making the playoffs and our kids were changing their outlook. We had a chance every night the lights came on after that.”
Rutledge said one of the most important abilities as a coach is showing the players how to compete every game regardless of your talent level or who you’re playing.
“I learned what the hard times were like. It’s not by any stretch of the imagination fun, but it’s more valuable than being a frontrunner, because sooner or later you’re going to hit a dry spell.
“That’s the measure of who you are and your capabilities as a coach.”
Olmi’s Red Rebels broke through to the championship series in 2013.
“That was a special group of guys,” Olmi said. “They loved the game, worked hard and were just winners. They believed in each other.”
The 28-5 Red Rebels included current Cleveland Indians prospect Bobby Bradley, William Carey slugger James Land and Southeastern Louisiana two-way standout Derrick Mount.
“Those guys were winners and always will be,” Olmi said.
In addition to being a legendary baseball coach, Olmi has been a mainstay at HCHS events across the board, whether it was basketball, soccer, football or softball.
“He means so much to everyone, not just the baseball team,” Trosclair said. “I haven’t seen him miss a basketball game since I’ve been here. He’s always around.”
Major League veteran Matt Lawton never played for Olmi, but the Harrison Central and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alum has been around the program plenty in recent years. His son, Chaseton, was a sophomore on this year’s team.
“Pat was great with the kids,” Lawton said. “You won’t meet a kid that has come through his program that didn’t like him. He is a guy that’s fun to talk to with tons of knowledge about the game of baseball.
“He had a really long tenure at Harrison Central and I want to personally wish him the best in his retirement.”
Harrison Central posted Olmi’s position on the MHSAA website Wednesday morning.
Even while discussing Olmi’s history at the school Wednesday, Trosclair’s email was pinging nonstop with resumes.
“I’m looking for the best person for the job to continue what (Olmi) started and possibly take it further,” Trosclair said. “I want somebody who’s going to hang around.”
Trosclair expects the job to be posted for 10 business days. At that point, they’ll begin the interview process.