* Tanya Clarke-Young and Ruth Hartmann presentrf Larry Irving with his North Cowichan/Duncan Sports Wall of Fame plaque a year ago. Irving a volunteer with a baseball-shaped heart passed away last week. Photo: Kevin Rothbauer. ….

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Letters of Intent

By Bob Elliott

If Bob Smyth saysJoey Vottois a going to be a good hitter …

You believe him.

If Bob Smyth says Joey Votto will hit major-league pitching …

You believe him.

If Bob Smyth says Larry Irving was pure baseball person …

You believe him.

Smyth worked countless hours with Votto at Etobicoke’s Connorvale Park then, before and after school indoors at an indoor facility.bob smyth

Now Smyth lives in Ladysmith, BC and he has the finger of the pulse of sandlot ball there. Votto flew Smyth to Cooperstown to teach Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith how to golf.

(Of course Smyth could be air lifted into a ball diamond in South Korea and have his finger on the pulse …)

Irving worked with players in an area of Vancouver Island and through his efforts produced teams and players that competed nationally.

Smyth spent a lot of time watching games with Irving watching games at different levels (from 8 to 18).

“Not once did I question his instincts he but a lot of times he enlightened me about what I was watching,” Smyth said, who doesn’t say that about a lot of people. “Our time together was much too short but I learned so much from him.

“Baseball has lost a treasure and I have lost friend.”

Irving, 71, who passed Nov. 22, was inducted into the North Cowichan-Duncan Sports Wall of Fame last year, Like most volunteers who toil far from the limelight he was nervous before he was honoured.

Rather than flowers his brother Lynn Irving 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,” Lynn told the Cowichan News Leader. “He wasn’t healthy enough to stay.’’

walt burrowsChris Dice, Adam Dorey and Brent Yarrow were three of the better players. Before taking over the Canadian arm of the Major League Scouting Bureau, Walt Burrows (Brentwood Bay, BC) remembers Dice, Dorey and Yarrow hitting many back-to-back-to-back home runs.

At the time the park they played on backed onto the Trans Canada Highway through Duncan. Eventually the moved from there to Chemainus because they were hitting too many balls onto the highway.

Burrows said for a period of time the best collection of talent this province has ever assembled. And Irving was the driving force. Mike McKinley, Ken Lamberton, Randy Barker, Clint Bailey, Brandon Kaye and Tony Lewis were all talented, strong players who played for Irving.

“Larry was involved in the Chemainus, Duncan, Lake Cowichan and Ladysmith area of Vancouver Island, a small blue collar area of mostly loggers, fisherman and mills,” said Burrows head of Canadian branch of the Major League Scouting Bureau.

“There were a ton of great players that came through there in the early 90ty’s. Some of the best BC has ever seen.”

Rob Watt, who played for Irving, learned from Irving, attended Wayne State (Neb.) and is now an assistant coach with the Mt. Olive University Trojans in N.C, posted on Facebook:

“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 have been remotely possible if it weren’t for you.

“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” – Til we meet again!!

Now read those three graphs again as you near the escalator and wonder whether you want Rob Watt writing about you after it’s time to go.

A celebration of his life took place at the Mt. Brenton Golf Club In Chemainus on Saturday.