Traditions have a beginning, there was a genesis for the Alsup family in baseball. For them, it was Don Alsup. Many folks in the “ME” generation only know Don Alsup as the athletic director for Roswell Independent School District, where he served for 18 years, and before that, a football and baseball coach for Goddard for 11 years.
Those that love Roswell High School sports and baseball have a different memory of Don Alsup the athlete. When his family gathers at the park and plays baseball, it is nothing for Don to play third base and show his grandsons, Owen, Ryan, Noah and Luke how to field a hot hit grounder cleanly at third base and throw a dart to first base.
It was 50 years ago when a young Don Alsup played basketball and baseball for Roswell. Don wanted nothing more than to be on the diamond hitting balls off live pitching and when he couldn’t do that, he’d hit off a tee.
He loved fielding ground balls and making the throws that no one else could. Don used to eat, sleep and dream baseball. Baseball taught him how to get knocked down and get back up and win. Baseball took him around the world, Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas and Oklahoma, to name a few spots he traveled in his life as a baseball player.
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In his junior year, Roswell was no-hit and beaten in the championship game, 10-0 by Las Cruces. It would serve as a reminder to him and his teammates of accomplishing their goal of winning it all their senior year. The pitcher that beat them went on to pitch at Arizona State University.
“It was a motivator without a doubt,” Don said. “We figured we were the two best teams in the state and we’d probably meet in the finals my senior year. We knew our district was set to host the tournament. We wanted to win it in front of our hometown.”
In his senior year, the 1964 team was loaded with 18 players on the team, 15 of those players would go on to play college baseball. When they got to the championship game his senior year, Coyotes’ coach Jim Waldrip reminded the team what happened last year and it was their last chance to win it all as seniors. The game versus Las Cruces was a one-game showdown, winner take all, a rematch from the year before.
The game was played at Roswell and the stands were packed. The game was filled with such drama that fans were rocking and swaying on every pitch. Neither team gained an advantage or scored any runs. After regulations and seven complete innings, the score was tied, 0-0.
The game went to extra innings and in the bottom of the eighth inning, Roswell’s Tom Cooper managed to get to second base. Roswell’s Ron Phillips ended up getting a base hit to centerfield with the Las Cruces outfielder charging the ball.
The Bulldawgs’ outfielder came up throwing and the ball was perfect, beating Cooper to the plate. Cooper was out but ran over the catcher, knocking the ball out of his hands to score the winning run, giving Roswell a 1-0 win and the Blue Trophy.
“It was the greatest thing in the world,” Don said. “We’d been thinking about it for a year. I think you spend as much time as you can to get to that point: Little League, Babe Ruth, American Legion, and as a senior, that’s it. It all culminates in the state championship. That victory taught me what I think athletics teaches: To be successful, you have to work.”
Don knew about hard work and witnessed it first hand growing up. His father, Frank, owned Alsup’s Cake Shop. Frank quit school in the eighth grade to help his family on the farm. Don was used to seeing his mother, Deane, and dad, work different hours to be successful. Don also saw his father become a master marketer, he would be on KSWS-TV on the Frank Alsup Show. He would decorate a birthday cake for a kid each week.
Don’s parents were supportive attending every home game and then going back to work after the game was over. From his mother, Don learned to be honest, and his father gave him the best advice he would ever receive and would carry throughout his life.
“If you’re going to be successful in life,” Frank Alsup said, “you always have to work hard. Whatever you do in life, you have to work hard. Somewhere along the line, you are going to impress someone with your work ethic and you will get a break. It does not matter if you go to college or don’t. When the time comes, your hard work will get you where you want to go in life.”
University of Colorado
After winning the championship, Don had scholarship offers from Texas Tech, Rice and Colorado, to name a few. Colorado’s coach Frank Prentup signed Don sight unseen. Don’s barber Hap Keith called Prentup on his behalf and helped him get a scholarship. Keith’s son played for Prentup earlier.
When Don went to the Buffaloes, freshmen were ineligible to play. He ended up starting his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. His best season was his sophomore year when he led the Big Eight in RBIs until the last game of the season, losing to a player from Kansas State.
“What gave me the confidence to play at that level was my sophomore year,” Don said. “That year really gave me the confidence that I could play. I would never give up that experience of playing college baseball up for anything. I was a baseball nut.”
At college, Don faced teams that played and won the national championship. Playing in the Big Eight Conference, he faced teams such as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Iowa State, Nebraska and Kansas State, to name a few.
Playing in the rugged Big Eight Conference, Colorado went 12-13 overall, and 8-8 in the conference in 1967; and 9-13 overall and 6-10 in the conference in 1968, his junior and senior seasons. Colorado dropped baseball in 1980.
Alsup graduated with a business degree from the University of Colorado in 1969. He got a job at the Indian Training Center in the avocational center as an avocational counselor. After some time there, Don had the itch to coach. He went to Eastern New Mexico University and earned his master’s degree in education.
Upon completion of his master’s, Don tried to get a job at Roswell High School but they didn’t have any openings. So, he was hired to teach and coach football at Goddard High School in 1973 and baseball in 1974.
Don coached baseball for 11 years at Goddard in ‘74-’75 seasons as an assistant baseball coach. He was the head baseball coach from ‘75-’82. His best season as a coach was when they were state runner-ups in 1982, losing to Del Norte, 5-3, losing in the last inning.
Don thought all he wanted to do was coach, but once he was inside the classroom, he enjoyed teaching as much as coaching. He left teaching and coaching for a couple of years and went into business for himself opening up Computer Systems Incorporated from ‘82-‘85.
After being out of teaching and coaching for three years, Don missed teaching and coaching. Goddard had an opening to teach computer classes and coaching football in ‘85-’86. He did that for two years before the athletic and activities job opened up in ‘87, staying there until 2005.
One of the biggest things about Don was an innovator. Don was not afraid to talk to people or try new things. One of his ideas was Unity Week.
Don had all four middle schools and both high schools work out together the week before the Goddard-Roswell football game. Roswell and Goddard cheerleaders would go to each other’s schools and attend class together one day and then go to the other school the next day. Both bands and all the cheerleaders from the middle schools would all perform together at halftime of the football game.
Don started middle school soccer as a feeder program for the high schools. In the beginning, the high schools didn’t have enough boys or girls to field a team. Don also started varsity and junior varsity softball at the high school level.
Other things Don did was sending positive handwritten notes to middle-school and high-school coaches for big accomplishments or a disappointing loss.
Don feels winning is important, but it is an educational program the Activities Association always calls the other side of education. Don believes a coach can teach things in sports that cannot be taught in the classroom.
He feels there are valuable things kids can learn in high schools, like how to be successful and work together as a team. Sports teaches kids to have a good work ethic, to have respect for authority and to follow the rules of the game and team.
“As athletic and activities director, I learned to make things as good as I could for the kids,” Don said. “I felt the No. 1 thing I should do is hire people that gave the kids a chance to be successful. My attitude was to get as good of a coach as we can. We need to teach kids a good work ethic, good values, and teach them what it takes to be successful later on in life.”
During Don’s 18 years as athletic director, Don shared his Hall of Fame journey with his devoted wife, Nancy; their two children, son, Kyle, and daughter, Shelbi; and his four grandchildren: Owen, Ryan, Noah and Luke.
During his tenure as activities and athletic director, RISD won 30 state championships, which Don credits the coaches and players. To get RISD to the championship level, he remembers traveling to coaching clinics and giving speeches about Roswell Independent School District.
When it came to hiring a coach, Don believed in doing things with the principals and assistant principals. He didn’t want principals and assistant principals working with someone they couldn’t work with. Don felt like the hiring process was a partnership. He always tried to make suggestions to help coaches before making a change.
“The AD (athletic director) was my ultimate job,” Don said. “I loved that job.”
Don was inducted into the New Mexico Activities Association Hall of Fame in 2007, Goddard Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016 and the New Mexico Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2011.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Don said. “For me, it was all about the kids. I’ve always enjoyed athletics and was fortunate enough to make a living at it. I feel lucky to have been able to do that.”
What others are saying about Don
Former Goddard basketball coach, Hayden Hill: “He always encouraged me. I will never forget the handwritten notes after a big win or devastating loss. Don and Nancy are pillars of our community. I thank him for believing in me.”
Former Roswell coach, Joe Carpenter: “Coach (Don) Alsup was the first AD that believed in me as a coach. I owe a lot to him that words can’t do justice. He’s a great family man and a great mentor. Thanks, Coach.”
RISD athletic director, Britt Cooper: “He was the best athletic director I ever had. Don was always very fair and he would help you in any way he could. He made the job easier for me. He’s still a mentor to me and I still ask advice from him. He was AD for 18 years and was hard to replace.”
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or email@example.com.