Troy Girdner next man up for Horns
Photo/Special to the News-Gazette Troy Girdner is a former Harmony assistant coach who spent the past four seasons as the head coach at The Master’s Academy, where he twice took the team to the regional playoffs.
Led Master’s Academy to playoffs twice
By Rick Pedone
Harmony High’s new baseball coach is Troy Girdner, and if he seems like a familiar face to Longhorns fans, he is.
Girdner was an assistant to former Longhorns Coach Mike Fields for several seasons and Girdner’s children, Gabby and Doug, were Harmony High athletes.
Girdner, 48, played one season for Fields at St. Cloud High, in 1985, when the Bulldogs reached the Class 2A state tournament.
Harmony Athletic Director Chuck Hitt confirmed
“Mike has so much invested in the program and he wanted to kind of keep it in the family, so I know he’s happy to see Troy step in and take it over,” Hitt said. “Troy’s obviously familiar with our baseball program, his kids played here, and he understands the expectations.”
Girdner said that following Fields, who retired after 41 years and 610 career victories, is no easy task.
“To have the opportunity to coach after the guy who coached me, who taught me so much, is something I’m really looking forward to,” Girdner said. “It’s going to be tough because he did such a great job, but it was going to be a tough job for anyone who took it.”
Girdner coached The Master’s Academy in Oviedo to the Class 3A regionals twice in four seasons.
Although he will take a sizeable step up the classification ladder (Harmony plays in Class 7A), Girdner knows all about strong competition.
The Master’s Academy’s 3A District 5 competition included state powerhouse Father Lopez of Daytona Beach.
“Their pitching staff was loaded. They had like four D-I guys,” Girdner said. “Leaving The Master’s Academy was hard because of the relationships you create with your players, not because of the wins or losses. I was treated very well during my time there and I am thankful for those relationships because they will carry forward with me the rest of my life.”
Fields said Girdner would do well at Harmony.
“Troy has spent his entire life preparing for this job. He is a tireless worker and his number one priority is his players. He turned a very weak Master’s Academy program into one of the best teams in its classification the past three years,” Fields said. “He understands that there is more to this job than coaching baseball. He will be preparing his players for life. He is a strong believer in character, discipline and giving back to his community. I am so proud that Principal (Buddy) Butler would choose Troy as my replacement.”
Girdner said he has asked Fields to join his coaching staff, but he said that Fields declined.
“I think he just wants to stay away from it for a while, and to give me a little space, and I understand that,” Girdner said. “The door is always open to him. I hope at some point he will be ready come back in because that obviously would be a huge plus for the program.”
Girdner said he would maintain the essence of the Longhorns program that Fields built from its inception in 2004.
“There are a lot of things that probably won’t change at all,” Girdner said. “But, you can’t be afraid to bring in your own ideas, and I’ll definitely do that.”
Girdner said he would talk to all of Fields’ assistant coaches and encourage them to stay involved with the program. He expects his son, Doug, a 2009 graduate who pitched for the Longhorns, to join his staff. His son-in-law, former Horns’ catcher Colton Richards, was a Longhorns’ assistant last season.
“It helps to have assistants who have gone through the program, plus there is the fact that Doug has played college ball and he brings that insight to the program,” Girdner said.
Girdner plans to speak with the returning Longhorns players over the summer to lay the groundwork for fall ball.
Harmony reached the regional finals in 2013 but it was bumped from the district tournament in the semifinal round by Osceola last season.
“I wish I could have left him a little more pitching. We have only one pitcher returning (Parker Kimura), but he does have some great position players coming back like Josh Corredor behind the plate and Brock Howard,” Fields said.
“Troy will make sure his players get the job done in the classroom and on the field. Everyone just needs to give him a chance.”
Girdner said he is prepared to make the transition.
“What I learned as the head coach at Master’s, and from Mike, is that being a head coach goes way beyond the game on the field. It is equally important off the field,” Girdner said. “You have an incredible platform to be an example to your players and that requires us to be open for opportunities to mentor them. At the end of the day, most players will not play beyond high school, so I want to help prepare them for life opportunities and obstacles.”
Girdner’s daughter, Gabby, was an All-County softball player for Harmony. His wife, Jeanette, was a multi-sport standout at St. Cloud High.