“I grew up in Texas and we were playing the Texas Rangers,” he explained. “During one of the games, I was rounding second base, about to score a run, and I looked up and saw the same spot where I used to sit during dollar hot dog nights as a kid.
“It was a full-circle moment you work your entire life for.”
Stories like that make Huff the crown jewel of Canyon Crest Academy’s baseball program, where he’s an assistant coach and considers himself more of a mentor and a friend.
“I’d like to think I’m a pretty good motivator,” he explains. “I’m there to offer any advice I can. Sometimes students get too worked up about winning or losing, but baseball is really about having fun. I try to be helpful like that, and teach kids how baseball parallels life itself.”
Huff has led a charmed life and athletic career, whether it was when he was a stand-out playing for the University of Miami, or when he played for a host of major league teams, including the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Baltimore Orioles, or Houston Astros.
However, he did have moments of self-doubt.
“There were so many times where I was a part of dead-last teams and I was thinking, ‘Is this even worth it?’” Huff recalled. “Playing for the Giants wasn’t even my choice — but the good Lord put that opportunity in front of me, knowing this was going to happen.”
It took nine years in the majors until he earned his first World Series ring as part of the 2010 San Francisco Giants — a feat he’d accomplish again with the team in 2012.
But it wasn’t until he retired three years ago and began looking back on his athletic career that he truly appreciated the experience of playing professional baseball.
“The more time goes by, the more I think how blessed I am to play the game,” said Huff, who realized a long-time dream of retiring to San Diego’s North County.
“My career in baseball wasn’t always roses — it involved a lot of personal growth on and off the field — but to make it through and and have a healthy family now, I couldn’t be more happy.”
When Huff retired at 36, he had the mind-set that he’d relax for the rest of his life. However, he soon found out that the transition from major league ballplayer to civilian was a difficult one.
“The thing I missed most about baseball was the camaraderie,” he explained.
“You hear it all the time, but people have no idea what it’s like to retire from professional sports. You go from touring the country with 40,000 people cheering you to complete silence. I don’t think sports in general does enough for guys for when they retire.”
Upon retiring, Huff fell into a deep depression, but was able to bounce back when he became involved not only with the Canyon Crest team, but his young children’s T-Ball league.
He also became a force behind the company LifeVantage, which is a line of supplements that he credits with helping him feel normal again.
“I’ve been loving it,” he said. “I only became involved after seeing what it did for me — which was raise me out of my depression.”
Today, Huff tries to teach young players and his own children about the importance of perseverance.
“You need the ability to overcome failure and grow,” he said. “Behind your fears is a person you want to be, and if you want to change your life, you have to go out and get it.
“Sometimes I think the Canyon Crest kids are too smart for baseball,” he joked. “I’ll see them on the field talking about equations. I’m like, ‘This is baseball, guys! Let it go!’”