The life and legacy of Clay Gould
Popular baseball coach succumbs to cancer at age 29

Clay GouldIn a letter a month before his death, baseball coach Clay Gould wrote: "I have always been amazed with the endless possibilities of UTA baseball. I feel that it is just a few believers away from being a perennial top-20 program and cornerstone of pride for the University and its alumni."

Editor's note: This account of Clay Gould's life draws from newspaper and magazine articles written about him before his death.

Clay Gould made one goal crystal clear when he was introduced as UTA's fourth head baseball coach in 1999: He wanted to lead the Mavericks to the College World Series.

After a tough first season, his father approached Clay about traveling to Omaha, Neb., to watch the World Series as a spectator.

"A couple of days later, he called back and said, 'Dad, I don't want to go. When I get there, I want to earn it,' " Dan Gould told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram shortly after his son's death. "That was Clay."

The player

Born and raised in Arlington, Gould was an All-State third baseman for Arlington High School. In his senior season, he batted .434 and was named most valuable player in District 7-5A. Recruited by several colleges, he stayed close to home, signing with UTA in 1989.

During his four-year collegiate career, he led the Mavericks to two Southland Conference championships and two berths in the NCAA Tournament. He is the only UTA player to be named SLC Player of the Year (1993) and the only UTA player nominated for USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award, college baseball's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

Gould established himself as one of UTA's best hitters. As a senior, he batted .393 and posted a 26-game hit streak-the longest in school history. He shares the school record for most hits in a game (5) and is one of four Mavericks to hit a single, double, triple and home run in the same game. He finished his career among the all-time leaders in hits (181) and RBIs (116).

"Clay was a good leader not only in words but in how he played the game," said longtime UTA baseball coach Butch McBroom. "He was like a son to me. I felt like I had raised him since the time he was 18."

Following his collegiate career, Gould played professionally with the Tyler Wildcatters of the Texas-Louisiana League in 1994 and 1995. He twice was selected for the Texas-Louisiana League All-Star Team.

The coach

Gould's enthusiasm for coaching baseball was boundless.

He began his career as a volunteer assistant at UTA in 1994 and 1995 and served as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M in 1996 while pursuing his master's degree. Following the '96 season, McBroom hired him as a full-time assistant. When McBroom retired from coaching in 1999 after 26 seasons and 753 wins, Gould was hired to replace him. At 27, he was one of the youngest collegiate head coaches in the nation.

"It's a rare opportunity to have a person on your staff who was born to be the head baseball coach at The University of Texas at Arlington," UTA Athletic Director Pete Carlon told the Star-Telegram upon hiring Gould. "Clay has been preparing all his life for this opportunity."

That preparation was soon evident. Collegiate Baseball ranked his first recruiting class No. 26 nationally, ahead of traditional powers Mississippi State, Oklahoma and Auburn. The class included five players drafted by major league teams. His sales pitch carried the heat of a 100-mph fastball.

"He told me his goal was to turn the program into one of the powerhouses in the nation," outfielder Daniel Ortmeier told UTA Magazine in 1999. "But he also talked about raising the team GPA and about being winners both on and off the field."

Winning on the field came swiftly. In his first game as head coach, the Mavericks upset the 12th-ranked Texas Longhorns in Austin. The start to his second season was even better as UTA opened with road victories over No. 4 Arizona State and No. 20 Texas. The 2001 club won 19 of its first 23 games and climbed to 29th in the national rankings.

As Southland Conference Tournament champions, the Mavericks advanced to the NCAA Regional in Houston, where they won their first-ever NCAA Tournament game. UTA finished the season with 39 victories-one shy of a school record. Gould was named co-winner of the 2001 American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings South Central Region Coach of the Year Award.

The legacy

Midway through his first season as head coach, Gould underwent surgery at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to remove a cancerous tumor from his colon. His reaction personified his courage.

"I haven't sat around and felt sorry for myself," he told the Star-Telegram two weeks after the surgery. "I haven't said, 'Why did this happen to me?' Why wouldn't it happen to me? I've been blessed in a thousand ways. I feel like I can turn this into a positive."

He attacked the disease like he would a hanging curveball.

Despite undergoing aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he missed only three weeks of the 2000 season. Wearing a pack that fed medicine into his body, he returned to the dugout March 29 and coached the Mavericks to victory over Tarleton State. He refused to allow the illness to keep him from assisting with UTA's summer baseball camps, and he soon returned to the recruiting trail.

Pleased with his reaction to the treatments, his doctors were optimistic. Gould led the 2001 Mavericks to one of the best starts in school history but became sick again about two months into the season. During exploratory surgery in May, doctors discovered that his cancer had returned and was spreading rapidly.

Still, his spirit soared. "I've been fortunate, blessed and lucky," he told the Arlington Morning News. "If my life is only 28 or 29 years, then I know I've lived a great life. Some people don't get to live that long."

With his family at his side, Clay Gould died June 23, 2001, at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas. Among those he left behind were his wife of 19 months, Julie, and their 10-month-old daughter, Logan Soul.

He also left a legacy that will never be forgotten.

Gould Fund
Two funds have been established in memory of Clay Gould
 


 
 
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