Earl Miller’s baseball program at G.W. Long High School produced 10 state championships in 16 seasons from 1991-2005, including six in a row.
Yet, those who know him best remember something more.
“He was always a teacher first,” said Lamar Brooks, Associate Superintendent of Dale County Schools. “Anytime you walked into his classroom, he was engaged with his students. He took his position as a teacher very seriously.”
Miller will be inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2016 Monday night, March 21. The induction banquet, hosted by the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) and Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA), will be at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center at 6:30 p.m. A press conference introducing the 26th Class will be held at 5:30 at the Renaissance.
Other members of the Class of 2016 include football coaches Richard Beverly, Tandy Gerelds and Ike Grant; basketball coaches Mike Cochran and Jerome Sanders; volleyball coaches Frances Crapet and Brenda Mayes; wrestling coach and official Dwight Buzbee; volleyball official Apple Kridakorn and coach/administrator Alfred Peavy, who was selected in the “old-timer” division. Peavy and Gerelds are deceased.
Present G.W. Long head baseball coach Drew Miller, son of the legendary coach, said his dad taught him the game of baseball. But what he calls his dad’s “biggest triumph” taught Drew much, much more.
“His hard work, dedication and leadership were never more evident than during the summer of 2000,” Drew Miller said. “My brother Wade had just broken the National High School record for home runs in a season. G.W. Long had just won the Class 1A state championship. Wade and I were headed to Troy University to play baseball. Things were never better for the Millers.”
Things changed quickly for his family, however.
“On June 18, my youngest brother Clay was involved in a four-wheeler accident that almost took his life. I watched as my parents spent day after day next to my brother as he recovered from his brain injury. After 31 days in a coma and weeks of rehab in Birmingham, it was time for Clay to come home
“Clay started rehab in Dothan, but that was just not cutting it for Dad. He knew Clay had more in him than what the physical therapist was getting from him. So Dad decided to take a leave of absence from his job to become Clay’s therapist. He took him to the track at the football field, and they started a journey for Clay, not only to have full function of his body, but also for him to return to the baseball field.”
The journey took two years, but the Millers reached their destination. Not only did Clay return to school and the baseball field, He also returned as a member of the 2002 1A state champions and starting left fielder in what turned out to be one of the single most inspirational moments in AHSAA sports history.
A native of Atmore, Earl Miller graduated from Escambia County High School in 1971. He signed with the Cincinnati Reds out of high school and played a year in the rookie Gulf Coast League. He then attended Troy University, graduating in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and biology.
He was hired as head baseball coach at Ashford Academy, a position he held for two years. In 1978 he moved to Houston County High School as assistant baseball coach, then to Pensacola High School in the same position.
In 1982 he left education to become district manager for the Pensacola News Journal. In 1984 he became field manager for QSP, Inc., in Pensacola. But the tug to teach and coach was still there.
He returned to coaching in 1991, accepting a position at G.W. Long High School teaching physical education and science. He was also named head baseball coach, a job he held through 2005.
His baseball program was unparalleled in South Alabama with 10 state championships, including six in a row, and reached the state playoffs in 14 of his 16 years at G.W. Long. When he retired from coaching, he had an overall record of 407-133.
Among the honors his players earned were:
-- Two Alabama Mr. Baseball selections.
-- Six Super All-State Team selections and 23 Class 1A/2A All-State selections.
-- One national home run champion.
-- Seven Dothan Eagle Players of the Year and 22 players on the Eagle’s Super 12
During those 16 years, Miller earned many individual coaching honors, including being named 2000 Section 3 Coach of the Year by the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS). He was selected Alabama Sports Writers Association Coach of the Year three times, the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association and South Central Alabama Conference Coach of the Year six times, and the AHSADCA Coach of the Year 10 times.
Over the years, his other coaching duties have included varsity football assistant, 17 years; junior high football coach, 10 years; head varsity basketball coach, five years; and junior high basketball coach, three years.
Brooks summed up his observation of Earl Miller’s impact.
“I will not spend much time on Earl’s abilities or his record as a baseball coach,” said Brooks. “I feel winning 10 state baseball championships in approximately 15 years speaks volumes about his ability to coach the game. I would, however, like to speak regarding his abilities to convey his knowledge as a coach to his athletes.
“He always seemed to get more out of his student-athletes than most coaches. This, I feel, can be attributed to his attitude. One could never look at Coach Miller and know the score of the game or how his team was playing. His demeanor and behavior was always the same. He always kept his emotions in check and his mind on the game. Most of the time, his players took on this same behavior, which allowed them to always play at their best.
“His practices were organized and well executed. He took that time to find the athletes’ best assets and to enrich their skills while also teaching them to love the game of baseball.”
Miller was elected to the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2003.
SATURDAY: The AHSHOF Class of 2016 series’ final installment (long-time coach and administrator Alfred Peavy, elected from the “Old-Timer” category).
Brenda Mayes’ road to Muscle Shoals High School was quite a winding turn from Florida and through Mississippi, but when she retired from coaching and teaching at the end of the 2014-15 school year, girls’ sports at the school was clearly on the map.
