After being the baseball coach the last 12 seasons, Justin Smith has decided it’s time to move on.
Smith recently announced he is stepping down as Faith Christian Academy’s head baseball coach and associate pastor at Free Will Baptist Church to pursue a new career as an associate pastor at Landmark Church in Cary.
“I’m forever going to be grateful for the opportunity to coach at Faith Christian Academy.” Smith said. “It’s been a fun 12 years here, but I’m excited to see what the Lord has in store for my family and me.
“I’m going to invest the next 12 years in my boys before they get out of the house, and maybe get back into coaching later.”
Stephen Hardison, who is the athletics director at Faith Christian, said he knew Smith wanted to make a change in his life.
“Around a month ago before he announced it in church, he came to my house and told me he’s going to Cary to their ministry to be an associate pastor at Landmark Church,” Hardison said. “He left the program in good hands, and the future looks bright.
“I don’t expect a letup. I really don’t.”
During the past few years, Smith and assistant coach Stephen Reese launched Faith Christian’s middle school, 12U and 10U baseball programs off the ground.
“Three or four years ago he told me his vision for baseball,” Hardison said. “Baseball wasn’t that big, but he’s really made it big. A couple of years ago we first started with a middle school team, and then we went down to 10U and this year we have a 10U, 12U, a middle school team and a high school team, and I do believe the guys this year are a result of that feeder system.
“That was Justin and Stephen Reese’s brainchild. You talk about wearing hats, those guys wear hats.”
From 2016-2018, the Conquerors won 13 games. Last season, the Conquerors had their best season in decades. Led by seniors Cal Reese, Caleb Heath and Cooper Voeller, the Conquerors finished 12-5 overall and 7-3 in the NCCSA AA District 4 conference play this past spring in baseball.
The Conquerors advanced to the NCCSA 2-A state quarterfinals but lost a close game against Faith Christian School out of Rocky Mount.
“We were disappointed,” Smith said. “The boys set a goal of having a winning season, and we made that mark. The next goal they set was to win a state championship. We were one run from tying it, and it just didn’t happen. It was sad to see it come to an end.”
Hardison is appreciative of all Smith has done for the baseball program and the student-athletes at Faith Christian.
“Justin has done a tremendous job,” Hardison said. “He had a loyal commitment to the baseball program, and he was committed for 12 long years. He’s one of my best friends, and he’s an outstanding Christian, coach and father.
“He’s still getting guys every now and then that, over the past few years, come back around and grab lunch with him, and catch up. He’s that type of guy.”
Faith Christian has not announced who will be taking the helm at Faith Christian.
“I’m still talking to assistant coaches,” Hardison said. “We have an idea, it’s just working out the details, and of course once those details are ironed out, I’ll let the guys know.”