Former Eagles baseball standout 'most deserving' of Hall nod

01/30/2009 12:54 AM

01/30/2009 7:21 AM

Steve Kirby followed his baseball coach, Horace Turbeville, from Newberry College to Winthrop College in the late 1980s. He helped lead the Eagles to a record of 140 wins and 36 losses and a trip to the 1980 NAIA World Series, where Winthrop finished as the national runner-up.

Turbeville was in Winthrop's inaugural Hall of Fame class in 2004. Now Kirby will follow his coach again when he is inducted on Feb. 27.

Kirby, 49, grew up in Charleston and played one year for Turbeville at Newberry. Turbeville accepted an offer to start the baseball program at Winthrop and asked his players to join him.

"He made the offer to everyone at Newberry, but especially the freshmen. All seven of us came. Horace was like a second father to me," Kirby said recently.

Kirby has seen the baseball program grow from its inception. He was with Turbeville the day the decision was made where to place the plate at the baseball field.

"It was Turbeville and Bill Culp," Kirby remembered. "I just happened to be with them. I saw the field from a grassy park field to what it is today. Home plate is still in the same spot."

Kirby and Turbeville became close friends. The coach's untimely death -- the day before Winthrop's 2007 Hall of Fame induction ceremony -- was tough on everyone close to Winthrop baseball.

Kirby was a pall bearer at Turbeville's funeral. He continues to stay in touch with the Turbeville family.

A center fielder with speed, Kirby still holds the Winthrop career record with 16 triples, triples in a season (9), and is tied for most stolen bases in a game with four. He is most proud of the triples record.

"Triples, for some reason this day and age, you don't see a lot of those. That record could last a while," he said.

He graduated from Winthrop in 1983 and has remained actively involved with Winthrop athletics, especially baseball, ever since.

"I feel like I am still part of the team. As soon as I got out of school, I got involved in Eagle Club. I saw how some people gave to the baseball team. I saw what they did and knew I wanted to do that," Kirby said.

Kirby has stayed close to the program through Turbeville's departure and coach Joe Hudak's tenure.

"He schedules his work travel so he can see us play on the road," Hudak said. "He has been a great friend to me and to the baseball program. This honor is extremely well deserved."

Kirby works as a sales rep for a sports apparel company.

"I think if someone asked me who the one baseball alumnus is that has meant the most to Winthrop baseball over the years, it would be Kirby. He is a guy who is involved every year. He could probably recognize every player over all the years of baseball here. He loves Winthrop baseball. He comes to some of our practices during preseason and throughout the year," Hudak said.

Kirby has been a steady, positive influence on the Eagle Club. He has served on the Eagle Club Board and on numerous Eagle Club committees over the years. Eagle Club director Sharen DuBard calls him her go-to guy.

"I was just so thrilled to let him know (about the induction)," DuBard, also a Winthrop alum, said.

"I knew him as a player. He was a perfect fit for Winthrop at the time. He is most deserving," DuBard added.

Kirby made a lot of friends at Winthrop centered around athletics. He's looking forward to going into the Hall of Fame in the same class with former Winthrop sports information director Andy Solomon.

"In those days, you were real close with the SID. I can remember going to Andy's house for dinner and to watch TV. I'm just real excited to go in the same class with Andy," Kirby said.

Kirby will join Solomon, Joao Leite (men's tennis), Angela Lanier (track and field) and Cristi Curtis (volleyball) as 2009 inductees into the Winthrop Athletics Hall of Fame. With the induction of this class, a total of 30 former players, coaches and administrators will have membership in the Hall of Fame, which was established in 2004.

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