Mayes will be inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2016 Monday night, March 21. The induction banquet, hosted by the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) and Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA), will be at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center at 6:30 p.m. A press conference introducing the 26th Class will be held at 5:30 at the Renaissance.
Other members of the Class of 2016 include football coaches Richard Beverly, Tandy Gerelds and Ike Grant; basketball coaches Mike Cochran and Jerome Sanders; volleyball coach Frances Crapet; baseball coach Earl Miller; wrestling coach and official Dwight Buzbee; volleyball official Apple Kridakorn and coach/administrator Alfred Peavy, who was selected in the “old-timer” division. Peavy and Gerelds are deceased.
Muscle Shoals City Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Lindsey, who has worked with Mayes for more than 25 years, had this to say about her impact in the community.
“Coach Mayes retired from our school system last year, but she left a legacy,” said Lindsey. “Fortunately, I was blessed to learn from her. Watching Coach Mayes interact with students was inspiring. She not only taught them how to be successful in athletics, but she also taught them how to be successful in life.”
A native of Orlando, Florida, Mayes grew up in Corinth, Mississippi. She graduated from Biggersville High School in 1980, then attended Northeast Mississippi Community College on a basketball scholarship. She was named to the All-Conference team and the Junior College All-Star Team as well as the Dean’s List while at Northeast.
After receiving her associate’s degree, she moved on to the University of North Alabama, also on a basketball scholarship, where she was a Kodak Honorable Mention All-American. She was also named to the Gulf South All-Conference Team and the NCAA Division II South Conference All-Tournament Team.
Following graduation in 1986, she remained at North Alabama as a graduate student assistant while completing her master’s degree. She was then hired at Muscle Shoals High School where she spent her entire teaching and coaching career in Alabama. She taught at all grade levels and coached volleyball, basketball, track and softball. She also served as associate athletic director.
Mayes’ volleyball teams won four consecutive AHSAA state championships from 1998 through 2001 and the 1993 team was runner-up.
--11 Elite 8 state qualifiers, including seven in a row, 1997-2003.
--14 area championships, including seven in a row, 1997-2004. 10 area
--13 Colbert County championships, including a nine-year streak, 1997-
2005. Four county runners-up.
--National Federation Coach of the Year, 2001; The Birmingham News
Coach of the Year, 1998; TimesDaily Coach of the Year, 2013 and
AHSADCA Coach of the Year.
Mayes’ basketball teams have been an Elite 8 regional qualifier once and a Sweet 16 qualifier three times.
Other superlatives include five area championships and five runners-up; seven Colbert County championships, including five in a row, 1990-91 through 1994-95, and seven Colbert County runners-up. She received the TimesDaily Coach of the Year in 1992, 1993 and 1995.
Mayes has served as a basketball camp instructor/counselor at the University of Alabama, University of North Alabama, University of Memphis, University of Tennessee-Martin and Northeast Mississippi Community College. She was selected an AHSADCA All-Sports Week coach for volleyball in 1999 and basketball in 2014. She also has been a presenter for both sports, and served as Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game administrative coach since 1997-2015.
“Coach Mayes and I worked together in several capacities for over 25 years,” Lindsey said. “During that time, I watched her become one of the most respected people in our community. Her willingness to serve where she was needed made her an exemplary employee. She was chairman of the graduation committee, chaperoned proms and dances and proctored assessments. Coach Mayes was a physical education teacher, coach, and ambassador for Muscle Shoals City Schools. Her leadership in the PE department and in our athletic program earned her the respect of students, coaches, teachers, administrators and parents.”
Lindsey said she had many gifts including working with special needs students and Special Olympics.
“Her genuine concern for their success and happiness was obvious to anyone who watched her communicate with special needs students,” he said. “They performed for her because they knew she cared. Coach Mayes was a magnet for all students, and she never took the magnitude of her role for granted. She led by example and always made time for students. Although she was an athletic director, she attended beauty pageants, band concerts, college graduations, weddings, showers and funerals for many students who weren’t athletes. Her office was full of pictures and letters sent to her by grateful students. She did what most people dream of doing. She made a difference.”
Mayes’ influence was also felt statewide. She, along with Patty Etheridge of Fairhope, were the first female representatives on the Central Board of Control. She was the first to serve on the District 7 Board of Directors.
She also served on the Principals’ and Athletic Directors’ Conference Round Table Panel, was a longtime member of the AHSAA State Basketball Finals All-Tournament Committee, the Volleyball Committee and AHSADCA Advisory Committee.
In 2013 she received the Pathfinders Award from the Alabama State Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
Her induction to the AHSAA Hall of Fame will be her fifth such honor. She was previously inducted into to the University of North Alabama Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001, the Colbert County Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, the Northeast Mississippi Community College Sports Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Mississippi Community College-Junior College Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
FRIDAY: The AHSHOF Class of 2016 series continues with installments 9 and 10 (baseball coach Earl Miller and basketball coach Jerome Sanders).