Coach John Emme returned to the Corona del Mar High baseball field on Monday. He was supposed to feel recharged after spending the second part of spring break last week away from the game.
Emme said he was down. Baseball wasn't on his mind.
News of one of his former player's passing away last week was and the loss has affected the 48-year-old Emme.
Emme said he received a message that Keith Long, a former CdM standout, died at age 27 from complications from chronic bronchitis on Friday.
"Every kid that you have leaves a piece with you," Emme said. "Keith was a very special kid to me."
Long's first season with the Sea Kings came in 2000, Emme's third season in charge at CdM.
When Emme first saw Long, he stood out as a freshman.
There aren't too many ninth-graders starting on varsity, let alone at a strong program like CdM. The Sea Kings were coming off a CIF Southern Section Division IV title when Long arrived.
"Certainly some of the older kids were not thrilled that a freshman walked in and started," Emme said. "He was the best guy for the job."
Long became the first and only four-year starter at shortstop for Emme, who's in his 15th season at CdM.
Long went on to earn first-team All-Pacific Coast League and second-team All-CIF Southern Section Division IV honors in his senior season in 2003. While Long never won a section title, Emme said his approach to the game rubbed off on teammates.
"If you asked the 2004 CIF championship team why it won, the players would say that Keith Long taught us how," Emme said. "No one came and worked as hard as we he did. Jeritt Thayer said he took him under his wing and showed him how to be an infielder. Parker Ferguson said we learned our motto, the Sea Kings way, which is class, hustle and dedication, from Keith Long."
Emme said the Sea Kings would honor Long for the rest of the season by playing the way he did.
Emme said CdM (11-6), ranked No. 7 in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 poll, plans to pay a small tribute to Long before its Pacific Coast League home game against Northwood on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m.
John Long said services for his son are at Mariners Church in Irvine on April 23 at 11 a.m., followed by a graveside service at Pacific View Memorial Park & Mortuary and a celebration of his life at the Bayside Village North Clubhouse. Both events are in Newport Beach.
"We're happy to have Jeff Pries, a former CdM baseball player, as the pastor, who will preside over the services," said Long, adding that his son is survived by his three sisters, Kimberly Long, Christine Fish and Alexis Mottl-Long; and his mother, Sandy Long.
CdM on Tuesday is recognizing eight senior athletes, who have signed national letters of intent or made a commitment to a college recently.
The ceremony is at lunch at 12:35 p.m. in the quad.
The athletes are Mason Case (UC Berkeley men's soccer), Hollace Barden (UC Santa Barbara women's swimming), Cole Cottrell (USC football), Michaela Gentosi (San Diego State women's rowing), Blake Myers (UCLA men's track and field/cross country), Jared Namba (Columbia men's swimming), Michael Ortlieb (Holy Cross men's lacrosse) and Britton Taylor (UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball).
Corona del Mar, Newport Harbor and Sage Hill are ranked in their respective CIF Southern Section boys' volleyball polls this week.
The Sea Kings (16-5) are No. 2 in Division 2, the Sailors (17-7) are No. 10 in Division 1 and the Lighting (15-11) are No. 7 in Division 4.
The CdM boys' lacrosse team is a perfect 14-0 this season.
The Sea Kings, ranked No. 5 in the state by laxpower.com, went 3-0 during the prestigious Jerry Langkammer Invitational at St. Ignatius Prep in San Francisco.
The only other top-10 team that is undefeated is St. Ignatius Prep. It's too bad the Sea Kings didn't play top-ranked St. Ignatius (15-0) during the invitational.