Greg Delgado: The (Previously) Unsung MVP of the AVP: Part I

Part 1: Volleyball Intern, Student, and Ball Boy

I hadn’t originally planned on writing this article. 

Late one Saturday evening, I received an email from Josh Glazebrook, AVP’s Senior VP, suggesting I connect with this guy Greg who’d done a bunch for the AVP this year. I’d heard musings about him, had seen his porch full of AVP Champions, volleyball locals, and OGs alike. But I’d never met the man. 

Naturally, I was excited. Josh has never assigned me a piece, so this guy must be extra special. Mark Schuermann decided to accompany me on the interview; he was excited, too. We walked to Greg’s house on an unexpectedly warm fall day. He and his wife Lori welcomed us genially into their white, open, and lovely home. They offered us coffee; Mark’s mug featured a happy golden retriever. We talked without pause for nearly an hour, staying way past the recorded interview. I loved the Delgados and all their stories, just like every volleyball player before me. 

The Delgado home overlooks five volleyball courts on the Hermosa Beach Strand. They moved to their cozy coastal bungalow four years ago after raising their three kids in a neighboring beach city on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It didn’t take long to realize they’d parked their lives right next to the premier volley spot in the South Bay. “We woke up July 5th four years ago,” Greg says, “and I said to Lori, ‘You know… that guy looks a lot like Phil Dalhausser.’ Sure enough, Phil was in my front yard. We moved in front of the Olympic training court!” 

The courts in front of their new home hosted the top pros Monday through Friday and boisterous fours matches on the weekend. Phil and Nick trained there for the 2016 Olympics every day for a month before their flight to Rio. Greg and Lori’s “front yard” was a bustle of volleyball activity 365 days a year. Perfect for two admirers of the game. 

Lori and Greg fell in love with volleyball while their son Grant played Libero at Stanford. Grant was Erik Shoji’s (the current USA National Team Libero) successor, and the Delgados hardly ever missed a match. In their travels to watch Grant play, Greg and Lori met the Crabb and McKibbin brothers, along with other Stanford alums like Brian Cook, Steven Irvin, and Pac-12 men’s volleyball/Amazon Prime’s own Kevin Barnett. 

Greg, a former professional soccer player, understands first-hand what it’s like playing a sport that doesn’t offer million-dollar prize purses or contracts. “I have tremendous respect for the volleyball players in this country,” he says. “They’re amazing people and a little bit more humble than other sports. You get to know the top players in the country instantly if you just have open arms.” 

The first time Greg and Lori opened their arms to AVP players was for the Hermosa Beach Open in 2017.  Greg texted Taylor Crabb and offered their new Strandside home to Jake Gibb and Taylor. “We’d be at the tournament all day, so we weren’t going to be home,” Greg says. Tournament days are long and hot; a comfy couch and air conditioning just a few blocks from the tournament is every player’s dream. Taylor gladly accepted. “I put ice water and bananas on the kitchen counter. I put the Golf Channel on for Jake (he loves golf), and I said, ‘It’s yours for the tournament!'”

Jake and Taylor won the Hermosa Open that year. And then celebrated on Greg and Lori’s porch. “We came back, and there are twenty people on the deck. Brian Cook’s grilling burgers, and we’re just having a ball. You gotta be kidding me. I just paid for VIP to watch these guys, and now they’re in my house! So that kinda started it.” 

Since then, Greg and Lori deepened their relationships with more beach volleyball players. Especially Riley and Maddison McKibbin. The Beard Bros practiced and filmed their videos in front of the Delgado home, and they knew a lot of the same people through Grant. 

As Mark and I arrived at their house for the interview, Lori and Greg were saying goodbye to Riley’s girlfriend and USA Indoor National player Carli Lloyd. Chelsea Hayes, a former pro beach player and Maddison’s fiancé, is Greg’s volleyball coach. Greg and Lori go every week to watch the McKibbins compete on the Amazing Race with everyone at Maddison’s home. 

Greg has also befriended a ton of volleyball locals. He plays five times a week, either in Chelsea’s class or with other students. Five times is a lot even for a 28-year-old pro. Greg is a 62-year-old semi-retired businessman. Impressive. 

And this is one of my favorite Greg stories: Two years ago, he was Jeremy Casebeer and Chaim Schalk’s intern. Greg – a successful career businessman who earned the right to live in a home on The Strand (not an easy feat, my friends), shamelessly applied alongside high schoolers to get closer to beach volleyball. You have to applaud the humility. 

Greg initially heard of the need when Jeremy Casebeer posted it on his Instagram, requesting someone who could play good tunes, shag balls, and feed their parking meters mid-practice. Out of 60 applicants, the overqualified Stanford graduate with an MBA and impressive business acumen got the job. 

Greg could also offer a free parking spot and iced coffee on the porch after practice. “That was the clincher,” Greg jokes. “And I had a blast. I’m not above chasing volleyballs. Who cares? I’m out with my idols, learning how they act and play having a ball.” 

With increasing love of the game and connection with the athletes, Greg and Lori were devastated when this year’s tournaments were closed to fans. But it didn’t take long for Greg to find a work-around. One day, while talking to Maddison, he realized something. “I know – ball boy! Ball boys can go!” 

So Greg applied, fully prepared to work for free. Again, the accomplished businessman made the cut. And he crushed it. The AVP also paid him, “plus, I got a sandwich every day and a t-shirt,” he said, laughing with mirth. 

Inspired by professional tennis ball shaggers, Greg sprinted to every dead ball, clearing the court for the athletes as soon as possible. “The AVP athletes deserve as much respect as the tennis professionals. I can’t pay them, but I can certainly respect them. Almost everything I do around here is because I love and respect them and think they deserve it.” And though he worked his tail off in the hot sun, Greg felt honored to be there. “I did all nine days. It was really fun; I loved it. I would do it again.”

Greg is a great storyteller. He starts his tale of this summer with: “Two things happened. First…” and then recounts his ball person experience. After laughs and interruptions and at least five minutes, he continues. “Okay, so that happened, and the second thing was: a really strange thing happened before the tournament…” I knew what happened and was still glued to my seat, ready to hear Greg retell it. 

But that’s too great of a story to bury halfway through an article. Check back next week to read about Greg’s friend, Mark Paaluhi’s petition to the Hermosa Beach Council, Excel Spreadsheets, sunrise court-saving, and his new prized possessions.