It’s the toughest question posed to friends and coaches of Royce Lewis of San Juan Capistrano JSerra:
Is he a better baseball player or a better person?
For two years, as a sophomore and junior, he has been selected the player of the year in the Trinity League. This season, he batted .429 with 42 hits, nine doubles and four home runs.
Off the field, he’s about as good a teammate as anyone could want. He still thinks his best position is shortstop, but for three years he hasn’t complained one bit about playing third base or center field. JSerra already had a pretty good shortstop in UCLA-bound Chase Strumpf.
“He just wants to win,” JSerra Coach Brett Kay said. “He wants to do everything for the team. He’s not about numbers or statistics.”
Lewis has been selected as The Times’ Southern California high school baseball player of the year for 2016.
Jim Ozella, the coach at Newhall Hart, whose team lost to the Lions in the Division 1 quarterfinals, said of Lewis:
“He’s driving the car and they’re coming along for the ride. That kid can play. He plays at a different level and a different speed.”
Lewis doesn’t just hit baseballs — he launches them in all directions.
“The way for me to hit is, I treat it like a boxing match,” he said. “If my one punch will knock him down, it will take him three punches to knock me down.”
Lewis said his parents have made an impact in how he lives his life.
“My parents set the standard,” he said. “They are my life. I love them. They say, ‘Be nice.’ There’s reason not to be mean to other people, and stay courteous and humble.”
Kay marvels at what he sees from Lewis on and off the field.
“Royce is one of those players who comes around once in every blue moon,” he said. “He’s a special talent. By the time he graduates, he’s going to be the best player who’s ever played in our program and will go down as one of the best players in Southern California.”
Lewis is committed to UC Irvine but is expected to be one of the Southern California’s top pro prospects in 2017.