The annoying sound of the digital alarm clock from across the room blared. With blurred vision, I could barely make out the bright red glow. 3:40am. For me, this ungodly Friday morning hour wasn’t an untypical time to see on the clock, however, it was usually on the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of waking up at 3:40am, more times than not, I was just closing my eyes. Between the demons I faced in my constant Tyler Durden type state of insomnia and the allure of dancing/partying the night away at the local bar, I hardly ever found sleep in Fuller dormitory.
I crawled out of bed, slipped on my Montevallo Baseball shorts and fumbled down the cold concrete hallway.
I forced open the front door of the dorm and started down the stairs towards an old green Jeep Cherokee. The passenger door creaked as I pulled it closed and nestled into the front seat. No words were exchanged, but his blood shot eyes communicated enough. With the exception of the radio softly murmuring in the background, we rode in complete silence as we headed off campus and onto long, hilly county roads. Sleepily, I gazed out the window admiring how the full moon illuminated the countryside.
We pulled over onto a familiar gravel pullout along Hwy 17. I stepped out of the jeep and closed the door. Coach Goff rolled down the window, “See you back on campus Andrews.”
I watched his taillights disappear into the distance before I took the first steps back to campus. This was my “punishment.” I somehow always managed to find a way to get into some sort of “trouble” throughout the week. We’re not talking “real” trouble… we’re talking your typically baseball shenanigans that gets taken a little too far and disrupts practice kinda “trouble.”
For the past 5 weeks, I had found myself in the early bird rotation. I would wake up at 3:40am, stumble into a semi-warm Jeep Cherokee, ride in silence to a gravel pullout, step out into a dark, cold morning and run the 6 miles back to campus. Sometimes a fellow teammate would do something stupid enough to join me, but mostly I ran alone.
At first, I hated everything about this predawn ritual. I wasn’t worried about anyone driving these desolate roads and swiping me into a ditch… I was more worried about the unleashed dogs that plague rural Alabama. Nevertheless, after a few drop offs, I became comfortable with the route and actually started to enjoy the solitude. I found it invigorating to be out roaming the world at a time when most souls were still fast asleep. Maybe because it was always viewed as a form of punishment, but I hated running. Despite my distaste in running, somewhere along the dark Salem Road, I began to let go of the ”punishment” and shifted my focus on the movement itself. Over time, my breathing became less labored and I became captivated by the sound of my foot steps on the worn asphalt. I found that by the time I would top the hill on King Street, I’d be smiling and happily anticipating the downhill cruise to the finish.
At every finish, Coach Goff and his piercing eyes would roll down his window and say, “Alright Andrews. See you in the gym at 6am.”
I’d just smile and nod before walking back to my dorm to eat a quick snack before our team morning workout.
I owe more to Coach Goff than I could ever formulate into words. When multiple programs told me I was “too small to play college baseball,” Goff took a chance on me and signed me to the University of Montevallo baseball program. He consistently threw me into positions that not only tested my abilities, but helped me learn to become completely comfortable in uncomfortable situations. He also taught me how to win and succeed the right way… humbly with poise.
All former players joke about his jelly bean analogy… “Don’t be like a jelly bean! You can’t just be hard on the outside and soft on the inside! You’ve gotta be hard all the way through!” We laugh, but in all seriousness, he really did help us (or at least me) harden up and learn to push through adversity. From an athletic standpoint, because of Goff, I feel like I can still dig into a deeper level and give a little bit more of myself when I think my tank is empty.
I never thought that 15 years later I’d still be running the same beautiful college town.
The lessons and work ethic I received from my time playing baseball at Montevallo has stuck with me over the years and has helped mold me into the human I am today. Though I don’t necessarily miss the game, I do miss the moments and the camaraderie.
I’d like to think I would’ve still gotten into endurance running (or at least running) at some point in my life but there’s no way to know for sure. Maybe Montevallo is actually where my passion for running truly started. Regardless, each time I run through Montevallo, I can’t help but think back on the wonderful memories. Montevallo is where I met my wife…
Montevallo is where I learned to play the guitar and write music…
Montevallo has helped shape my world view and has given me the ability to meet and love people from all walks of life. Though we still have ambitions of moving to the mountains someday, Montevallo feels like home. And for the time being… I’m happy to be home.