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COLUMN: A rare combination makes Coach A special

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By Sam Hickman

 A lot of coaches win hundreds of ballgames.

A lot of coaches who don’t win so much treat their players with dignity and respect, leaving a lasting impact on the kids who learned under their tutelage.

It’s rare when you find a coach who has done both.

That’s why the Brunswick County community should cherish West Brunswick High School varsity baseball coach Mike Alderson.

You probably know him as “Coach A.”

Where to even begin with the accolades?

300 wins? Check.

Conference championships? Check.

West players competing at the collegiate level and a handful making it to the minors? Check.

County titles? Check.

Touchstone Energy Beach Diamond Invitational trophies? Check and check.

It feels like there’s something missing.

Oh, that’s right. Alderson guided his 2004 Trojan squad to the class 3A state championship crown.

From a winning perspective, it’s tough to top what Alderson has accomplished during his time at West Brunswick.

You can spend some time in Shallotte today (like, now, as in while you’re reading this) and snoop around some local businesses and find someone who either played for Coach A or knows someone who played for the man.

My middle brother, Brett Hickman (current head football coach at West) was the starting shortstop on the ’04 state championship team.

Many of my almost-lifelong best friends (Chris “Peanut” Bland, Drew Sellers, Stuart Champion, Matt Cox, Austin Cox, etc.) played for Coach A.

Those guys don’t have a negative thing to say about the stoic leader, who after a brief hiatus returned to the first-base dugout at West to work as the team’s head coach.

Sure, all of those guys I mentioned a couple of sentences ago probably have a great Coach A story that might not be suitable for a community newspaper. I’ve heard most of those aforementioned guys do incredible impersonations of the West Brunswick legend, but it’s all in good fun.

He left an indelible mark on their lives. That’s what matters.

Of course it’s important that West Brunswick knocked off West Rowan two games to one in a best-of-3 state championship series at Doak Field on the campus of N.C. State University. It’s important that after suffering a heartbreaking defeat in Game 2 of the series, the Trojans responded with arguably their best game of the 2004 season – a thrashing of West Rowan that let all of our hearts recover from the devastating Game 2 defeat.

A photo of the team with each player holding up the “No. 1” sign hangs in the lobby near the weightroom inside West Brunswick High School. Those players and those coaches are Trojan legends.

Now let me tell you what matters more than all of the things I’ve mentioned.

Before his former players got engaged or married, they called Coach A. When they decided it was time to hang up the cleats after bouncing around the lower levels of the minors for a few years, they called Coach A.

Before they accepted a new job and moved their families hundreds of miles away, they called Coach A.

More times than not, his former players have called or contacted Coach A in some form or fashion before making life-altering decisions.

That’s the kind of impact he’s made on his former players.

It’s why I enjoyed a great deal watching him coach against his son, Brian, when North Myrtle Beach (S.C.) visited West Brunswick on Saturday, March 16, at – where else? – Mike Alderson Field.

Brian Alderson, who played for his father at West Brunswick in the early 1990s, is the head coach at North Myrtle Beach and quite frankly he’s had his Pop’s number in the last couple of seasons.

But last Saturday belonged to Coach A. The Trojans squandered a big early lead and had to claw their way back in the bottom of the sixth inning to steal a 10-8 win against the Chiefs.

As I watched from down the right-field line in the early innings, I couldn’t help but think about how special this afternoon must’ve been for Coach A.

Think of the big wins, the state championship, the conference titles, the field being named after him and everything in between, but coaching against your son in a non-conference battle probably tops all of those other feats.

While West Brunswick currently sits at 3-3 and 0-2 in league play, I desperately hope there’s something special brewing with this 2019 team.

After all, it’s the 15-year anniversary of the ’04 state championship-winning team.

The 2004 team was hovering around the .500 mark more than 15 games into the season before riding a heater all the way to the state title series.

Perhaps the 2019 Trojans could do the same.

If this year’s team wins 10 games or 20 games, loses in the first round or advances to the eastern finals, we’ll know these players had a head coach who cared deeply about them.

Coach A has made a positive impact on thousands of West Brunswick Trojans for more than 25 years.

That’s more important than any baseball accomplishment – even that remarkable state title run 15 years ago.

 

Sam Hickman is sports editor of the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or shickman@brunswickbeacon.com