After 35 years, Steve McGuffey is stepping down as Randolph's head varsity baseball coach. One of the team's last games of the season, a double-header against Johnson High School, was designated as Coach McGuffey Night, and the School also honored his service the previous evening with a party for current and former players, four of whom spoke about the impact McGuffey has had on their lives. Giving remarks were Stuart Sharpe '05, a bat boy on his older brother's team before he was old enough to play; John Farris '82, Greg Shockley ’84 and Marcus Helstowski '95. McGuffey, who also coached Randolph basketball for 25 years, until 2004, will continue to teach physical education and serve as an assistant coach at Randolph.
One of the highlights of the evening was when Greg, now himself a Randolph parent, read a letter of thanks his father had written to Coach McGuffey.
Greg Shockley ’84 writes:
First, let me tell you about the letter. My father passed in 2007 and my mother passed in 2011. About a month ago, I came across a drawer that contained many of my father's awards and achievements while he was employed with NASA for over 30 years. I also found a folder that contained a copy of the original letter sent/given to Coach. I was unaware that the letter was ever written. I cannot tell if my father or mother or both decided to keep a copy. I can tell you that it must have meant a great deal to them to keep a copy. The letter is not dated but it was likely written in January or February of 1982.
My father always said that Coach "could do more with less better than any coach he had ever seen." When I was younger, I was a bit offended by that statement, but as my hair has grayed a bit and I am a bit more wise, I have come to understand that Coach has rarely had outstanding athletic talent to work with. However, he has taken the talent he was given and elevated it to level that far exceeds what could and should be expected.
For myself and a generation-and-a-half of young men who have passed through Randolph, Coach is one of those rare, seminal figures who intersects your path during the impressionable teen years. He leaves an indelible mark on your life. Not because he coaches you in athletics, but because he coaches you about life through athletics. It took me a number of years after high school to realize that Coach was always more concerned about what kind of man I became than what kind of athlete I could become.
Many of us owe a great debt of gratitude to Coach for helping shape our characters through the crucible of competition. Often the competition was not against an opposing team but the competition within oneself to push one's limits and find a way to persevere through the adversity of burning lungs and tired, aching legs. He has shown so many boys and now men that the only limits are those that you choose to believe in.
For me, and for the gentlemen athletes who passed through Randolph in the early and mid-1980s, Coach was the embodiment of Randolph because he believed in us more than we ever believed in ourselves. He stretched us to our limits and watched us thrive and never for a second asked that the credit be given to him when the vast majority of our achievements belonged to his wholehearted investment in our success.
Although today Coach and I are fairly close contemporaries, roughly 10 years apart in age, he will never be Steve or Mr. McGuffey. He will always simply be Coach.
Mr. McGuffey had a profound impact in my life. I moved to Huntsville when I was halfway through my freshman year in high school. I was nervous and scared about moving into a new school in a new state. Mr. McGuffey, along with several upper classmen —Blaine O'Reilly '92, Brian Chapuran '93, James Wessel '93 and Jonathan Landman '92—got me onto the baseball field and treated me like they had known me for years.
I was blessed to play baseball from the time I was 5-years-old until I was 25. I was blessed to have my college paid for by earning a scholarship to play baseball. In all of the years that I played baseball, and of all of the coaches who ever coached me in any sport, Mr. McGuffey was the coach who most truly cared about his players, their lives and their families. I truly believe that Mr. McGuffey is the greatest coach to ever coach the game and I was honored to have played for him and to have had him be a part of my life.
During 1993, our team played for the state championship in baseball. It was the first and last Randolph baseball team to make it to the state finals. I will always remember that year. Our practices mainly took place in the gym on the Drake Campus. Our games were mainly played at Brahan Spring Park, Huntsville High and Madison Academy. My fondest memory of that year was that Mr. McGuffey invited my father, Ted Helstowski, to help coach the team and to work with the players. I was fortunate, along with my teammates, to spend a large amount of time listening and learning from two men who absolutely loved the game of baseball. My father loved the school, the team and Mr. McGuffey, and I know that 1993 was as memorable to him as it was to me, my teammates and my coach.
Photos by Debbie Tomlinson and Sue Marshall.