NHHS baseball family rallies for Ogburn, Seabold

The ball smacked off the bat and fired right toward Liam Ogburn, the Newport Harbor High pitcher.

He had no time to move away from the danger. He could only react to the damage.


The ball pounded at his right foot. It wouldn't be a surprise if he had fallen and grimaced in pain.

But no. Instead he made it seem as if nothing had hit him. His only concern was making the out. He did.

He found the ball, picked it up and threw out the runner. He helped the Sailors win their season opener, 6-0, against Los Angeles Cathedral Thursday by making a play that came from his father's advice.

John Ogburn had always told his son to focus on making the play in those types of situations when he coached him during Newport Harbor Baseball Assn. games.

John Ogburn tells his son now to concentrate on baseball and his life, but for much different reasons than throwing out a runner.

John Ogburn has Stage 4 throat cancer. His 55th birthday fell on the day his son made the fascinating play against Cathedral. It was a bright moment in what might be perceived as a dark time.

Yet the Ogburns clutch onto hope, not despair, says John Ogburn's wife, Amy.

Playing ball, excelling in academics and just being a teenager is all John Ogburn asks of his son.

Liam listens and continues to focus.

The Newport Harbor junior pitcher is doing his best to make this a big year for the Sailors, who are off to a 2-1 start. The out he made in the final inning against Cathedral didn't seem like a huge contribution, but it's a play that can inspire his teammates.

"I was thinking, if my dad can deal with cancer I can deal with a ball to the foot," Liam said after the game. "I felt it hit my foot, but I just wanted to make the play."

The adversity Liam is dealing with has been easier to confront with the support of his teammates and their families.

Playing behind two, NCAA-Division 1-bound pitchers, Connor Seabold and Shaun Vetrovec, has motivated Liam. He looks up to the seniors, who push him to improve.

Seabold, who has a scholarship to play for Cal State Fullerton, has also been helpful when it comes to dealing with the emotional challenges.

Seabold's mother, Erin Brown, endured breast cancer two years ago. The cancer returned, but to her bones, this past fall, and she continues to receive treatment.

Seabold has the same tasks to carry out — to do his best to live a "normal" life.

The pitchers thrive because of their talent, yet also because of the support from their teammates, their brothers.

The team has a Facebook page, and the name is evidence of what the program is all about: Newport Harbor Baseball Family.

John Ogburn saw that family support on March 1, when the baseball program and other families held a special dinner to raise money for the Ogburns.

He couldn't hold back the tears because he said the kindness from the community was overwhelming.

He doesn't need to talk about his plight. It can be seen, as his body has become frail and he has lost his hair.

Brown, a single mother, has done her best to maintain a happy home. Seabold's father, Kirk, who coached Connor and his two younger brothers, Cade and Carson, lives close by.

Amid the adversity, John Ogburn and Brown have shown a unique, positive outlook and much of it comes from the game their children play.

"It's indescribable," John Ogburn said of the community's willingness to help. "Most people don't get a chance to see the love and support I have received. I got to see it on [March 1]. I cried through most of it. This community is so incredibly generous. They just give."

Brown has seen Connor, who has become one of the better starters in the county, excel on the mound.

In his first start this season, the right-hander delivered a gem against Mission Viejo. He pitched a complete-game, two-hitter with three strikeouts and one walk. He also had two hits, leading the Sailors to a 4-0 win against Mission Viejo on Saturday.

"I have taught my boys to look at all of what I am going through as a moment of time in our lives," Brown said in an email. "All of this will pass, and our lives will get better, and I will be healthy again.

"We need to focus and be thankful for what we have and the time that we have together. Connor has so much to look forward to this year, and my goal is to have him focus on what he needs to do and not on my situation."

After Seabold singled, drew two walks, scored three runs and stole three bases in the Sailors' season opener, he talked about his mentality that also applies to his friend, Liam.

"You just gotta play ball," he said, shrugging his shoulders.

Seabold admires Liam and the way he has been handling his situation.

"Liam is great," Seabold said. "He is a wonderful person. You wouldn't know what he is going through unless he told you. He just comes out every day and plays hard. He gives it his all. And that's all you really can do. I can get what he's going through because I have gone through the same thing. He's been strong and he knows he has all our support."

Liam showed his determination Monday, when he pitched a three-hitter with one walk, yet took a 1-0 loss to Northwood, which scored on an unearned run.

Newport Harbor Coach Evan Chalmers has enjoyed watching Seabold and Liam maintain a strong love for the game.

Chalmers can relate to the boys. When he was 28, he lost his father to cancer.

Baseball has been therapeutic.

Chalmers, in his first year back after being let go from the program four years ago, has wanted his players to be aggressive and to thrive on the team's stellar pitching.

Get after it. That's what he wants.

It's a valuable lesson.

For whatever happens in life, that's all that might be needed.

A message from the Ogburns

After being diagnosed with Stage IV throat cancer, my family and I felt completely overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty about our future. Then God gave us a miracle which has forever changed our hearts. He gave us Love. To all of you dear friends and family from our community and around the country, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all the love you graced upon our family. We are so incredibly blessed. It is difficult to express our appreciation with words that hardly seem worthy of the gift you gave to us. So know that you have profoundly impacted this small family of three.

Thank you.

Love, John, Amy & Liam Ogburn

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World