Home Sports Local Sports Where are they now? The 1969 Goddard Rocket Baseball team

Where are they now? The 1969 Goddard Rocket Baseball team

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1969 Goddard Rockets baseball team. (Submitted Photo)

There is no secret that Goddard High School baseball is one of the most dominating forces today in 5A baseball. Goddard is off to one of its best starts in years at 9-1. Goddard is ranked No.1 in District 4-5A, as of this article.

The current athletes see how good things are now, but there was a beginning, a humbling beginning. There was a first team to break through and win state after three consecutive attempts, much like the last season’s team. And there was another team to win a state title, in ‘86. While reading this story, you will see in both cases it took perseverance, and the ‘86 team was not a team of frontrunners, they had to come from behind and not give up winning to their titles, which to Goddard historians, rank as the benchmarks to Goddard baseball.

Today, many people forget the men that came before this team to help establish the tradition of Goddard baseball. It was nice to have Goddard establish a Hall of Fame and Meet the Team, so that young and old, past and present can come together and pay it forward together.

On March 2, 2017, in the Goddard High School Cafeteria, for the third year in a row, Goddard held a meet with the current Goddard Rockets before the season started and the Goddard baseball Hall of Fame inducting five new members. Class of 2018: Kyle Alsup, Lynn Turner, Coach Mike Ridings, Andy Gray and the 1969 State Baseball Championship Team.

As Steve Shanor, co-emcee of the evening, read these words, little did he know he was setting the stage for the evening of the past and inductees, but for this season’s Rocket team.

In the 1965-66 academic year, Goddard High School opened its doors. Goddard had to hire a new principal, had to hire teachers, counselors and coaches for every sport that was going to be offered. Kids found themselves walking into a high school if they lived north of Second Street, they came to Goddard High School.

They came to a high school that had no history or tradition. Goddard had nothing other than a Rocket mascot. The 1966 season was the first season baseball fielded a team. In ‘67, they played in a state championship game and lost by two runs. In ‘68, they made it to the tournament again and came up short. In ‘69, they went back to the state where they won Goddard’s first Blue Trophy.

Former Goddard player Brad Hall felt like everyone on the ‘69 state championship team owed a debt of gratitude not only to our coaches but to all our coaches and parents who took us to practice for the prior 10 years of Little League, Connie Mack, Babe Ruth and American Legion.

Hall said coaches at every level were great guys who taught us the game long after their skills had diminished. There is no substitute for hard work, they instilled that in all of us. The success of any individual on the team was the success of the entire team. Losses suffered were shared by the team. No one on the GHS teams he played with was peacocks. They were grinders and always played to win. Hall said he was fortunate enough to play with some great guys.

“When you hear Brad (Hall) say those words, it tells you everything you need to know about the ‘69 team,” Shanor said. “They faced adversity like everybody else, and they overcame adversity. When you guys were playing baseball, you thought you were playing a game that you loved, but you were doing more. You were creating an identity and establishing a tradition.”

The Hall of Fame was started by former coach Alan Edmonson two years ago. At the time, Edmonson came up with the idea of a Hall of Fame, and a meet-the-team night at the same time. No other teams in New Mexico were doing it. At the first event, they had former major leaguer and Goddard grad Brandon Claussen speaks at the event. Claussen was inducted into the Goddard’s first-class Hall of Fame. In the 2016 class were: Chris Price, Claussen, Robert Gonzales, Greg Thompson and former coach Don Alsup.

For two years, entry was done on Facebook because they didn’t have anyone in the HOF to use as a selection committee. People would nominate former players and vote. After two classes, Goddard had 10 guys in and figured they could decide who was a Hall of Famer and who wasn’t. Doing it that way insured that people didn’t get in because of popularity, but on merit and what they did on the field.

Today, anybody can nominate a former player. Once nominations are closed, the Hall of Famers get together and talk about the athletes nominated. They talk about who the athletes were, what they did, where they went on to play and what their contributions were. Jeff Weathers oversees that. Weathers played, coached and has been a parent to a baseball player. Weathers was elected into the Hall of Fame last year with Kerry Richardson, Steve Nunez, Danny Vigil and Ryan Price.

Steve Shanor organizes that banquet, and Weathers does the Hall of Fame part of the banquet.

Look for the banquet to move from Friday to Saturday night, because the last two years the girls’ basketball team has played in the district tournament games. The banquet featured a meal, silent auction and the next day, a baseball game, the alumni vs. the current team. For the first time in the three-year history, all five inductees were present.

The highlight of the evening was when Weathers announced their first-ever state championship team in 1969.

