After three decades, there will be a new head baseball coach at Northwest Rankin.
KK Aldridge has been promoted from assistant coach to replace long time head coach Jeff McClaskey, who is retiring after 31 seasons at Northwest Rankin.
Aldridge played baseball at Northwest in the late 1990s and also played at Millsaps College. While at Millsaps, Aldridge played shortstop and second base and helped the Majors to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference title in 2003. Aldridge has been an assistant coach at Hattiesburg High, Brandon and Northwest and head coach at Pelahatchie for two seasons. Aldridge returned to Northwest as an assistant coach last season.
“I’m extremely humbled and excited by the opportunity,” Aldridge said. “I’m very fortunate and grateful to have been able to play for and coach under someone of Coach McClaskey’s caliber. The winning tradition and our spectacular facilities would not be the same without his hard work and dedication to the program.”
“KK is the total package. He played for me and coached with me and we wanted someone to replace me to carry on what we have built here. He’s the perfect guy for this job,” McClaskey said. “He’s my guy. He loves the game. KK has a passion for life. He’s been around this program a long time (KK graduated from Northwest in 1999). We wanted someone who has lived Northwest Rankin baseball for many years. We wanted it going in the same direction. We’re a Top 10 baseball team in the state almost every year. We want to continue that. KK is an even keel person, but he will put his foot down when he needs to. He’s a great family man, a great Christian man. KK will instill the same ideals that I wanted in our players, good morals, good grades, Christianvalues. KK is walking into a gold mine and I have no doubt he will continue what we’ve built here.”
“To continue the winning tradition, we will have to continue to do what we have always done. We will roll up our sleeves and get to work,” Aldridge said. “We will have to outwork other programs that are trying to attain this same winning tradition. We play in a state where baseball is extremely competitive, and the only way to have long termsuccess is by earning it with hard work and dedication. We have talented players with great work ethic, so our staff will continue to push and develop our guys, so they are not only successful here, but are also prepared for the next level. More than that, we want to make sure we produce quality young men through our program.”
“It is time for someone else to step in and put their own stamp on this program. Replacing a coach like Jeff McClaskey is not possible. There is no other Jeff McClaskey,” said Northwest Rankin principal Ben Stein, who served as an assistant coach for McClaskey from 1999-2008. “However, KK is the guy that I believe will improve upon and continue with the traditions that are established at NWR. Coach Aldridge played for Coach McClaskey, coached with McClaskey, and will now be the head guy in place of Coach McClaskey. I am looking forward to seeing Coach Aldridge lead these players on and off the field. He has the full support of me and the administrative team.”
“I am excited that Coach Aldridge will be the new head coach,” said Northwest Rankin junior infielder Luke Lycette, whose dad, Doug, coached with McClaskey for 20 seasons. “ He is an awesome guy and has coached my position for the past two years. He knows the Northwest program as a former player and assistant coach so I am confident that he will continue the winning tradition.”
“KK was one of those special players that come around every once in a while,” said Millsaps baseball coach Jim Page, who coached KK and has been at Millsaps since 1989. “His instincts were off the charts and whether at practice or in the games, KK always competed and took care of the little things. He was literally everything that a coach would want in a player and a leader. And he will no doubt be everything a player would hope for in a coach. He’s a great Christian young man and I couldn’t be more proud for him.”
McClaskey, who was also the athletic director,announced his retirement prior to the start of this season. Northwest Rankin football coach Toby Collums will replace McClaskey as athletic director. The Rankin County School District also announced earlier this spring that Northwest Rankin’s baseball stadium is now called Jeff McClaskeyStadium. McClaskey, a Magnolia Academy, Hinds CC and Delta State standout, has built Northwest Rankin into one of the top high school baseball programs in Mississippi. McClaskey’s biggest highlight came in 2005 when he was named the ABCA National High School Baseball Coach of the Year after his Cougars won the state title and finished ranked No. 6 in the nation. McClaskey also built Northwest Rankin’s baseball facility into one of the top ones in the South. The stadium holds 1,200 people with chair back seating, a heated/cooled 16 seat area for pro and college scouts, a heated/cooled press box, concession stand and apparel store.
“I had been here 31 years and it was time for someone else to lead the program,” said McClaskey, who finished with 865 victories in 34 seasons, 801 in 31 seasons at Northwestand 64 in three seasons at Porter’s Chapel Academy in Vicksburg. “It’s time for me to take my state retirement. I have several other businesses I’m involved in so I will stay busy. Also, I will stay close to the program. KK isn’t going to be intimidated by me being around because he’s one of us. Ifeel very confident he will do an excellent job running this program.”
“I can’t say enough about Jeff McClaskey. He is an exceptional leader, mentor, coach, and friend,” Stein said. “Coach McClaskey put his heart and soul into the NWR baseball program for over 30 years. I am thankful that I was able to be a part of this program for 9 years and then able to help support him as an administrator for 12 additional years. Coach will be greatly missed, but I know him well enough to know that he will be here to continue his support and to lend a hand whenever needed.”
“I’ve known Coach McClaskey for almost 30 years and during this time I have developed with him relationships in many areas,” Page said. “We started off as coaching peers, then we became good friends and then we had thecoach/parent relationship for past nine years (Page’s sons, Keaton and Case, played for McClaskey). While I am amazed at this program that Jeff has built – the facilities, the winning tradition, players continuing their careers in college -what stands out to me is his focus on not just developing fundamentally sound baseball players on the field, but the emphasis on developing great young men. Through our friendship, I have come to appreciate Jeff even more off the field. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen him come to the aid of someone in need, even organizing events to help someone or a family.”