Talk to anyone about Larry Irving and the response is the same.
Great guy. Extraordinary volunteer. A man with a heart of gold who would do anything for the betterment of baseball in the community and a huge fan of the game at the local level.
The valley lost a true sporting legend when Irving died Saturday, Nov. 22. He was 71.
A celebration of life for Irving was held Nov. 29 at the Mount Brenton Golf Club.
In lieu of flowers, brother Lynn Irving of Chemainus suggested people consider donating blood to the Red Cross in Larry’s memory.
Larry needed several transfusions, Lynn said, during his final six months as his illnesses intensified.
“The biggest disappointment in his life the last year was he couldn’t get to the ballpark,’’ said Lynn. “He wasn’t healthy enough to stay.’’
Tributes have been pouring in from everywhere, particularly through social media, since Irving’s efforts were so well-known and he touched the lives of so many.
Rob Watt, a past player of his and currently an assistant coach at Mt. Olive University in North Carolina, was among them.
“Larry Irving, you are a true ambassador of baseball and I cannot honestly sit here and believe the opportunities that I have had with this sport would not have been remotely possible if it weren’t for you,’’ Watt wrote in a Facebook post.
“I was saddened to hear the news of your passing but relieved to know that you will never miss a game. You can watch them all from any seat in the house! Only a true baseball fan will understand when I say this: ‘Your steps into that Hallowed Cornfield are well deserved and your spot amongst the greats has been reserved.’ Wish I had the chance to tell you, ‘Thank You.”’
“He was one of the all-time great guys,’’ said Ernie Mansueti, North Cowichan’s director of parks and recreation. “He was in it for all the right reasons.’’
A program created by Mansueti led to the ultimate tribute to Irving when he was inducted into the North Cowichan-Duncan Sports Wall of Fame last November at the Cowichan Golf and Country Club.
Irving was shy in the public spotlight, but the honour meant the world to him.
“He was having a nervous breakdown a couple of weeks before,’’ said brother Lynn. “He got all stressed out.’’
Once Larry got in front of the crowd and started to talk about his passion for baseball, he was fine.
“He did a pretty good job up there,’’ said Lynn. “When he got down from up there, he was beaming. It was a big day in his life.’’
Longtime fellow umpire and friend Roy Price said Larry was known for his baseball jargon. For example, he called a home run a gopher ball because players had to “go for’’ the ball.
“Larry, his dedication was something else,’’ added Price. “He just totally loved the game. Nothing made him happier than to sit up there and watch kids play.’’
Ted Puska Sr. of Ladysmith wrote a great short story about Larry and being reunited with his old buddy Sonny Collinson, who died during April 2013.