This article was originally posted on the SCLL web site on 11/16/15.
Hugh Irwin - 32 Years of Service on the SCLL Board
We all have fond memories of 1985.
Before the Internet and social media.
Before iPhones could magically connect you to the world and disconnect you from your immediate surroundings.
Back when a playdate meant “Mom I’m going to the park to play with my friends. I’ll be back for dinner”.
Back when there were 5 channels on TV and if you wanted to get a 6th channel, you had to hold the antenna with your hands and stay frozen in that position.
The #1 Box Office Movie of 1985 was “Back to the Future”.
And the #1 song was “St. Elmo’s Fire” by John Parr.
1985 was also the year Hugh Irwin first joined the San Carlos Little League Board.
But unlike John Parr, Hugh Irwin is no one hit wonder.
You see Hugh Irwin is celebrating his 30th anniversary on the Board this year.
As a current member of the Board I wanted to find out about Hugh’s story.
What kept him on the Board so long when most parents step down after their kids age out of Little League?
What changes has he seen in baseball and on the Board in his years of service to the community?
So I sat down with Hugh at his house in San Carlos on Rosewood Ave. to hear his story.
Hugh has been living in this same house for nearly 50 years since he bought it in 1967 for $26,000.
That seems like great value for a house now, but it was more than four times Hugh’s salary then as a grade school math teacher.
Hugh grew up in Redwood City and although he loved baseball as a young kid, he couldn’t play Little League.
Redwood City did not have a Little League at that time and the closest Little League was in Palo Alto.
But Hugh got his chance to play baseball when he went to Menlo Atherton High School.
He played catcher and right field because in Hugh’s words, “I was always the slowest kid on the team”.
In 1963 Hugh married his wife Kathy and they are still together today in their 52nd year of marriage.
They have 3 kids, Claire, Heather, and Christopher and Hugh has 3 grandkids with one more on the way in a few months.
In 1967 Hugh took his first full time job as a math teacher.
Hugh has been teaching math ever since, and at almost every grade level.
He still teaches math today at Redeemer Lutheran School in Redwood City.
Hugh first joined the San Carlos Board as the Field Coordinator when Christopher was 8 years old in 1985.
There were 6 members on the Board then compared to around 40 now.
There were only 3 Divisions in Little League in 1985…Farm, Minors and Majors.
Hugh coached all of Christopher’s teams and when the game was over, he had to umpire the next game.
The format back then called for coaching your game and then you had to umpire the next one.
It seems like a lot of work, but Hugh loved it because he got to know all of the kids.
There were many differences in 1985 when Hugh joined the Board.
He said the fields were in worse shape than they are now which required a lot of his time and effort as Field Coordinator to get the fields in good playing condition.
There was also no Snack Shack.
“There was no access to pitching machines back then. There was no way to get professional instruction so kids relied more on the coaches to teach them the game”.
Hugh has seen many good players pass through San Carlos Little League over the years.
He said the best player he coached was Mike Zirelli, who pitched several years in the San Francisco Giants farm system, and is now on the Board as well.
And Hugh has seen Daniel Nava and Daniel Descalso, who both played in the major leagues, come through San Carlos Little League.
Hugh has worn many hats in his 30 years with the Board.
He has been Field Coordinator, Director of Umpires, and most recently Player Agent.
As a Player Agent he helps coordinate the Triple A and Majors tryouts each year and helps resolve any player issues that may occur.
He said he is most proud of helping organize the Majors draft to ensure a fair balancing of teams.
But Hugh’s time on the Board is really just the tip of the iceberg.
I brought my notepad and pen and tried to keep track of all that Hugh has done for the community, and I couldn’t keep up!
He coached over 20 different soccer teams.
In fact Hugh was an avid soccer player and played for a long time but finally had to stop “because 8 year olds were running faster than me”.
He coached Pony League baseball for 10 years.
He coached Babe Ruth baseball for another 10 years.
He coached his daughters’ softball teams.
He refereed soccer for over 10 years.
He is currently a math tutor for the Sequoia High School football team.
And I think he told me some more but my pen was furiously trying to get ink on the paper and I missed a few.
So why does Hugh continue to volunteer his time after all these years?
“Because I love teaching, I love people, and I love helping kids”.
I guess it is really that simple.
And much to the good fortune of the San Carlos community, Hugh has no plans of “retiring” any time soon.
As I sat down with Hugh, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between him and former UCLA legendary coach John Wooden.
Players that Wooden coached speak of him in reverential tones.
Bill Walton said that he learned more about life from Wooden than basketball…that Wooden cared more about the person than the player.
The same can be said about Hugh Irwin.
He has dedicated his entire life to teaching young kids to not only get better at sports, but to become better people.
In 2004 Hugh was coaching Menlo Atherton against Sequoia High.
The umpire made a terrible call that went in Hugh’s favor.
The Sequoia coach was irate, charged out of the dugout ready to confront the umpire, and then stopped and went back in the dugout.
After the game the Sequoia coach came up to Hugh and said, “you know I was so angry at that bad call I was going to come out and yell at the umpire, and then I saw you in the opposing dugout and I just couldn’t throw a tantrum with you watching”.
That just about sums it up.
Hugh Irwin has been giving back to the community his entire life.
And while other one hit wonders of the 80’s have long since burned out, Hugh continues to shine bright and continues to give.