Architect of Rebels’ softball dynasty dies at 62

By Mark Huber

When informed of his induction into the Clinton County Sports Hall of Fame, legendary men’s slow-pitch softball coach Steve Larrick quickly disseminated the credit for his accomplishment.

“This is a team award more than an individual award,” he said in 2003. “I’ve been captain of the ship for 30 years but you’re only as good as your players.”

And while he is correct — one of his players always said “you can’t win the Kentucky Derby on a mule” — Larrick was far more instrumental as the architect of the Rebels’ softball dynasty than he would take credit for or admit.

Larrick, affectionately known as Bonz, passed away on Wednesday. He was 62.

A 1974 graduate of Wilmington High School, Larrick was inducted into the Clinton County Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. Soon after the induction, he suffered a stroke.

“I know that (induction) meant a lot to him but he was a hall of fame person to a lot of people,” said Allen Wilkinson, softball teammate and long-time friend.

For more than 30 years, Larrick guided the Rebels softball team to more than 2,300 victories and numerous county, district and state championships.

“He would do anything in the world for any of us,” Wilkinson said of Larrick, who was the best man at Wilk’s wedding. “He had such a big heart. He treated all of us as his own kids, all of us softball players. And we were a handful for him at times.”

Long after their playing days were over, Wilkinson said Larrick still had an impact on his life.

“He had a big influence on my coaching career, just how to manage people,” said Wilkinson, also a member of the Clinton County Sports Hall of Fame. “When I was coaching (girls basketball) he would come to watch the girls play. He would always sit on that dag-gone Wilmington side. I could never get him to side on our side.”

Jeff Hibbs went to school with Larrick at Martinsville Elementary School. He later was a softball rival before becoming a teammate on the Rebels.

“It was easy to tell how committed he was to the game (of softball) and his team,” said Hibbs. “When you played for Steve, you knew you were going to be taken care of. It wasn’t always with kid gloves but it was never hard to understand what he was saying and, more often than not, he was right.”

Hibbs said Larrick, who wore jersey 35 for the Rebels, wasn’t a front-runner, despite being the most successful men’s softball coach in Clinton County history.

“The most important thing Steve did for me is there was a time in our lives where we hit rock bottom, for different reasons, but we were both down,” Hibbs said. “He was more concerned with what was going on in my life, than fighting for his own. I never thought I’d spend as much time watching Jeopardy with someone but we watched a lot of Jeopardy. I found out he was as much my friend when I was on the bottom as when I was on top.”

In recent years, Larrick has spent more than his share of time in a wheel chair. He could be seen sitting next to the Wilmington High School boys basketball bench, keeping a keen eye on the Hurricane.

“Heaven needed someone to coach their softball team,” said Bill Liermann, who has been a public address announcer and scorekeeper for WHS for many years. “He was a real fighter. Gonna miss him at the scorer’s table this winter.

“Other people would have felt sorry for themselves, but no, not him. He had a lot of courage, no doubt about it.”