Baker drifts off into sunset as TRM defensive coordinator
By By RANDY WINTON Sports Writer
Perhaps T.R. Miller's 21-14 loss to Oneonta Friday night was not the way Alan Baker envisioned his last game as a football coach would end. After all, those who have worn the red and black over the years have gotten used to Hollywood endings.
After 12 unblemished games in 2004, nobody would begrudge him the dream of hoisting the biggest prize in high school football when he walked off the field for the last time.
Perhaps this was the way the affable Baker, the Tigers defensive coordinator since 1989, expected to put the final touches on a memorable, if not great football coaching career.
Baker may not have envisioned the Tigers losing in the Class 3A semifinals, but he did want the last team he would serve as coach to go down the same way it had risen so high over these last 20 years he was on the staff, as fighters. No Hollywood ending, just heart and soul, blood and guts, which is the trademark of T.R. Miller football.
"This was why I have loved coaching here so much," said Baker, who referred to the Tigers' heart-breaking, yet heroic, comeback effort that fell short. "This year's team defined T.R. Miller football. They loved each other, fought for each other and played their hearts out for each other every day since the season began in August. They did everything the coaches asked them to do this season. Because of them and so many others before them who played that same way, I can walk away proud to have been part of this program."
His players can argue that because of Baker's efforts as a coach, he has helped them become not just successful athletes, but quality young men.
Baker, who will retire from coaching and teaching at the end of the school year, brought pride to the Brewton community even before he began his coaching career in 1978 at Central of Phenix City. As a player for T.R. Miller, he along with head coach Jamie Riggs, anchored the offensive backfield for the Tigers.
Best friends on and off the field, their coaching career together has mirrored a great friendship and a great respect for each other.
"It has been a joy to first play, then coach with Alan for so many years," said Riggs, who has enjoyed 198 wins at T.R. Miller. "He has worked so hard for this program as our defensive coordinator. Even more than that experience as a coach on the field has been his efforts as our strength coach in the weight room. We have won so many games over the years not necessarily because we were the better team, but because we were the stronger one in the fourth quarter. Those games are won because the work was done during summer workouts and it has become a teaching tool for the real world for our players over the years. Success doesn't come without paying the price in the beginning and Alan has played a large role in a lot of success here."
As a football coach, Baker has been part of a staff that built the winningest high school football program in the state of Alabama since 1990. Dating back to his initial season at his T.R. Miller in 1984, the Tigers have won five state championships.
As the head track coach, Baker has built an equally successful program and added five more state titles.
Along the way, Baker has made an impact on so many lives. He has invested 27 years, sinking his heart and soul into coaching and teaching young boys how to become men of character.
"And I've enjoyed every minute of it," Baker said. "So many people have enriched my life over the years. The students, the athletes, the administration, the parents. I will never forget them or my experience here at T.R. Miller, because this is a special place."
For now, Baker's plan is to finish out the school year and try to win one more state title in track. Beyond that, he is looking into several options open to him, including a career in politics.
"And spending more time with my wife," he grinned. "Kaki has been so supportive of my career
and I am lucky to have her by my side. Now, I'd like to devote
my time to her. She deserves it."
As he reflected on his career, he may remember certain players or students that were special to him. He may even take some
pride in knowing that as a coach and as a teacher, he has nurtured students and helped them leave better than they were when they arrived.
He also did what he has done for so many years, which is deflect the credit back to the kids.
"These guys in this locker room and just like hundreds of others before them have taught me so much as well. I am grateful for the championships, certainly. More than that, I am grateful for the opportunity to have been part of this school and this community. It has been a blessing to me," Baker said.
As those Friday night lights were extinguished for the last time in this 2004 season, they will forever burn bright in the lives of so many touched by Coach Alan Baker.
His last moments on the field of Brewton Municipal Stadium summed it all up. With Kaki standing close, they paused together as one of his former players walked up and shook his hand. He then captured what everyone who has ever suited up would want to say to someone who has played such a special role in their lives.
"Coach Baker, you have been a part of us more than we were a part of you."