Kirk Houchin is a simple man who loves baseball and fishing almost equally, but loves his family even more.
After 24 years as the Seneca High School varsity baseball coach and 34 years of teaching at SHS, Houchin decided to trade in his role as an educator and as the Fighting Irish bench boss and moved into retirement.
He will now be allowed to spend more time with his wife, Cindy, three children, Megan, Amanda, and Matt, along with two grandchildren, Kingston and Everly, as well as pursuing his passion other than baseball, which will hopefully see him wade down the Mazon River and fish to his heart's content.
Houchin was a coaching force for Seneca, registering 400 varsity hardball wins on the nose in his 24 seasons (1996-2019) with the Irish along with three other campaigns as the head baseball coach at Mazon-Verona-Kinsman High School (1988-90) before MVK merged with SHS.
His last season at Seneca saw the Irish post a 14-15 overall record and a 9-4 mark within the Tri-County Conference behind eventual Class 1A champion Marquette Academy.
During Houchin's coaching tenure, the Irish won a pair of regional championships in 1997 and 2006, a sectional crown in 97 as well as three Interstate Eight Conference titles in 1999, 2008 and 2009. He led Seneca baseball to one of its finest hours, taking the '97 squad to the Elite Eight of Class A back in the IHSA two-class system before falling in the state quarterfinals.
Houchin's last win and 400th triumph came via a 3-2 upset of highly-touted Wilmington in this year's Class 2A regional semifinal matchup before dropping the regional championship game 12-7 to Herscher.
"It was tough to go out that way, knowing we could have won another regional championship, but I have no regrets," Houchin said. "I've been blessed to have been a teacher and a coach at Seneca for many years, and now I've got some time to spend with my family and catch some fish I've probably caught before in the Mazon River," he said with a laugh.
Houchin graduated from MVK back in 1978 after being coached by his father, Keith Houchin, back in the day and learned the game of baseball quite well. Then, after graduating from Illinois State University, he eventually was named head baseball coach at MVK in 1988, and for the next three seasons headed the Red Devils squad.
When the merger of MVK and Seneca occurred, Houchin served as an assistant baseball coach under Don Brown before being named the Irish baseball leader five years later in 1996.
Just one season after that, Houchin guided a team that had an 11-18 record before a 9-0 run put the Irish within a win of reaching the Final Four. A tough 4-3 defeat to Williamsville shut down Houchin's dreams of an early state championship in his coaching tenure, but he felt more chances were ahead of him.
"We ended up 20-19 after starting off 11-18, and that was just a crazy run one win shy of making it to the finals in 1A," Houchin said. "After that in only my second year coaching at Seneca, I knew I liked that a lot, and I figured we'd be back and hopefully bring a trophy home. But that didn't happen, unfortunately."
Houchin was named as an Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 1997 after the remarkable run, but couldn't duplicate his team's amazing charge at a title.
Despite a school-best record of 29-9 in 2005 and his last regional title in 2006, Houchin bowed out this season after coaching in better than 1,200 games according to his account during his baseball career on the bench while leading MVK and Seneca over the years.
"Kirk has devoted his whole life and career to Seneca, and to go out like he has is simply amazing," said SHS athletic director Steve Haines. "The 30-plus-year coaches like him aren't around anymore. His longevity, his professionalism and his tremendous teaching and coaching ability served him well. What he did over three decades for Seneca High School was unreal when you look at his body of work.
"We will miss him very much."
Houchin now turns his historic coaching reigns over to Tim Brungard, who has been Houchin's varsity assistant baseball coach for the last five seasons and will now assume the Seneca baseball helm in the spring of 2020.
"Coach Houchin has been a guy who has stood the test of time, and I'm honored to take over for him," Brungard said. "I've gained so much respect for him over the years and how he coaches. He's been such a great role model for me and all the players he's coached.
"I can only hope I continue the legacy he has provided for me with Seneca baseball."