They Like Mike
After 35 years of interacting with Osceola County student athletes, their parents, fellow coaches and faculty members, Mike Fields has touched thousands of lives in a variety of ways. Here are a few:
Hall of Fame wrestling coach Vic Lorenzano was the wrestling coach and athletic director at Gateway High in the late 1980s when his brother, a firefighter in Indiana, died in the line of duty.
Lorenzano remembers how he received unsolicited help from Fields, then the St. Cloud baseball coach and athletic director:
“We were hosting the district (wrestling tournament). At that time we had a young, inexperienced assistant coach and I was worried about the details (of hosting the tournament while I was gone),” Lorenzano said. “Mike told me not to worry about any of it, that he would handle it, and for me to concentrate on my family. Lee Sill, St. Cloud’s coach, was also very supportive. Remember, this is when St. Cloud was our archrival, before Mike and I became the lifelong friends we are today. Mike went out of his way to get my parents’ phone number where I was staying and called me nearly every day and told me repeatedly not to worry about things back here in Florida.”
Troy Girdner, before he became a high school baseball coach, was a standout pitcher at Osceola High in the early 1980s.
Girdner moved to St. Cloud for his senior season in 1985, a controversial decision that 30 years later many OHS supporters still don’t understand. He, more than most, knows the benefit of playing for Mike Fields.
“I only played for Coach Fields for six months, from January to the end of that school year, but in those six months, he changed my life,” Girdner said. “I thought I was the big deal at Osceola, and I was. But, when I got to St. Cloud, Coach Fields, he put me in my spot. He told me I was nothin’, I was a squirrel trying to find a nut. He was the first person who really put me in my place, who gave me discipline.”
Girdner said that he did not resent Fields’ appraisal.
“He was right. He didn’t need me. They went to the state tournament the year before, and he knew they would get there again, with me or without me,” Girdner said. “From that day on, he had my complete loyalty.”
Girdner, for the first time in his high school career, made the honor roll during his half-year at St. Cloud and he went on to a minor league baseball career and was the coach at Master’s Academy the past two seasons.
Kyle Covell, Harmony High’s No. 1 pitcher in 2014, said the team (which finished 16-10) made a preseason vow for Fields to go out as a champion.
“We knew we had to have a good season for him. Heck, he’s only had two losing seasons in all the years he’s coached, and we weren’t going to let that happen,” he said. “Our goals were, one, to get him (win) No. 600; two, to win OBCs and, three, to win districts. We got two out of three, so that wasn’t bad. He’s meant so much to the program, here and at St. Cloud, that it’s hard to believe that he isn’t going to be back.”
Steve Edwards played on Fields’ state tournament teams at St. Cloud in 1984-85.
“I’ll tell you something about Coach Fields. He probably has been to more weddings than anyone because anytime an ex-player asks him to be at his wedding, he’s there, whether it is in Tampa or across the country in Seattle. He can never say no to one of his former players, and you know how many of them there are,” Edwards said. “I can call or text him for a favor, and not only does he do it, but while he does it he makes you feel like you are his all-time favorite ex-player.”
Mike Clark, who took St. Cloud’s softball team to the state tournament in 1998, was Fields’ assistant coach the past two seasons.
“I adopted a lot of my coaching philosophies from Mike, seeing the way he handled things and had his priorities,” Clark said. “I had played for (St. Cloud’s 1977 state champion) Coach (Clay) Gooch and Coach (Burke) Chisholm, and Mike had a lot of the same characteristics as they had as far as expecting things to be done in the proper manner. When Mike took over (the St. Cloud baseball program), we didn’t miss a beat.”
Gateway High Coach Jim Moran has been playing against Fields’ teams since 2002 and said he always enjoyed the rivalry.
“Coaching against Mike, you knew he was a meticulous guy. You know when you play him that he’s always going to try to get that edge,” Moran said. “He’s a great guy, one of the nicest guys you ever worked with. I’m proud to call him a friend.”
Tim McMullen is Osceola County’s longest tenured coach now that Fields has stepped down. He arrived at St. Cloud High in 1984 and has compiled more than three dozen OBC championships in basketball, track and tennis.
He said that Fields’ shadow is too tall for anyone to fill.
“Mike taught work ethics, integrity and manners along with being a top-of-the-line coach and parent,” McMullen said. “Mike will be missed and may be replaced, but not duplicated. One of the greats.”