“Anybody that’s been around this program,” Weathers said, “at any point in their lives knows there is a long tradition, long history of very successful baseball. I thought it was kind of cool this year to have the first-ever state championship team (1969), with the most-recent state championship (2017). I think it’s cool.”

Inductee-Goddard coach Mike Ridings; Ridings coached from 1984-91. Ridings talked about the ‘86 team. He mentioned how bleak the team looked. In fact, they had to win the state title just to have a winning season. At one point, they were 1-9 during the season. Ridings stressed how the kids he had worked hard and didn’t give up.

The team never gave up, and they knew what team meant. With this attitude, Ridings could see his team getting better. The team rallied and won eight of their last nine games to make it into the state finals. That year, they finished second in the district that season.

Ridings remembers Weathers hitting a two-run homer in the first game of the state and in the fourth inning, he hit a two-run triple, and they got another run to win 5-4. Coach Ridings was so grateful to win his first state title as a coach, he names his son Jeff. Weathers was the Most Valuable Player of the state tournament in ‘86.

“You never quit practicing and playing hard,” Ridings said. “We had a player, Darrell Stacy that never played, but he had a great attitude. Our starting centerfield ran into the wall and got hurt in the semifinal game. He went 3-4, had a double and was named along with two other players, and was named to the All-State team. This kid sat the entire year. I tell all of my teams this story every year. That’s what this ‘86 team did, look out for each other whether they started or not.”

Ridings won a state title at Goddard in ‘86 and ‘91. Ridings still coaches baseball in Texas.

Inductee-Lynn Turner (’79-83) was very humble in his acceptance speech to the HOF. He was the only one that didn’t prepare a speech. He is currently the head baseball coach at Tulia, in Tulia Texas. On the night of his induction, his team played a doubleheader and after the game, he drove three hours without taking a shower because Goddard meant so much to him and his life.

“I couldn’t ask for a better coach,” Turner said while crying. “He worked us hard; you knew you were in trouble when you got the stare. I had a lot of great teammates here, and I played with some really great players. The best I can give these players (Goddard) is compete every day. Compete with yourself every day. Every day there is a competition. Nobody is bigger than the team, everything we do is for the team.”

Turner noted that kids today don’t watch the game of baseball enough. He stressed he learned how to play baseball by watching the game on TV. Turner felt like the Rockets had a great baseball tradition, and the players today should feel fortunate about the legacy they are inheriting, and they should do everything in their power to keep it going for these players coming up behind them.

Inductee-Kyle Alsup played baseball for Goddard from ‘89-92. Alsup was the son of Hall of Famer Don Alsup. He grew up in the game and loving it. Alsup loved baseball so much, he coached for nine years at Roswell and three at Goddard. As a player, he was on the All-State teams in ‘91-’92 and was the District MVP. He played at Eastern New Mexico University for four years.

Alsup reminisced about how the Launch Pad looked when his dad, Don, was coaching. He talked about the year he got to be the bat boy in an All-Star game at 6 years old. He talked about his disappointment in not getting to go to the 1982 state playoff game.

He mentioned several men that made an impact on his life. He watched Weathers in ‘86 win a state championship. Not only did he want to be Weathers, but he wanted to play like him as well.

Alsup felt like Ridings was the best coach he ever played for. He felt that what made Ridings so effective was that he had the ability to make his athletes fear him and love him at the same time. Alsup has played with four HOF inductees. Alsup talked about playing for 20 years with Ryan Price and seeing his name on TV. Alsup talked about being on the field with Price in Cincinnati. He stood there in amazement that he was a guy from Goddard, High School.

“Robert Gonzales who was hands down the best hitter I ever played with or against at all levels,” Alsup said. “If Gonzales hadn’t had knee problems, he’d be playing in the big leagues. He led the nation in doubles for two years at UNM.”

While speaking, Alsup gave the advice for the current Rocket baseball team not to look at it like they are the defending champions, but to enjoy what they accomplished and know that this is a different year and team. Whether they win the title or not this year, this season is not title or bust. Not to let what they did last season be a burden to them this year.

“What I’m trying to explain to these players,” Alsup said, “is that Goddard has a history and long run, a long run of great players who have come through here. Some of them you don’t even know about. It is something that is very special to me, and I know it is special to a lot of people.”

Inductee-Andy Gray. Gray gave the shortest speech of the night. Gray was Goddard Rocket Male Athlete of the Year in 1991. He was All-District as a third-baseman in ‘90-’91 and was All-State in ‘91.

“Basically, I want to say tonight I want to thank my mom and dad,” a tearful Gray said. “I want to thank them and my wife for following me around for 27 years.”

The night ended with hugs and players talking about old times with their families. When Goddard has events like this, it is family reintroducing themselves to one another.