Clint Helton was watering the Maryville College baseball field when he got the call for which he had been hoping.
It was Friday. He had interviewed for the position as the Scots’ head baseball coach that morning.
“I got the call from HR saying, ‘I’d like to officially offer you the job,’” said Helton, who was initially named the team’s interim coach after Cody Church resigned on July 8. “I was like, ‘No way.’ I was excited, I was emotional. It’s really special.”
A Maryville College alum, Helton was promoted from his role as the recruiting coordinator and pitching coach. He graduated in 2011 and has been with the program for five years under Church.
“Clint loves Maryville College,” Church said. “That was a lot of the appeal to bring him on our staff. He understands the dynamic of what it takes to be successful here as a student athlete.”
Helton and Church go way back. Both of them grew up playing youth baseball together in Blount County before competing against each other in high school. Helton played for Heritage while Church was an all-state performer at Seymour, helping the Eagles to a school-record 31 wins in one season.
In 2019, Church became the first baseball coach in Maryville College history to string together five consecutive 20-plus win seasons.
“I’ve known Clint for a really long time and completely trust the type of man that he is,” Church said.
“He’s an unbelievable baseball coach and an unbelievable recruiter and communicator, just a great teacher of the game. Combine that with being a Maryville College guy through and through, and it was an absolute slam dunk.”
After five years at the helm, Church left the position vacant for a sales representative job for The Athletic Shop — a team sports dealer that specializes in custom apparel. It’s a gig that will allow him more spare time over the weekends, which he intends to spend with his 2-year-old son, Benson.
“I’ll still be around the game and around sports,” Church said. “This just gave me the opportunity to be home on the weekends a little bit more to see him grow up while I can.”
During Helton’s time at Maryville, the program had a player picked in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft for the first time. Three other players have signed to play professionally for independent leagues.
The pitching staff has improved in nearly every statistical category under Helton’s leadership. That includes wins, earned run average, strikeouts, walks allowed and opponent’s batting average.
Church said what makes Helton unique in his style of coaching is his steady nature.
“He’s kind of the same guy every day — never too high or too low,” Church said. “When I left, I was just so excited for him to get that opportunity because I think his personality really fits what it takes to be a successful head baseball coach.”
It’s a dream job for Helton. He said he has been inspired by former coaches such as Church as well as Heritage’s longtime coach, Robbie Bennett.
“I didn’t really realize there was a possibility of coming back to my alma mater (to coach) when I was a 21-year-old,” Helton said. “I definitely wanted to stay with the game that has done so much for me.”