Troy Field had to pause for a second on the set of SANDCAST to catch himself.

“Back in the day,” he repeated, laughing. “Back in the day, like, three years ago.”

It seemed to catch him off guard as much as it can oftentimes do to those who have seen Field play. Three years ago, nobody had seen the kid in the pink hat. Hadn’t seen him flying around with a vertical north of 40 inches out of sand. Hadn’t seen him reverse windmilling, evoking images of and comparisons to a young Sean Rosenthal. Hadn’t seen him at the South of the Border Volleyball Vacations. Hadn’t seen him medaling at NORCECAs with Reid Priddy, one of the greatest the indoor game has known. Hadn’t seen him donning those signature Slunks boardshorts of his. Hadn’t seen all of that coalesce into his being named the winner of the Top Gun Award at the AVP banquet, given to the male and female who most look the part of volleyball players in the Top Gun movie.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” Field said. “Just up and down.”

Mostly up. Both physically and metaphorically. Field’s matches invariably draw some of the biggest crowds to watch him go up up up. He wishes he could explain it, too, that massive, explosive, enviable vertical of his. Wishes he could give a legitimate answer to the legions of fans who ask how he jumps so high and if he can teach them. He feels bad that his only answer is really a shrug and a sheepish grin that implies the gift of God and genetics.

“I feel so bad because I’m not that person who trained it out,” Field said. “I’m not the guy who repped it out. It didn’t come from me. It’s a God-given thing.”

Field is more than an enormous vertical. Far more. When the AVP needs a volunteer for its AVP First events, Field is one of the first to sign up. During season, at the Sunday clinics, lest Field be playing in the semifinals or finals, he’ll be coaching the kids. This off-season, he’s been traveling back and forth, doing South of the Border Volleyball Vacations and multiple events in Texas. He’ll be the first to engage with fans, both in person and on social media.

Shoot, the guy is the first to offer help to the guys he’s playing against. When he’s knocked out of tournaments, he’ll go grab a camera for the McKibbins or Casey Patterson. He’ll run up to the Amazon booth and hop on the mic with Camryn Irwin and Kevin Barnett.

Immediately after finishing this podcast, he offered to do video, photo, whatever SANDCAST might need, just give him a call.

Just Troy being Troy.

“With the AVP 2018 season being his first full year on tour,” the AVP wrote on Instagram. “Troy Field immediately made his presence felt! Between incredible plays on the court, engaging with the AVP Family and working with the community through AVP First, Troy is becoming the ultimate AVP pro.”

Three years ago – or, “back in the day,” as Field likes to say – such praise from beach volleyball’s biggest tour would have been unthinkable. Three years ago, Field had been playing ball in Doheny where “the youngest guy was, like, 45 years old.” Working odd restaurant jobs. Watching enough film of Karch Kiraly that he eventually adopted his signature pink hat and the goofy-footed approach.

“Now,” he said, “it’s onto the mental side of things… I went from qualifier, right on the cusp to a main draw athlete and now I have to be the guy who qualifiers are thinking about. I was that guy, like ‘I have to beat Tri and Trevor’ or ‘I have to beat Rosie.’ I don’t want to be the guy that people are watching film on. It’s weird. Roles have reversed and switched and doors have opened.”

And they’ll continue to open, to the point that, not too far from now, he’ll look back on this story, laugh at where he was at that point in his career, and say “Back in the day…”

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