June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Ryan Lemmon Foundation officials aim to continue ‘legacy’ of all-star baseball game

Guy Lemmon, founder of the Ryan Lemmon Foundation (center) with board members Dick Owens (left) and Rex Lyon in front of the Ryan Lemmon statue at Ryan Lemmon Stadium. (Photo: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

Officials with the Ryan Lemmon Foundation have started planning the 56th annual Orange County all-star baseball game at a new location, The Great Park Stadium, on Wednesday, May 29.

Tentative starting time is 6:30 p.m.

El Modena Coach Josh Kliner will lead the North and Crean Lutheran coach Jake Haney will be head coach of the South. Assistant coaches and rosters will be named later, according to Guy Lemmon, founder of the Ryan Lemmon Foundation, which has taken over operation of the game.

Lemmon believes the Great Park Stadium will be a big boost for the game, which has been sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Greater Anaheim since 1968. The first all-star game was held in 1968 with the South winning, 3-2.

“It’s really good parking, close to the freeway, great sound system, full size video board and locker-rooms for the kids, coaches and trainers,” he said.

Lemmon said officials are also planning to have a home run hitting contest.

The Great Park Stadium has been reserved and foundation officials are looking for sponsors and volunteers to help in the event.

“The only revenue source is ticket sales,” Lemmon said. “We hope to get sponsors, we’re working on that, otherwise the Ryan Lemmon Foundation is going to underwrite it, but we hope to get sponsors because we’re a modest non-profit that spends all the money in the different programs we do.

“The Ryan Lemmon Foundation in its existence has had approaching 25,000 young men go through our program, all high school baseball players and our desire is to continue to do that.”

The OC all-star game has been held most years at Glover Stadium, La Palma Park in Anaheim. Past players have included Bret Boone, Griffin Canning, Phil Hughes, Freddie Freeman, Patrick Sandoval and Randy Jones. In 2022, Kiwanis Club president Paul Bostwick said in the game program that at least 156 players have gone on to play in the Major Leagues.

Kiwanis Club of Great Anaheim club officials told Lemmon and foundation officials they could not continue their involvement of the game. Kiwanis Club board members later approved of the Ryan Lemmon Foundation running the program.

The Ryan Lemmon Foundation has been heavily involved in Orange County baseball and recently finished the Ryan Lemmon Spring Invitational. The Foundation is also planning the annual Ryan Lemmon Showcase at Ryan Lemmon Stadium next month involving seniors from OC baseball leagues and the event will continue on an annual basis, Lemmon said.

Lemmon, Dick Owens and Rex Lyon of the Ryan Lemmon Foundation indicated that they are aware of the rich history of the game and want to continue doing what the Kiwanis Club successfully did for many years.

“We relocated the venue, it’s our hope to continue with the legacy of the 55 years that the Kiwanians created,” Lemmon said. “It’s the biggest event of the year for high school baseball in Orange County. We want to continue the legacy for as long as we all can. We think the Great Park is a great venue, we’ve got some different ideas.”

Talks began last month when it was clear the Kiwanians could not continue running the game.

“They approached Scott Pickler (former Cypress Coach and now an assistant at Cypress),” Lemmon said. “His father (Irv) started the Kiwanis Game. He was the mayor of Anaheim for a number of years. Scott’s family has been involved in the game for decades. When the Kiwanians realized they were unable to continue doing it, their first call went to Scott Pickler and Scott Pickler’s first call went to the Ryan Lemmon Foundation, and here we are.”

Guy Lemmon began his involvement with high school baseball after his son, Ryan Lemmon, an All-CIF outfielder with Woodbridge High School, was killed in a traffic accident in 1994.

His son played in the all-star game in 1993. Ryan Lemmon attended Pepperdine University but red-shirted his freshman season. He later transferred to Rancho Santiago College.

“Some of the board members’ sons have played in it in the past and we knew it was a neat experience for them to culminate their high school careers,” Lemmon said. “I remember my son telling me 35 years ago, they had a practice, he went to the practice and I said, ‘how was the practice?’ He said, ‘wow, dad these guys are good,’ so we hope to kind of repeat that comment.

“I remember, as a dad, it was a neat experience, the way they ran it and when my son died in 1994, I wanted to give back to high school baseball and wanted to have an event that honored kids at the end of the year and that’s how we came up with the (Ryan Lemmon) Showcase that honors 220 kids. It’s the best (baseball players) from each league.”

Owens, whose son Ben is the head baseball coach at Tustin High School and Lyon, whose son Jackson was signed by the New York Yankees organization after playing at Woodbridge High School and Cal State Fullerton, will have prominent roles in the all-star game.

A few local coaches have expressed excitement about the Ryan Lemmon Foundation running the game.

“The Ryan Lemmon Foundation does so much good for the Orange County baseball community,” said Corona del Mar Coach Kevin McCaffrey, who was head coach of the South all-star team in 2022. “This is such wonderful news that they are going to run the game and keep this amazing tradition alive. Guy and Dick do such an outstanding job with everything they do. The Orange County baseball community will rally behind the foundation to continue to make this game a success.”

Segerstrom coach Erasmo Ramirez, who was an assistant coach for the South in 2022, added:

“I think it’s a good idea, the Ryan Lemmon Foundation has done a great job, we’ve been a part of what they do since I got the job here 14 years ago. We love playing out there, we love the competition, we like the way Guy and Dick run things and we’ve been part of the spring break tournament, we love the competition and the way it’s mapped out.

“Everything they do is first class and now that they’re going to be in charge of the North-South game, I’m not surprised it was given to them because they have a pretty good strong hold on Orange County baseball and there is no better organization to run that. The Kiwanians over the years have done a great job and have been around forever and now the Ryan Lemmon Foundation will take over, I think it’s a great idea.”

“Glover is cool, I’ve never coached in the game, we’ve had several players play in the all-star game, there is something really cool about Glover but the stadium at the Great Park is beautiful and if we’re going to play in that stadium, I think everyone will say, ‘yeah, let’s do it, let’s make it to the new home place’ for the all-star game,” added Haney, the Crean Lutheran coach who will lead the South.

“There is always an incredible amount of talent on that field. For the kids, it’s just an honor to be named and be alongside those guys.”

Kiwanis Club Chairman Joe Dale could not be reached for comment.

Note: This is an updated story from the one that ran on April 10

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