May 22, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Plans for expanded Ryan Lemmon Showcase begin but what’s likelihood of it happening?

Cypress High’s CIF champions were represented by (from left) Michael Marsh, Braden Murphy and Tyler Chaffee and Coach John Weber at last year’s Ryan Lemmon Showcase. (Photo Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone)

Plans for an expanded Ryan Lemmon Showcase which would be open to all high school seniors playing baseball in Orange County, are under way.

OC Sports Zone reported exclusively on Tuesday that Guy Lemmon and other members of the Ryan Lemmon Foundation are making plans for the event, tentatively in the first week of June at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine.

This year’s event was scheduled to have 10 leagues participating at Windrow Park. But under the proposal, more leagues would be added over a three or four-day span.

A lot would have to happen in order for the event to happen.

Most importantly, Gov. Gavin Newsom would have to lift the stay at home order currently in place for all residents. Gatherings of 10 or more are all prohibited because of the coronavirus crisis and it’s not known how long the governor’s order will be in place.

In addition, fields would have to be secured and it would have to be deemed safe for players, coaches and fans to be at the games.

Lemmon pointed out that all precautions would be taken and that the foundation would only stage the games if it were safe to. But planning needs to begin soon and eight Orange County baseball coaches will meet with Lemmon on Saturday.

“Our event, while being planned, will only take place after clearance from various local, county, state health public agencies and the CIF Southern Section,” Lemmon said Tuesday.

In all, about 4,000 baseball players have competed in the Ryan Lemmon Showcase over the past 24 years and about 13,000 have been involved in events sponsored by the foundation, Lemmon said. This year’s Ryan Lemmon Invitational, which was to have its largest field of 32 teams March 28-April 1, was canceled after programs began to suspend athletics because of the coronavirus crisis.

“We hope to expand it out and we know how to run games,” Lemmon told OC Sports Zone Tuesday. “We know how to do all those things and I think people think we know what we’re doing.

“We’re going to try and make the day special for those young men. We’re having a meeting Saturday for a steering group of coaches to finalize the plan.”

No decision on the event will be made until after the CIF State Office makes an announcement on April 3 about the future of high school sports. A number of Orange County districts, including Orange and Irvine, have already extended school closures, making it more likely that the rest of the spring season will be canceled. However, CIF officials could also vote to extend the season and allow playoffs or they could delay a decision too.

“If, in fact there is a playoff mechanism, well that changes everything because as long as a young man is playing for his high school, he cannot participate with another team and we’re not trying to supersede CIF,” Lemmon said.

“Every week we wait for definitive answers it makes it virtually impossible to pull this off.”

Every league in Orange County would be allowed to participate, Lemmon said.

Orange County coaches John Weber from Cypress, Charles Chatman from Tustin and Ryan Brucker from Woodbridge told OC Sports Zone they support the plan. Weber and Brucker responded by Email and Chatman by telephone.

“I think it’s a a great idea by the Lemmon Foundation,” said Weber, who led the Centurions to the CIF Division 1 title last year.

“It’s really amazing how much those guys care about high school baseball. However, I think the problem they might run into is travel ball. What’s going to make a kid pick playing in the Ryan Lemmon league vs. playing for his regular travel ball team?” 

“I think it’s a great idea,” added Chatman. “It’s always been cool the way that Guy and Dick (tournament director Owens) have kind of been out on the forefront for our community. Those two guys, together with the foundation, have always looked at Orange County baseball athletes in a really good light and done a lot of really cool things so it doesn’t surprise me that they’re trying to be a little bit proactive through all these difficulties we’re going through right now with the virus and the shelter in place and all those types of things.

“I think we’re all kind of in the same boat. We’re trying to stay hopeful. But the reality is unfortunately kind of setting in and so if for some reason we are able to get back to school this year the reality seems to me like it’s going to be after the baseball season with an opportunity maybe for the kids to graduate.

“So if there is a way to be able to get our seniors a little closure, and give them an opportunity to play together or to play with each other one or two last times before they go on to do whatever they are going to do with the rest of their lives, I think everyone is pretty much all for it.”

Woodbridge’s Brucker also supports the plan.

“I am very hopeful that something will be able to happen with Mr. Lemmon’s proposal to have an extended showcase sometime in the near future,” he said. “Obviously, time will tell, and it is anybody’s guess at this point as to exactly when it will be safe to go back to school, let alone resume athletics. 

“Personally, I am hoping that we can have some kind of an expanded format for the Showcase, both with respect to the seniors who are given the opportunity to participate, as well as an expanded format for games.  The spring semester of senior year is what all high school students look forward to experiencing; prom, competing in their sport, spring play, just being the seniors on campus.

” I don’t think there is anybody out there right now who doesn’t feel for high school seniors and what this pandemic is costing them. I would be willing to bet that nobody understands that better than the head coaches at high schools all over the country who have had their spring seasons cut short. Having to tell our team at Woodbridge on March 13 that the season was on hold, and we don’t know when it will resume, was one of the toughest conversations I’ve ever had with any team.

“It was really emotional, especially for the seniors. My hope is that we can put something together, so all of the seniors in Orange County can say at the very least, they got to play more than 8 games their senior year.

“I think it doesn’t hurt to start planning what the expanded showcase could look like now. Being involved with the Ryan Lemmon Foundation, I know that it takes a tremendous amount of planning to put together things like the Senior and Sophomore Showcases. So let’s get it figured out now so that when the clearance does come from the powers that be we are ready to move. It is the least that we can do for the class of 2020 at this point.”  

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone;