There have been many #9’s throughout sports history.
But the one that has meant the most to me: Greg Largent.
News of his passing was one of those true gut-punch moments; first learning of it in a couple of phone calls and texts on Monday morning, then confirming with his son Steve.
Greg never recovered after being hospitalized following a heart attack in late August and now, hearts throughout the community of Escalon and beyond are broken.
Greg and I go way back; he was a teacher at El Portal and a coach in many sports throughout his career, so our paths crossed quite often. I was blessed to be along for the ride on some of his many notable accomplishments as the Cougars varsity baseball coach, including multiple Sac-Joaquin Section title runs and a couple of state championships. He also was the varsity softball coach many years ago and I will never forget his care and concern when I was hit by batted balls twice in the same game. After the second time, he had the umpires stop the game and came over to check on me, just to make sure I knew where I was and what day it was, before allowing the game to continue.
Those attending Escalon football games on Friday nights at Engel Field will remember Greg as the longtime voice of the Cougars, calling the action from the press box, adding his own insights and special touches.
He had battled cancer in the last few years and came out on top in that fight, after having supported his wife Cindy during her own cancer journey previously. He and Cindy raised two sons in Escalon, Steve and Nick. Oldest son Steve is a teacher and is now raising his family here; Nick went into the law enforcement field and also lives in the area.
Always humble, when I did a story about Greg when he retired from teaching and coaching at the end of the 2021-22 school year, much of what he shared was about those who had helped him, those he considered mentors, shining the spotlight elsewhere as opposed to accepting accolades for his own accomplishments.
I had the chance to see Greg and Cindy at the Escalon Farmer’s Market in early August, attending with their three grandsons. It gave us a couple of minutes to catch up and never did I think that was the last time I would see him.
Having just started his official retirement, the first opening day in decades he didn’t have to be in a classroom to begin the new school year, this was supposed to be Greg’s time. To relax, to enjoy his grandkids, to slow down his pace and take time for himself after years of service to others.
And it was that service that prompted his selection as the Homecoming Grand Marshal for 2022 – with those festivities going on this week. In true Greg form, when he was approached about being the Grand Marshal, he indicated that there were others that deserved it more. But he was the landslide choice by those planning the Homecoming, well before his unexpected hospitalization. It took members of his family to convince him to take the honor. It’s an understatement to say the parade will be bittersweet; but I have no doubt the community will come through to support the entire Largent family as they work their way through this tragic loss.
When I think of Greg, certain things stand out. The way he was always ready to talk about his teams, win or lose, good performance or bad, I could count on him to be honest in his assessment and willing to take the time to go over the games. Of course, we usually talked about other things, too, how well the Giants were doing (or not), what the prospects were for the Sharks, etc.
More important than that, though, the number of people he touched in his dual role as educator and coach is astounding. The lives of so many young Escalon students and athletes benefitted as a result of Greg’s wisdom and guidance, his passion for teaching and coaching, his ability to make the best of any situation.
It’s just so hard to try and fathom this; I don’t think there’s a way to fully process it yet. It will take time to come to terms with the loss and my heart goes out to Greg’s entire family; there truly are no words to make this better.
All I know for sure is that my life is richer for having known Greg, and to me, there will never be another #9.
Rest in peace.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.