Championships, leadership and a tough out are how you could describe Matthew Guidry’s baseball career and legacy.
But if you talk to Guidry, the word legacy was never once a priority during his playing career.
Last week, the longtime Southern Miss second baseman decided to end his career despite having an extra year of eligibility as the COVID-19 pandemic ended the 2020 season.
For Guidry, the decision was not easy and brought it on a fair amount of anxiety.
“I have a big family and we talked about (leaving or staying next year),” Guidry said. “They were supportive throughout the whole thing. They told me that when the season ended that they were going to support me 100 percent. They stuck to their word and have been helping through the anxiety part of this about being worried about what people might say. They put that perspective that the people who care about you the most are going to be there for you.”
As most would expect, the reaction from teammates and fans on Twitter showed nothing but support for Guidry.
“It was the sign of a pretty big relief,” Guidry said. “It was crazy the amount of support I got through Twitter. Everybody was super supportive, and I could tell they wanted the best for me and was happy with my decision to a certain extent. (Obviously) they want me to play, but at the end of the day, the (fans) know I’m a person, and that’s what so special about Southern Miss. They know I’m a person and are looking out for my well-being.”
While Guidry says that leaving a legacy was the least important part of his career, he still accomplished it. However, the development into the player that many fans grew to know originated at Oak Grove High School.
Guidry was exceptional, and by the end of his high school career, he batted .346 and held an on-base percentage of .491. Oak Grove coach Chris McCardle explained that Guidry’s leadership and confidence in the locker room were just as crucial in helping the program make two back-to-back state championship appearances and come away with the 2014 state title.
“I heard about him before he got to the eighth grade, and I knew he was going to be a special player and a special young man,” McCardle said. “The leadership and confidence that he brought to our team were just crucial for some of the series that we played.”
According to McCardle, Guidry’s leadership was hard to ignore. In one instance, during Guidry’s senior season, his leadership rivaled his coach. During the midseason, after losing a pair of games right before prom, McCardle attempted to alter the team’s routine and let the team leave practice early for the dance.
“I usually would talk to Guidry after practice in his senior year,” McCardle said. “We had just lost like two or three in a row or something, and it was prom week. I felt like we needed something different, so after about 40 minutes, I told everyone to huddle up and go enjoy the prom. I walked off the field. I remember him staring at me with the whole team around him. He looked like he was going to come to get me. He rallied his team up, and they practiced longer, and then from then on, we started rolling. He was definitely a special kid.”
For Guidry, playing at Oak Grove was a crucial part of laying the foundation of his career.
“Oak Grove played a big role in my life, and it definitely showed me what success is,” Guidry said. “They have a successful program traditionally. I think it kind of built me to be ready for any obstacles that were ahead of me.”
After high school, despite having no primary connection to Southern Miss, Guidry chose to sign with his top choice school. For Guidry, the foundation of coming from a rich baseball program helped draw his interest to the Southern Miss tradition, which, according to Guidry, is what he played for throughout his collegiate career.
In his four years, Guidry finished with a .321 batting average and held a school-record of reaching base for 72 consecutive games. The two-year captain was also imperative in helping the Golden Eagles reach three NCAA Regionals and win three conference championships.
“I had never envisioned any kind of statistical legacy that I was trying to leave,” Guidry said. “That was never the goal. I guess the stats take care of themselves if you are having fun. I just wanted to leave a good impact and be fun for my family to watch and build those relationships with guys on the team. That means more to me than anything. That’s the stuff I’m going to take with me.”
According to Southern Miss baseball coach Scott Berry, Guidry is a prime example of an athlete who understood the importance of tradition and that his program’s pride helped drive his success on the field and in the locker room.
“He is a recipient from the torch from others,” Berry said. “We have had a long list of players, leaders and people and I think that Guidry is one of those who recognized that. He understood the tradition that was part of that. It wasn’t just winning championships, but it also encompasses everything that it takes to win those championships and how to get there. From discipline to hard work, doing things the right way off the field. All those things play into championships. He saw that before he got here, and he saw it firsthand when he was here. Then he was able to let others see it as well.
“He’s been a great young man to coach to watch and develop both on and off the field with how he represented us.”
While Guidry largely credits his parents for the support throughout his career, he also has tremendous gratitude towards both McCardle and Berry for helping shape his character on and off the field.
“Coach McCardle pushed me whenever I was second-guessing if I was good enough to compete at the Division I level,” Guidry said. “He gave me a shot my sophomore year to play every day and gave me tough love for when I needed it. Coach Berry means the world to me and not only in baseball but in life. He taught me a lot of things. I guarantee I wouldn’t be who I am today as a person if he wouldn’t have been in my life.
“They did a lot more for me outside of baseball than baseball for sure. That’s not saying they didn’t help me in baseball because obviously, they did. What I take from them the most is the character that they instilled in me to take to the field every day and into life later on.”
Even though Guidry is uncertain about how his future will unfold, his only current concern is that when he returns to watch a game in Pete Taylor Park that he is remembered for the player he was on the field.
“As far as my legacy, I don’t really care about legacy,” Guidry said. “The main thing that meant to me was Southern Miss’ tradition. I wanted to keep continuing that winning tradition.
“People are going to forget the batting average and the 72-game on-base streak. I want them to remember me for whenever I go to the games next year as being a hard player to get out and a very passionate player for Southern Miss.”