It wasn’t governed by a seminal moment. It just became decision guided by instincts.
After 30 years of coaching high school baseball in the DFW area – the last 20 at Carroll that included the 2002 Class 4A state title – Larry Hughes is retiring.
Hughes, 59, made Carroll Athletic Director Darren Allman aware of his plans last week. The district has posted the opening with the hopes of filling it before the start of the 2016-2017 school year.
Between stops at Cedar Hill, Dallas Thomas Jefferson and Carroll, Hughes won 597 games, including 491 with the Dragons. Carroll advanced to the playoffs in 19 of 20 seasons (missed in 1998) and won 52 of 70 playoff series.
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Carroll defeated Corpus Christi Calallen in the 2002 4A state championship game, 11-4. The Dragons then lost to Plano West in the 2008 5A state finals, 10-8. They made five appearances in the regionals’ final round. The 2016 Dragons went 24-9-1 before falling to Lewisville Hebron in the Class 6A area playoff round.
“I look back at the system we’ve had, and I don’t think I would have done anything different,” Hughes said. “That’s why we can feel good about the number of rounds we’ve won. We’ve been pretty successful.”
For each of the last four years, Hughes said he has taken time to evaluate where he is in his career and if he wanted to continue. His health has been challenged by rheumatoid arthritis, which impacts his joints.
Each year, Hughes said he found the energy to go through another season. But the discomfort from the condition did take its toll. There were good days and bad days.
Hughes said he could have returned for another season if he wanted. However, he decided this was the right time. Carroll’s baseball program produced about two dozen Division I players, including several professional draft picks.
Those picks included left-hander Tyler Alexander and shortstop Hudson Sanchez. Sanchez went No. 24 to San Diego in the first round of this month’s Major League Baseball first-year player draft and signed a $1 million bonus. The program also had other successful dual-sport athletes in Kenny Hill and Zach Farrar. Those two are playing football in college at TCU and Oklahoma respectively.
Hughes came to Carroll in 1996 following a successful run at Jefferson. His hiring was pretty late in the process. He arrived in August. He replaced Brent Barker, who had just moved over to Southwest Christian to become that school’s head baseball coach and athletic director.
Hughes leaves knowing that he’s close to reaching a couple of milestones, including 600 career wins and 500 at Carroll. However, he said that wasn’t the motivation to stay.
“There were always times when we had some rough times and I’d get frustrated, or some good moments where I’d have the energy,” Hughes said. “But I’m done. I’m OK with where I’m at, being a spectator. I’ll still drive a school bus in the mornings and afternoon to have a little structure to my day. But I’m ready to do something else.”
Hughes’ departure leaves Keller’s Rob Stramp as the elder statesman of all Northeast Tarrant County baseball coaches. Stramp is preparing for his 20th season in 2017.