By: Austin Alexander – December 3, 2020
On Thursday afternoon a Hall of Fame person and baseball man passed away due to a lengthy illness. Lon Joyce, 72, moves on to the Heavenly Gates as his wife Reada plus daughters Brett and Mary Katherine remain with us in our prayers.
Coach Joyce, “21” what a champion! Most people saw him everywhere, coaching/scouting genius – and he was but I want to tell you about the man I knew.
The year was 1984 and I was ten years old. I attended his summer baseball camp at Spartanburg Methodist College and thought I was a pretty good player. Perhaps I actually was good enough because each day he walked and talked to me on the way to the cafeteria and back to the ballpark. That was my first in-person contact with a guy I had only read about in the newspaper. Little did I know that our paths would cross for another 35 years.
Fast forward to 1992…Not only did I continue attending his camps, now it was time make money to gas up my pitiful liittle brown Toyota Corolla! It was ‘my pleasure’ to have a job at Chick-fil-A. I caught word that the former SMC coach, now Los Angeles Dodgers scout wanted to see me play at Travelers Rest High School. The game had been rescheduled following a rainout for a Saturday night. True or false that Lon Joyce was coming to see me? I called in every favor to trade work time with a friend. Coach Joyce was there and I wish I had not showed up on a night I would have been better off making minimum wage in the mall’s food court!
Fast forward to 1993…I did not like how my delivery felt so I handed my VHS tape to my grandfather to hand off to his neighbor, Coach Joyce. Coach called me, left a message on the family answering machine. I later called Coach and my mechanics were straightened out. (btw, teens, this last paragraph just blew your mind, never mind – if this is not a video by Dude Perfect so you aren’t even reading this.)
Fast forward to 1994…I was now a player at SMC, three teammates drafted by the Dodgers, I was not one despite a pretty good freshman year. But not good enough for the Dodgers or any other team, Coach Joyce did still give me optimism.
Fast forward to 1996…Coach Joyce showed up at my parent’s home for me to transport his oldest daughter, Brett, to the College of Charleston. He later scouted me there, but I still was not good enough. But I was honored that he trusted me with his first born.
Fast forward to 1997…I had now played with five Dodger draftees and after Los Angeles and 29 other teams had passed on me, I knew it was time to coach. Coach Joyce was amazing from that time on in terms with helping in that area, afterall the dugout is where he earned his first Hall of Fame honors.
Fast forward to 2000…I am now a young coach back at my alma mater and he was a staple at our backstop and in our bullpen, a very welcomed addition wherever he inserted himself. But here is the thing, he never was pushy, yet always very helpful, always.
Fast forward to 2006…I have a few years under my coaching belt and Coach Joyce meets me in Burlington, NC at a Cracker Barrel and asks me to be an associate scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now understand that an associate in most organizations comes with no pay. Same with the Dodgers. Which was fine with this guy because it meant I had minor league pass each year (that he sent me) and that I had the opportunity become the understudy of the recently-named Hall of Fame scout, Mr. Lon Joyce. I accepted his offer graciously!
Fast forward to 2019-2020…All these years later my mentor attended every single Diamond Prospects event until he was physically unable to. Finally got his ring too (left). On Thursday, this pillar of consistency, a winner of life and my good friend passed away. BUT, not before he left his fingerprints all over the game of baseball, including the reigning World Series MVP, who also contacted Coach Joyce in the final hours on this Earth.
Here are the facts, it has taken close to eight hours to write this tribute to a Hall of Fame human. Not because I don’t type as fast as you but because my phone has been on fire since his passing this afternoon. Here is another fact. Within minutes of speaking to a quality high school team, I learned of his passing. I have talked to several names you know tonight, ironically one term keeps surfacing as it pertains to Lon Joyce – Gentleman, not a term you often here in sports circa 2020.
If you or I, or anyone you know can measure up to the man he was for 35 years of my life…then you were probably a winning person in every aspect of every single thing you chose to do in your time on this planet.
So, Coach Joyce, “21” - thank you for the influence you had on so many of us that will miss you dearly, but we all adore your impact in each of our lives!