If you were a paying patron at an Alexandria baseball game this past season, it’s likely one of the first faces you saw after principal Ronald Chambless — helping out at the ticket table at Kevin “Byrd” Welch Field — wass that of Valley Cubs football coach Frank Tucker.
Step foot inside Larry Ginn Gymnasium during basketball season, and no doubt you’ll see Tucker at the scorer’s table keeping the books for the boys squad led by Jason Johnson. Baseball coach Andy Shaw is sure to be in the building lending support as well.
Johnson is an assistant baseball and football coach. They’re all on the football coaching staff.
Their chemistry and commitment to preparing youngsters to compete at the highest level, regardless of the sport, is just one of the traits passed down from Ginn. It’s also one of the reasons the Valley Cubs have hung tough and reached the Class 4A baseball finals this season.
Alexandria (22-17) will take on No. 3 UMS-Wright in a best-of-three series, beginning Thursday at 7 p.m. at Montgomery’s Paterson Field.
Game 2 is set for 10 a.m. Friday at Riverwalk Stadium, followed by Game 3 at 1 p.m. if necessary.
“We’ve all been friends since college,” Johnson said. “We played ball against each other. We all three like each other’s company. It makes coming to work and the long hours pretty fun.”
They also enjoying winning, and as a unit they seem tailor-made to maximize their players’ capabilities on and off the field.
Also on Shaw’s staff is pitching coach Tony Snider — who came on two years ago — and former Alexandria standout Zac Welch — who works primarily with the Valley Cubs hitters. Welch was a member of the previous Valley Cubs squad to make it to the final series in 1999, and is the newest addition to the staff.
“I think it’s just the cumulative effect of all of us. First and foremost, they work hard,” Shaw said of his staff. “Every one of them, they put the time in.
“It’s not about them. It’s about these kids. They set great examples, just like coach Ginn always did.
“And they love these kids. I know it’s a trite saying, but they do. Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Players need only look to the achievements of those who came before them for inspiration. The Valley Cubs won state championships in football in 1985 under Lou Scales and in 1995 and 1997 under Ginn.
Ginn coached the boys basketball team to state titles in 1992, 1993 and 1997. A title in baseball would complete the trifecta for Alexandria among the sports widely considered the big three in boys athletics.
“At other places I’d hear coaches talk about how, ‘You’ve got to have tradition,’ and all this stuff, but I didn’t understand until I went to Heflin,” Snider said. “I saw some great football tradition there. Then I came here and I see it in about every sport.”
Alexandria third baseman Reggie Patterson said the tradition built by Scales and Ginn and carried on by Shaw — in his 20th season at Alexandria — and his staff is sufficient motivation for today’s Valley Cubs.
“It makes us want to win more and keep that tradition up and don’t let anybody in the community down,” Patterson said. “A lot of times, everybody thinks it’s just for us. We like doing things for the community too because they all come out here and support us.”
At 27, Welch — who shined on the gridiron, court and diamond at Alexandria from 1997-2001 — has experienced the tradition from each side more recently than his counterparts.
“It’s been a great experience,” Welch said. “To see how they deal with so many things with being with being a coach and a teacher. But then there’s keeping up with equipment and maintaining the field and keeping it all as nice as possible. And most of these guys are coaching three sports.
“But more importantly, it’s seeing the impact they really have on these kids’ lives, steering them in the right direction and teaching them right from wrong.”