While the job brings him closer to what he considers "home," new Central Baptist College baseball coach Dr. Aaron Brister said another aspect of Arkansas has always appealed to him.
"I like barbecue and have already had a chance to partake of it," said Brister, who was introduced as CBC baseball coach Monday after eight seasons at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Ga., a town of about 700 about 25 mile east of Athens.
He succeeds Trevor Durham, who led the Mustangs to a 24-24 record last season, qualifying them for the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament. They upset 10th-ranked Bellevue of Nebraska in the first round before losing in the conference title game to York College.
Brister, who played baseball and basketball for Harding Universtiy, has a doctorate in kinesiology and will head the college’s physical education department, teaching 19 hours.
"Teaching is coaching and coaching is teaching," he said Monday at an introductory news conference. "Student comes first in student-athlete. Academics is a big part of what we are doing. I want our players to be a beacon on campus for combining successful academics and athletics, and that’s tough when you are playing a 55-game schedule. But that’s what leadership in all about."
At Emmanuel College (a National Christian College Athletic Association school of about 800), he led the Lions to three straight 20-win seasons that included the NCCAA regionals and the World Series. His last team finished ranked third in the NCCAA.
CBC has dual membership in the NCCAA and the NAIA.
"I built the program there like I wanted to do it here — recruiting mission-fit athletes," he said "I think it’s important that if you call yourself a Christian College you need to be a Christian College. I’m not coming in to be Deputy Dog or anything. But I want to give your players a close-up view of Christianity and make grace a part of who they are and who we are.
"We want to win games and give the glory to God."
Brister, who has a doctorate in kinesiology from the University of Arkansas-Fayettevlle, is also a licensed minister.
Born in Texas, he lived most of his young life in Searcy. He was an honor student at Crowley’s Ridge College in Paragould, where he played baseball and basketball. He graduated magna cum laude from Harding in 1996 with a major in kinesiology and a minor in psychology.
He is married to Billie Jean Brister of Paragould, and the couple has three children, Eden Jewell (10), Lily Grace (8) and Isaiah Scott (4).