Varsity Letter: Herndon High Names Baseball Field for Coach Alan McCullock

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Despite coaching in different eras, Herndon baseball coach Alan McCullock and his father, Al, have teased each other for years about who has guided the better teams, either in their primary sport or in freshman football, another one they both coached.

Al has always gotten the last word, because in 1984, Falls Church High named its baseball field in his honor. "Hey, I've got a field named after me" can end just about any discussion fraught with one-upmanship.

As of two weeks ago, however, those good-natured tiffs will go at least two words further. Alan can now reply, "Me, too."

Herndon has dubbed its diamond Alan McCullock Field in honor of its coach, who is retiring after this season, his 17th as head baseball coach after stints there as a junior varsity coach and varsity assistant. McCullock also has coached the freshman Hornets football team for 30 years, an all-teaching, no-glory pursuit that underscores his steady presence at the school.

So now there is Al McCullock Field at Falls Church and Alan McCullock Field at Herndon, quite an accomplishment for a "You Can Call Me Al" family, with dad Albert, mother Alice, son Alan, late son Alec and daughter Alison, not to mention Alan's and Alison's families.

Alan and Alec used to serve as batboys when their father coached at Wakefield, before his Falls Church tenure, so McCullocks have been fixtures on Northern Virginia baseball fields for years. But two Fairfax County high school diamonds bearing the family name, dedicated 25 years apart?

"It's just amazing," said Alison Deegan, whose son Patrick, a baseball player at Westfield, can toil on fields named after his Pop Pop and his uncle.

It's an unusual enough feat to spur even Alan, a burly man known in part for his hermetically sealed feelings, trademark bushy mustache and one-sentence sports banquet speeches, to emote a little.

"I would always joke with my dad about it and stuff, but [I thought] they'll never name two fields 'Al McCullock Field,' " Alan, 52, said one day last week before practice, with Albert, 79, at his side. "A double honor," Alan called it, both for Herndon recognizing his efforts and for sharing it with his father.

The field-naming announcement, which came before a game, as Alan's extended family huddled behind the press box out of sight to not spoil the surprise, caught the honoree off guard.

"His face just lit up," said Herndon center fielder Chris Medina, a four-year varsity player who also played quarterback on McCullock's freshman football team. Medina thought he noticed a twitch in his coach's mustache, what appeared to be a smile.

"I think I saw some teeth," Medina said. "I'm not sure yet. We're still trying to figure that out."

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