Brent Achord thought Wade Simoneaux was pulling his leg.
That was at least the initial reaction for West Monroe’s pitching coach when Simoneaux called him to inform Achord that he was named the Louisiana Baseball Coaches Association Class 5A Assistant Coach of the Year.
“Well, he was trying to get me down to the clinic over the weekend and tried to keep it a surprise, but with my daughter’s cheer competition, I wasn’t going to make it,” Achord said. “He ended up calling me and told me over the phone. My initial response was, ‘Do you have me on speakerphone? Is this a joke?’”
The feeling of shock initially hit Achord because in his mind, he feels like a full-time job in pharmaceutical sales eliminated him from the conversation. But that’s far from the case if you ask Simoneaux.
“He brings a professionalism to (the job) because he teaches the kids and works with the kids,” Simoneaux said. “He doesn’t get bent out of shape one way or the other. Our guys have really thrived under him.”
The partnership between Simoneaux and Achord began after the 2017 season. Simoneaux was looking for a new pitching coach, and because Achord has so many connections from his preivous 14 years in coaching, along with the combined 50 years of coaching between his father (Jack) and brother (Kyle), Simoneaux reached out to Achord for a recommendation.
“I vividly remember that,” Achord said. “It was the summer of 2017. He just sent me a text message because he knew I had connections and contacts or whatever. ‘Hey, if you know of a pitching guy, I’m looking for one.’ I immediately responded, ‘Yeah, I know one real well.’ He called me and said, ‘Are you serious? Would you do it?’”
After resigning as head coach of Carson Newman (Tenn.), Achord moved back to West Monroe in 2005 and coached little league and travel ball ever since. His son, Austin Achord, was a sophomore for the Rebels when Simoneaux gave him the call in 2017. Brent Achord jumped at the opportunity to coach his son and a group of high school boys he’d previously coached through the ranks.
And Achord immediately fit in. With Achord’s pitching background, Simoneaux knew he could rely on Achord to completely handle those responsibilities. And that’s something Achord always appreciated.
“That is why I love coaching here,” Achord said. “From Day one, I’ve had complete autonomy. He lets me run the pitching side of things how we see fit. I’ve called every pitch since, and it is absolutely awesome to work for someone who puts that kind of trust in me.
The rest was history. While Simoneaux and the Rebels have yet to claim a state championship, West Monroe has made state tournament berths every other year dating back to 2017. (The 2020 baseball season was canceled due to COVID-19.) West Monroe came one win shy of winning a state championship in 2021, as Barbe defeated the Rebels, 5-0, in the Class 5A State Championship Game. West Monroe ace Lane Little earned All-State honors after posting a 10-4 record as a senior.
The Rebels are still making that hike up the mountain, so to speak, but the respect has been earned across the state.
“Ask (Barbe head coach Glenn) Checcini. He will tell you straight up that they see West Monroe as a rival even though we haven’t scaled that mountain,” Achord said. “There’s pride in this program.”
The Rebels have 24 pitchers within the program, and Achord wanted it made known that Hayden Frost’s assistance with the staff has been a tremendous help.
And of course, Achord wanted to highlight all of the players that he’s gotten to coach through the years.
“We’re blessed with good kids, man,” Achord said. “A coach told me a long time ago, ‘You want a good team? Fill the bus with good players.’”