Terry Holder is only missing two state championship rings to have both hands covered. The legendary high school baseball coach is planning on doing his best to round out that collection at Thomson High starting next month.
Preparations for the season have already begun, though. And Coach Holder is happy about the improvement he has seen in his team since he watched them work out last summer after being named the new coach.
"We've been real pleased with the progress we've made because we know we're going to get better," said the man with more than 525 wins to his credit.
One area that has shown strength is the defense, Coach Holder said. The challenging part, so far, has been inexperience; something he and the players are working hard to prevent from hurting the team, especially on the mound.
"As important as it (pitching) is, we've got to look to find the pieces to the puzzle," Coach Holder said.
Hurlers for the Bulldogs that look to play key roles are Phillip Bonner and Evan Howard; although, Bonner will be spending a good bit of time in the outfield and on first base. Both need to work on pitching consistency, Coach Holder said, adding that the inexperience factor is something that will take time.
"The biggest thing here is the kids just have not played as much. ...They haven't been exposed to it to the extent that those kids in Columbia County have been," he said, referring to his past teams from Evans and Greenbrier.
One tough region competitor will be another traditionally strong team from Columbia County in the form of a Harlem team coached by Jimmie Lewis, another member of Georgia's elite 500-win club. Coach Holder said Cross Creek will also be a strong opponent.
Some additional strengths the team has shown so far include its speed in the outfield. LaBrandon Hudson, Anthony Erwin and Clay Dent make up a strong and quick starting outfield.
The teams' top two catchers have also shown great improvement, according to Coach Holder. Aaron McCorkle and R.C. Smith will cover the plate for the Bulldogs this season.
Also, several solid players will cover spots in the infield. Second baseman Austin Phillips is batting well at practice, and shortstop Ryan Heacock has "shown flashes that he can be steady," Coach Holder said. Other key players include Ben Barmore and Drew Usry.
Coach Holder said one of the most important things he is trying to teach his players is his philosophy. He said they need to be "a cohesive group" that relies on and pulls for each other.
"We want the kids to learn that they don't coach and that they need each other to be successful," he said.
He added that the community support has been great so far. He also hopes fans show up in force to support the team, encourage them and expect them to excel. The Bulldogs open the season at home, 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1 against Aquinas.