Chris Saint always wanted to be a baseball coach.
But when the Albertville native got his first taste of coaching at Snead State Community College he knew that wasn’t where he wanted and needed to be.
The Albertville native grew up around baseball with a love for youth sports and adult league softball. After graduating from Albertville High School in 2007 he continued his playing career at Snead State for two years and then was the pitching coach the following year — but something was missing.
“It just wasn’t a fit and it didn’t feel right,” Saint said. “I was coaching at the college level and I felt my role needed to be more with the youth and the adult slow pitch leagues. Coaching was somewhere in the middle of that and it just wasn’t where I was supposed to be.”
In January, the 26-year old Jacksonville State graduate was hired as the Wills Valley Recreations and Aquatics Coordinator with the goal of making the already successful Fort Payne Parks and Recreation Department even more successful.
During his time playing for the Albertville Aggies in high school, he made plenty of trips to Fort Payne to take on the Wildcats, and he never expected it would eventually become his home.
“It never crossed my mind that I would end up here,” Saint said. “I always had a great respect for this place and I loved coming up here and playing and I always had great respect for coach (Johnny) Johnson, the baseball coach.”
While he sat in the office at the baseball and softball complex Tuesday looking over the numerous fields beginning to green out for the season that begins next week, he couldn’t be happier with where he is and where he feels the department can go.
“The facilities here are great,” Saint said. “People may not realize how great the facilities are if they haven’t travelled a lot. I’ve travelled all around the southeast for softball and this has the potential to be one of the nicest places around.”
After leaving Snead State and deciding coaching wasn’t for him he enrolled in the Jacksonville State recreation program where he also worked as a manager and on the grounds crew for the softball team.
“I knew I still wanted to be involved in sports so I went to Jacksonville state and got into the recreation program there,” Saint said. “That’s where I felt I was most comfortable and where I could do the most good and help the most.”
After graduation in August of 2014 he began working at the Boaz Parks and Recreation Department overseeing the softball complex and in January accepted the position in Fort Payne, which is similar to his former in Boaz, but instead of just being in charge of softball he’s in charge of all sports.
His goal won’t be to completely change everything about the department but instead make small changes to continue to grow it and make it even better. He said he has plenty of ideas on how to do that.
“Even from a young age I always felt there was always something that could be done a little bit different — little tweaks here and there,” Saint said. “That’s the transition period we are in right now. Just making small changes to the way they’ve been doing things and so far everything has been very smooth and I’ve had great support from people like Anita Shankles, our assistant complex manager, and Ryan Johnson, the head of the grounds crew.”
His first goal will be to bring more weekend tournaments to Fort Payne. This year they have 14 tournaments scheduled, which is up from around five last year, and he thinks that can continue to grow.
“The more tournaments we can bring in, the better it is for our community and our youth,” Saint said. “I think that is completely my responsibility. That was one of the main reasons they brought me in here.”
He also said that’s just the start of the improvements.
“It’s been great so far,” Saint said. “I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s been a breath of fresh air to move up here and get to a new place and start fresh.”