Simmons Says - Martin's 100-win milestone is meaningful
With no fanfare, zero social media posts and his team celebrating on the diamond, Jerry Martin hit a milestone Thursday in Murfreesboro. When his Lady Pioneers took out back-to-back teams in the Southern Warrior Classic, Martin quietly collected his 99th and 100th victories with the WCHS softball program.
Some may have wanted to take pictures, save the game ball, frame the scorecard and soak in the moment, but having it fly under the radar is exactly how coach Martin would want it. He's unrelentingly humble in a time now where everybody in sports seem to rush to celebrate any tiny amount of success.
Through my work in Warren County sports over the last 12 years, I’ve gotten a chance to know the man everybody calls Gooby. And even as we’ve become friends, I find myself in awe of somebody who is a peer, but still feels like a living legend in my mind. Maybe it’s because of the way we met so long ago.
My first experience with Gooby, like so many lucky young ladies who come through the Lady Pioneer program, was as a coach, mentor and instructor. Way back in the 1990s, I fancied myself as the next great Warren County pitcher (and my dad did too), so I went to camps. None were more memorable than a one-day event where I got to learn from Gooby and Jamie “Cat” Walker at West Elementary.
I can’t tell you anything I learned that day – one of the many, many reasons I’m a writer instead of a former big-league pitcher like Gooby and Cat – other than the fact that those guys were invested in helping the community that built them into stars. It would’ve been easy for them to be wrapped up in their own things (after all, both were still in their playing primes and working toward the pros), but they came back to town and humored little kids who were dreaming of being in their shoes one day.
Something tells me, even though I’ve never talked to him about it, that Gooby knew back then he was going to be a coach someday. Moreover, he was going to be a coach IN WARREN COUNTY. Few people have more of a respect for those who paved the way for them, nor are there many people who feel a higher sense of purpose or own the code of honor that comes with being a Pioneer than Gooby.
When Martin was selected to the Warren County Sports Hall of Fame last year (deservedly so, I might add), one of the first things he told me when I asked him about getting the news was “I love Warren County, especially Warren County athletics. It’s a great honor.”
Gooby is one of those guys who would’ve earned those accolades even if he never coached a day in Warren County, much less 22 years. He was that good – and that decorated – as an athlete locally, getting to the very highest level of minor league ball in his playing days.
Still, when he was inducted last fall, I know Gooby walked into that room and accepted that honor as a coach.
“I hope I’m remembered as a coach. I’m a little older now - as a kid, I was just playing. I didn’t have any worries then, I just played. I was blessed to be a decent athlete,” said Martin when I asked him about his legacy. “As a coach, you want to change lives. That’s what my coaches did for me. I hope these young ladies and young men learn something from me.
“I want to give these kids a chance to play at the next level, because it opened up so many doors for me. I hope I touch these kids’ hearts – it’s really what it’s all about.”
I was reminded of Gooby’s character and coaching as I watched the Lady Pioneers win on Facebook Thursday. We had just talked a few nights before about his team, which had gone through one of the worst opening nights you can have. They were dominated at the plate, striking out 19 times and getting no-hit in a rivalry game with White County. I knew, after my conversations with Gooby, that he would have a plan and his Lady Pioneers wouldn’t get fooled again.
Of course they didn’t. With a new-look lineup, they pounded out 23 hits and piled up 16 runs in just 11 innings. Along the way, they got their coach a special victory, one I’m 99.99 percent sure he probably didn’t tell them was No. 100. Honestly, it wouldn’t shock me if he forgot it was No. 100 too.
Martin can seemingly remember every detail of every opponent, recall his players’ pitches or at-bats through the years and map out how games will go usually before they ever happen. His mind is built for the analytics and tiny details of the game – it’s not wired for boasting his exploits. If I could be Gooby for one second and predict what was going to happen (he does it in games, with scary accuracy, every night), then I would say this would be his answer if I asked him about his 100th win:
The kids did this. They’re the ones hitting, fielding and pitching – I’m just happy to be there with them and blessed to be their coach.
While he's not one to boast about wins, coach Gooby Martin flashes a smile and joins the celebration when his Lady Pioneers pick up program-defining victories.
He (hypothetically) wouldn't be wrong about their talents – the Lady Pioneers have been blessed with so many great kids throughout the years, some of which are now stars on the college level. Others, like Lexie Chadwell and Calyn Damon to name a couple, have followed Gooby’s footsteps and started coaching already. However, what he would happily gloss over but they regularly say - I know because I’ve asked them before – is they owe a lot to the man who led them during their brilliant careers.
In one of my last tasks at the paper, I wrote a big feature about Gooby as the Lady Pioneer coach. It was a rare time when I got him to talk about the things he has done in his playing and coaching career, but he didn’t know I had a trick up my sleeve. Because I knew he wouldn’t praise himself for the things going on in the WCHS softball program – like winning a regular season district title in 2017, a district tournament championship in 2018 and the program’s first region championship in 2019 – I asked his former players about the man... the myth... the Lady Pioneer coaching legend.
You can read them all by clicking this link (really should be my archive, but I digress), but I saved all the messages from then and here are snippets of what former players have said about Gooby:
“I feel like I got to experience a lot of Gooby’s firsts as far as coaching softball goes. I was on the team the first year that he began coaching at WCMS. I also got the pleasure of being on his team the first year that he began coaching at WCHS… Gooby is truly one of a kind and anyone who gets the chance to play for him is a lucky person.” – Sarah Knowles, Class of 2015 and one of Gooby’s first seniors.
“He was always the first one out of the dug out to give me a big hug, fist bump, or congratulate me after a home run or a major play. Coach was always so proud of us in every little accomplishment we made. He truly cares about his players and who they are as people.” – Abby Hutchins, Class of 2016
“I may be biased, but my dad was the best coach I have ever had. He always pushed me to be the best player and person I could be on and off the field.” – Bailey Martin, Gooby’s daughter who got him into coaching softball years ago.
“He’s probably one of my favorite coaches I’ve ever had …. He was like our softball dad.” – Madison Mason, Class of 2017
Players have always enjoyed getting a chance to talk to coach Gooby Martin during battles (Painted Barn Media photos)
“He plays many roles in my life whether that’s a coach, role model or a father figure… The dedication he has to the program and the girls that are a part of it is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. He’s the first one there and the last one to leave.” – Lexie Chadwell, Class of 2018
“My favorite thing about Gooby isn’t a specific memory but just the fact that he cared so much for everyone. I always felt like I had someone to confide in if I needed to and also I loved his values.” Hailey Wood, Class of 2019
“Gooby is a great coach and he really does care about all of us and pushes us to do our best at everything we do. … He has taught us a lot about life too. He is one of my favorite people and I will always look up to him.” Calyn Damon, Class of 2020.
A word commonly brought up by many of Gooby’s past and current players is ‘Love’ – how he loves the game, loves his players, loves showing up and putting in the work to play well and keep the place looking nice. Most of all, they talk about how they love him as a coach.
It wouldn’t be hard to find 100 more compliments for Gooby from people who have played for him, coached with him or seen their children shaped by his leadership over the years. Hopefully, our community will be lucky enough to share 100 more wins and even more great memories with Gooby at the helm.
Even when coach Gooby Martin is doing all he can to keep the field at WCHS looking great, he'll take time to be with friends and family before and after games.
A great pitcher during his playing days, Gooby is always close with the girls who go into the circle for the Lady Pioneers.
Gooby Martin has been there to congratulate WCHS players rounding third base since 2016. He has amassed 100 wins (and counting) in the last seven seasons and helped the program win district or region championships in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021.