The Orange County baseball community is in mourning after Laguna Beach High baseball coach Jeff Sears, the most successful coach in the history of the program, passed away Sunday morning at Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach. He was 55.
Laguna Boys volleyball coach Lance Stewart said Sears had been living with Stewart and his family for the past year and a half. He was taken to the emergency room on Jan. 10 because he was having trouble breathing, Stewart said, and his blood oxygen level was below 80%.
“Saturday night they gave him 100% oxygen again,” Stewart said. “They had found blood clots in his legs and lungs.”
Sears’ mother and two sisters traveled from Oregon, Stewart said, and the Laguna Beach baseball boosters have started a GoFundMe to help with travel and funeral expenses. By Tuesday afternoon, it had raised nearly $24,000.
“It’s tough,” Stewart said, adding that Sears had no wife or children. “He loved baseball and he loved kids. He had a perfect temperament to work with kids… His family was made up of his high school and baseball kids. He coached my kids, and they’re both wrecks. They’re pretty broken, just like everyone else, it’s quite a shock when it goes so fast.”
Sears was Laguna Beach’s baseball coach from 2008-2011, before returning in 2017. The Breakers’ 2011 Orange Coast League title was Laguna’s first league title in baseball since 1963.
Heading into his 10th year as the Breakers coach, Sears had a career record of 143-95. He was the all-time leader in wins, leading the Breakers to three of their 10 league titles in the program’s history.
Sears was known as a larger-than-life personality, who seemingly always had a story to tell.
Laguna Beach baseball coach Jairo Ochoa said he had known Sears for more than 20 years, including Sears’ assistant coaching stints at University High and Chapman University, both schools Ochoa attended. Ochoa spent some time on Sunday afternoon with the current players on the field, getting together and paying their respects.
“He is loved and respected by so many people in the baseball community, from coaches to players, ex-players who became coaches,” Ochoa said. “The baseball community definitely feels a void in his passing. He was just one of the guys that everyone loved. They were all looking forward to playing Jeff. He’s always been one of the smartest guys in the game and he kept the The opponent’s coaches were always sharp. You knew you were going to play a good game, and you would have a good laugh. He was just that man.”
So was CdM baseball coach Kevin McCaffrey, who said he’d known Sears since they both coached in college. He said Sears liked the University of Oregon and that McCaffrey went to the University of Arizona, so good-hearted ribbing often ensued.
“He was the life of every meeting,” McCaffrey said. “He would go to all our [CdM] fundraisers, which is good to see when an opponent coach wants to come and play in our golf tournaments, poker tournaments. He was just always up for a good time and supporting the baseball community. He was a wonderful person; I was shocked when I heard the news.”
Jackson Yelland, who graduated from the program in 2020, said he last saw Sears at the alumni competition on Jan. 8 before flying back to school. Yelland is now a sophomore pitcher for Kenyon College in Ohio.
“He cared so much about his players and former players,” Yelland said. “I always loved going home and training with him… He meant so much to the team, he meant so much to the city and even the county and baseball in general.
“He always loved to see us and greeted us with a hug and a smile. That’s something I’ll always remember.”
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