May 29, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Baseball community mourns the death of popular Laguna Beach High School Coach Jeff Sears

Laguna Beach Coach Jeff Sears talks after his team won the Ryan Lemmon Invitational in April 2019. (Photo: OC Sports Zone, Tim Burt).

Southern California’s baseball community is mourning the death of Laguna Beach High School baseball coach Jeff Sears.

Sears, 55, died on Sunday morning at Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach, said Laguna Beach assistant baseball coach Jairo Ochoa.

Cause of death was not disclosed. A friend indicated he had been hospitalized recently. The baseball program announced his death on Twitter.

Coaches and players spent Sunday afternoon on the baseball field at Laguna Beach trying to cope with the death of the popular coach, who was well liked among players and coaches.

Sears was head coach at Laguna Beach since 2017, his second stint at the school. The Breakers won league titles in 2017 and 2018 under Sears. He also coached at Laguna Beach from 2007 to 2011 and was head coach at Servite from 2012 to 2014.

“There aren’t words that can describe how we’re feeling as a program,” said Ochoa. “Today is a very, very sad day within the Laguna Beach and High School baseball community. We’ve lost one of the greatest coaches around, and truly a special legend to the Laguna Beach baseball program.

“This has hit me and my family extremely hard, as it has our school, players, families and many others. Jeff touched the lives of so many people, the outpour of love and support received over the last few days showed just how special of a man Jeff truly was.  I’ve known Jeff for more than 20 years, I was blessed with the opportunity to have played for him then again with the opportunity to coach with him at his side. The game will never be the same with out him.

“Jeff’s legacy will live on by those who knew him, always being remembered most for the love he shared for his players and the game of baseball.  To quote the legendary John Wooden, ‘A good coach can change a game, a great coach can change a life.’  Jeff Sears did both.”

News of Sears’ death prompted numerous tributes on Twitter.

“Jeff Sears embodied what a coach should be,” Segerstrom Coach Erasmo Ramirez told OC Sports Zone Sunday. “Not only quality on the field, but quality where it matters most …. developing young men on and off the field. He was a perfect example for me and other coaches to follow. I started coaching, met Coach Sears, and instantly formed a great friendship with him. He was a man willing to help me, I enjoyed watching his teams compete, and I always loved our conversations. We’ll miss him tremendously. We love you Coach.”

Sears was well respected at University High School, where he served two stints under head baseball coach Chris Conlin.

“Jeff dedicated his life to coaching baseball and mentoring and guiding young people,” Conlin said. “Jeff knew everyone. His nickname was Chief. I would run into people and they always told me to say hi to Chief.

“Jeff had a big personality. He had time for everyone. He was a great friend and even a better person.”

“Jeff Sears was all about kids. He loved being around them and was such a great teacher,” said Mark Cunningham, Irvine Unified School District Athletic Director and former head football coach at Uni. “Baseball was his life and he poured everything into it.

“It is a tragic loss for all the Uni baseball players he coached and the coaches he worked with. I feel so sad for Laguna Beach baseball, for their community and for all who knew him.”

Sears also coached football at Uni. He was also lead assistant baseball coach at Cal State Dominguez Hills before coaching high school baseball. Sears was also a close friend of former Edison Coach Cameron Chinn and coached with him at Edison at 2016. Chinn added that Sears also coached at Chapman University with Tom Tereschuk for a couple years.

No date for services have been set, Ochoa said. He added that the baseball booster have put together a gofundme account to help Sears’ family with travel expenses to his funeral and to help with the costs of the funeral.

–Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com