Mercer University used to have intercollegiate baseball, basketball and soccer programs on its Atlanta campus, with thanks primarily to one man: Coach Hayward Fountain. Here’s how he became a Mercer Legend.
Mercer connection: Professor, baseball and basketball coach, and athletics director in Atlanta
Years at Mercer: 1968-1990
What he did: As a child growing up in southeast Georgia, Fountain loved sports. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University in 1961, he taught and coached baseball and basketball at the high school and college level.
In 1968, Fountain joined the faculty of the new Atlanta Baptist College, and he dreamed of establishing a sports program. Through hard work and determination, he facilitated the construction of a baseball field, dugout and scoreboard, as well as an adjacent field for student activities.
He also started the first basketball program at the college and developed the curriculum for the health and physical education department.
Fountain pushed his baseball players to pursue excellence. His teams played competitive schedules against programs with larger budgets, more scholarships, superior facilities and better equipment, such as the University of Georgia, University of South Carolina, Clemson and Duke.
After Atlanta Baptist College merged with Mercer in 1972, Fountain’s Atlanta baseball team occasionally played Mercer’s Macon team, which made for an interesting rivalry.
Fountain left Mercer in 1990 and went on to teach at Georgia Perimeter College until 2015. Over the course of his career, he also earned his master’s, education specialist, and Doctor of Education degrees.
Why he’s a legend: Fountain was the driving force to create a ballfield for the inaugural baseball program at Atlanta Baptist College. He also established the college’s first basketball program and oversaw all sports on the Atlanta campus. He was integral to helping the young college grow.
“He was the heart and soul of that whole thing that was going on there in those years from when Atlanta Baptist College first came until they merged, and I’m sure beyond that. He was a driving force,” said Joe Brunn, who graduated from Mercer in 1974.
Brunn and other former baseball players remember Fountain as someone who would try to help everybody. He loved his players and pushed them to do their best. He was kind and easy going off the field but firm on the field, where he demanded excellence.
“As soon as he crossed that white line on that baseball field, he was a strict disciplinarian and was hard on us, but it was for a reason,” said Alan Kruzdlo, who graduated in 1977. “He wanted us to grow up as men and baseball players and do well, and I think it worked.”
Fountain died in 2021.
In August 2022, former players, with leadership from alumnus Michael Denmark, came together on the Atlanta campus for the dedication of a bench in Fountain’s memory. The bench now overlooks the new Moye Pharmacy and Health Sciences Center, which is located on the site of the former baseball field.
Quotable: “He was so kind and gentle, a prince of a person. But when you got him on the baseball field, he had fire in the belly. He was a competitor, and he pushed you to be your best, and it was more than playing baseball. He wanted us to be good sports and treat our teammates the right way.” — Charles Wilson, former baseball player, Class of 1976