Thursday, November 21, 2019

 

            


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G.W. Long Baseball Coaching Legend Earl Miller Was Always a Teacher First



     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
                Baseball Team.
    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).





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