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Former CdM baseball coach John Emme dies after biking accident

Longtime Corona del Mar baseball coach John Emme, shown after managing his last game for the Sea Kings in 2018, died Monday.
Longtime Corona del Mar baseball coach John Emme, shown after managing his last game for the Sea Kings in 2018, died Monday. He was 57 years old.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

John Emme, who coached the Corona del Mar High School baseball team for 21 years and remained a teacher at the school, died Monday morning after a biking accident.

Emme was 57 years old.

Mark Hatfield, a senior first baseman on Emme’s 1999 CIF Southern Section Division IV title team who remained a good friend of Emme’s, said that he was involved in a biking accident in Newport Beach on Sept. 4 and had been in a coma since being taken to Orange County Global Medical Center in Santa Ana.

“The specifics are kind of blurry,” Hatfield said. “People don’t really know if he got hit by a car or he fell.”

Emme, known for his sarcasm but also his kindness, led the Sea Kings to two CIF titles. They also won the Division IV title in 2004, as well as six league titles before he resigned after the 2018 season. He earned 335 wins in his time in charge and taught psychology and human sexuality at CdM.

Emme, unable to stay away from the sport, returned to CdM baseball as an assistant coach this past spring. Current head coach Kevin McCaffrey, who came over from University High as Emme’s assistant in 2018 before taking over as head coach, was happy to bring him back.

“He just lived for CdM baseball,” McCaffrey said. “He had a passion for being out on the field and being with the boys. Obviously, it’s difficult right now, having to break it to our team and the boys on the football team was pretty tough. He loved CdM.”

John Emme, right, shares a laugh with an umpire in 2017.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Former players also took the news hard. JT Schwartz, a senior on Emme’s final team in 2018, was a standout first baseman for UCLA before being drafted in the fourth round of the Major League Baseball Draft this summer by the New York Mets. He said he talked to Emme after he was drafted in July.

“He always reached out and cared a lot about how I was doing,” Schwartz said. “That’s one of the things I remember the most about him, how he would always tell myself and others how proud he was of us, not just as baseball players but as people.”

Chazz Martinez, another 2018 senior of Emme’s and four-year varsity player, was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 12th round this summer after playing for Orange Coast College.

“It was interesting to have him as a coach and as a sex-ed teacher,” Martinez said with a laugh. “We had a good time, definitely. He was just always trying to have a good time, with the class and with baseball.”

Evan Chalmers coached against Emme plenty during his two stints as Newport Harbor High head baseball coach, the second stint ending this year. But after he was fired in 2009, Emme brought him over to the other side of the bay as an assistant coach at CdM for four years.

Chalmers said he also remembers having lunch with Emme just after he was originally hired at Newport Harbor, too, in 2006.

“He says, ‘I know we’re rivals and you don’t know me that well, but we’re in this together,’” Chalmers said. “I go, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said this was about Newport-Mesa Unified more than it was about us being enemies. It’s about us making sure that we bring good baseball to this area. And I’ve never forgot that.”

Chalmers said Emme was the youngest child of a large family. He was married twice, and his second ex-wife, Autumn, also is a teacher at CdM. He had no children.

“Today was tough,” Chalmers said Monday night. “Really, really tough. Our community lost someone so amazing. He had his whole retirement ahead of him ... He and I had an amazing relationship, and I don’t know how I’m going to replace it.”

Hatfield said Emme would always ask about his son, Cameron, now a seventh-grader, and watch him play youth baseball in the area.

“There’s a lot of really sad people,” Hatfield said. “He did a lot of good things for not only his former players but his students. He was a coach, but he was a teacher first.”

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