LIHUE — When Jack Hodges applied for a job at Saddleback College, the farthest thing on his mind was being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Hodges was inducted into the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Friday in Fresno, California, along with counterparts Don Sneddon of Santa Ana College and Jerry Bartow of Southwestern College.
“My most memorable moment with Saddleback was being hired,” Hodges said. “There were 56 applicants for the job of baseball coach. The list was pared down to eight, and I was not one of them.”
Hodges said he was disappointed.
“Not that I felt I was more deserving than the 48 who were left off, but because I was the only local high school coach who applied,” he said. “The Friday prior to the interviews, I happened to see the Saddleback athletic director Bill Otta. My wife Stephanie encouraged me to ask if there was a particular reason I was not included because it would be good to know the reasons so the next time I applied for a baseball job, I would be prepared. I said, ‘No,’ but she said, ‘If you don’t ask him, I will.’”
Hodges said he approached the director who said his application was incomplete because a couple of forms had not been turned in.
“I said everything was completed, checked and double-checked,” the coach said. “He said he would go back and re-look at the application. This was on Friday and the interviews were the following Monday. I got a phone call later that evening and he said a mistake had been made. The missing paperwork was there, but misplaced. If I wanted, I could come in Monday as the last interviewee.
“Without the insistence of my wife Stephanie, and the extra effort by Otta, I would not be receiving this award,” Hodges said. “I fondly remember my first win as the head coach, scoring seven runs in the last two innings to win 8-7 at Moorpark College. I also remember our state championship 10-4 win over Cypress College in 2004. We finished fourth in the conference, barely making the playoffs. We had to win our last six games just to qualify, but we got hot and won it all.”
Hodges spent 22 years as the head coach at Saddleback, from 1990 to 2011, building a career record of 580-362 and four ties. He led the Gauchos to 13 playoff appearances, including three final four appearances at the state championships, eventually winning the state championship in 2004 and finishing as runners up in 1998 and 2003.
“My best memories are all the players who came through the program,” Hodges said. “They were special, hard working, young men. Three Kauai players stand out for me — Kaleo Lopez, a left-handed pitcher; Neto Quiroz, another left-handed pitcher; and Kalani Salazar, a third baseman and right-handed pitcher. All were terrific competitors and very effective.”
Hodges said Lopez and Quiroz played for the Gauchos for two years, and Salazar played for a year.
“Hawaii players are warriors come game time,” Hodges said. “These three were certainly that.”
Hodges said there were eight other Hawaii players over the years, Kanekoa Texeira, a Kamehameha Schools graduate, signing out of Saddleback with the White Sox in 2006 and making it to the Big Leagues four years later with the Seattle Mariners.
Keahi Kapana, a graduate from Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, Oahu, was the Gauchos’ starting first baseman on the 2004 state championship team.
“All eight were starters, and did an excellent job,” Hodges said. “Three from Kauai, two from the Big Island, one from Maui, and five from Oahu.”
Hodges coached baseball in Southern California for 41 years at the high school and college levels. He graduated from Kamehameha Schools before earning a scholarship to continue his football and baseball careers at Stanford University.
Currently, Hodges and his wife Stephanie live on Kauai where he serves as the volunteer United States of America Pickleball Association Ambassador, State of Hawaii-West Region where he recently hosted a free clinic for pickleball, a sport which is gaining popularity due to its similarity to tennis.
The sport uses plastic balls and wooden paddles instead of cushioned balls and rackets.
He recently was successful in getting pickleball admitted to the Aloha State Games, Senior Olympics which will contest its tournament July 10-12 in Kona on the Big Island.
On Kauai, Hodges will be leading clinics at the Kauai Christian Fellowship Church in Koloa in mid-June where the church wants to include pickleball in their activities, which will be open to the public.
He will also host a free pickleball clinic at the Princeville at Hanalei Community Association Basketball Court Area-Emmalani Park sponsored by the Princeville at Hanalei Community Association.