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May 21—Cullman pitching coach Shannon Fondren is retiring after 13 seasons with the baseball program.
Fondren played a key role in two state championships (2015, 2019) and a quartet of runner-up finishes (2011, 2014, 2016, 2017) during his successful tenure with the Bearcats, which also includes 11 area championships.
He began his post in Brent Patterson's first season as head coach (2009) and has been instrumental in the development of numerous hurlers, many of whom — Keegan Thompson, Levi Thomas, Jacob Heatherly, Jordan Guthrie, Jesse Scott, Will Morrison, Daniel Moore and Drew Bryson just to name a few — have gone on to pitch at the next level.
"I'm excited to start another chapter," said Fondren, who's also retiring from teaching. "I've played and coached baseball my whole life and have no regrets about stepping down. I've worked for the best school system and under the best head coach in the state for the last 13 years. Our coaching staff worked so well together and had so much fun. I love those guys and will miss those talks and laughs in the coaches' office for sure. We have great kids that come from great families, and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to be a small part of their lives.
"Winning (state) championships with both of my boys — Noah in 2015 and Niklas in 2019 — were highlights for sure, but I'll miss the competition and relationships the most. The Cullman family is something special, and it's hard to describe to people. But the support we have from the administration, the booster club, and the community is like no other. I have been blessed and am thankful for the last 13 years."
Patterson, meanwhile, said he "couldn't put into words" what Fondren has meant to him.
"There's not a single aspect of this program he hasn't touched," Patterson said. "From what we put on the field to organization to fundraising to hitters to pitchers — literally every part of the program. I don't know how to say how valuable he was. I'm thankful for all he did and feel like God put him at Cullman for a reason. I'm really proud of his work."
Moore — Cullman's junior varsity coach — will take over Fondren's duties next season.
"We'll pick up right where Shannon left off," Patterson said. "We feel good about Daniel."