State Coach of Year: Jason Ramirez

Head coach Jason Ramirez poses with team at California of Whittier after it completed 12-0 perfect run in the Del Rio League. Photo: James Escarcega / SGV Whittier Prep Sports Zone.

California of Whittier didn’t win a CIF Southern Section title and didn’t win a CIF SoCal regional title, but if you find out what Condors’ head coach Jason Ramirez has gone through over the past two seasons with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) there’s no doubt this major coaching honor is very much deserved. He’s also a perfect representative as the 50th State Coach of the Year since 1974.


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There are seasons in which a major honor such as the State Softball Coach of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports, which now goes back for 51 years but with 50 winners due to one year of COVID, just has to go to one person for the impact he or she has had not just for their own school but for others from all across the country.

It doesn’t matter that California of Whittier head coach Jason Ramirez had already been named State Medium Schools Coach of the Year for 2023. While no one is eligible ever to be a State Coach of the Year more than once, they can later be honored with the overall selection.

It also doesn’t matter that Jason’s team at Cal came up short in the CIF Southern Section D2 championship game in a heart-breaking bottom of the seventh 5-4 loss to Gahr of Cerritos or that the Condors lost in the CIF SoCal D1 regional playoffs to Del Norte of San Diego. It was still a huge over-achieving season for Ramirez and his girls and they did it despite the coach suffering the worsening effects of having ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) for a second season.

Perhaps knowing the season wasn’t over yet made it a little easier for head coach Jason Ramirez and team at California (Whittier) to crack a few smiles after tough loss in CIFSS D2 final. Photo: Harold Abend.

It all adds up for a State Coach of the Year selection for Ramirez and he can now get a mention on the all-time list of State Coaches of the Year in softball that includes many of of the winningest head coaches in state history. Ramirez also is just the third ever all-time honoree from the San Gabriel Valley, joining Jill Matyuch in 1993 from Charter Oak of Covina and Dick Barnes from Arroyo of El Monte in 1986.

“When I think about Jason Ramirez, the two keywords that come to mind are connection and resiliency,” said James Escarcega, the editor and publisher of the SGV Whittier Prep Sports Zone and a longtime journalist in Southern California. “Before he was diagnosed with ALS, Ramirez was a great coach, no matter what sport he coached. Softball was his pride and joy – which makes his story that much more compelling. He just has a way of connecting very well with his players and coaches and it’s genuine.”

Ramirez didn’t begin to coach softball at California until after he began his career coaching football. He was diagnosed with ALS in March of 2023 as the season was just getting started and never had a thought of stepping down as the Condors’ softball coach.

Since the end of the 2024 season, however, Jason has had to step down from coaching. There is no cure for ALS, a degenerative neurosystem disease, but there are examples of people living a long time with it. Former Los Gatos High football coach Charlie Wedemeyer was State Coach of the Year in football in 1985 when he had it and in his case he called all the plays by having his wife, Lucy, read his lips as he watched the game from the sideline in a golf cart. Wedemeyer lived until he was in his early 60s.

Ramirez obviously wasn’t able to come out of the dugout during games, but he was clearly in charge both in 2023 and 2024 also while in a golf cart. While 2023 was inspiring enough as the Condors went 21-9-1, qualified for the CIF SoCal D2 regional playoffs and were No. 29 in the final overall state rankings, the 2024 season was something else. Ramirez’s team also won a league title in the 2022 season.

With wins in 10 of its first 11 games, Cal got out to a great start this season. Included was a 7-0 win over the same Gahr team that would edge the Condors in the section final. Winning the Del Rio League title still was no guarantee as La Serna (Whittier) was the defending champion. This time, though, Jason’s girls went 12-0 in league and after the last game a video of him autographing a sign about it went viral as he was in tears and the girls whooped it up surrounding him.

The Condors then won two almost indescribable back-and-forth contests with Whittier Christian of La Habra, and Valley View of Moreno Valley — 7-5 in 14 innings over two days, and 8-7 in 12 innings — to reach the CIFSS D2 championship. A 4-3 lead in the seventh inning, however, couldn’t be held as Gahr rallied for a 5-4 victory.

Cal-Hi Sports associate editor Harold Abend was on hand for the CIFSS finals and like many were looking for the storybook ending.

“I’ll never forget my interview with Coach Ramirez after his team bowed out in (that) game,” Abend said. “Moments earlier he was very emotional when he was with the team & I had tears in my eyes listening..but amazingly when I talked to him he had a big smile..what a coach..what a beautiful saga.”

The team’s final record of 28-5 was set after another loss that came to Del Norte of San Diego in the first round of the CIF SoCal D1 regional playoffs. The team ended in the top 20 of the L.A. Times’ rankings and was No. 23 in the final overall State TOP 40 rankings.

Leading offensive players for the team included junior Isabella Salas (42 hits, .359, 29 runs); sophomore Shirley Acevedo (.416, 37 hits, 6 HRs, 24 RBI); and senior Valerie Vasquez (.349, 6 HRs, 22 RBI). Ramirez used two primary pitchers in sophomore Alexis Salas and junior Pricilla Ramirez, who combined to strike out 271 batters. Ramirez also went 13-4 with a 1.63 ERA while Salas ended 11-1 with a 2.15 ERA.

“I really wish the feeling I have for life and this program could last forever, but all things must come to an end,” Ramirez wrote earlier this month in announcing the medical retirement. “Life has thrown me some curve balls that I didn’t see coming. It’s time to be with family and friends and ride off into the sunset.”

He wrote earlier in his announcement: “To my girls, your hard work, dedication, intelligence, perserverance, passion and outright love for this game, the program and each other is nothing short of astonishing. It’s because of you that I was able to do what I did every day.”

Ramirez also thanked the program’s assistant coaches in his farewell announcement so it would be incomplete for his State Coach of the Year announcement not to mention them as well: Javier Macias, Carlos Aparicio, Ray Gurule, Lorren Sharp, Sal Padilla and Dave Ybarra.

“The physical ailments that have made it a challenge for him to coach only adds to the remarkable story,” Escarcega said. “Even though he will not be in the dugout next year as a coach, I’m sure he’ll make as many games as he can, and his girls will go the extra mile to try and achieve their goal of winning a CIFSS championship.”

All-Time List Cal-Hi Sports
State Softball Coaches Of The Year

2023 State Coach of Year Jim Bennet of Poway is shown with one of his players. Photo:

2024 – Jason Ramirez, Whittier California (28-5)
2023 – Jim Bennet, Poway (29-3)
2022 – Mike Centrullo,
Chula Vista Mater Dei Catholic (22-11)
2021 – Ed Tunstall, Anaheim Esperanza (22-2*)
2020 – No selection (pandemic)
2019 – Matt Sweeney, Pleasanton Foothill (28-0)
2018 – Teresa Mayes-Borchard,
Pleasanton Amador Valley (23-5-1)
2017 – Mike Noel, Clovis (25-6)
2016 – Judy Shaubach, Madera (26-7)
2015 – Margaret Neill, Lancaster Paraclete (27-4)
2014 – Margaret Mauro,
San Diego Cathedral Catholic (29-3)
2013 – Mike Smith, Chino (26-2)
2012 – Rick Robinson, Norco (30-2)
2011 – Scott Smith, Hollister San Benito (29-1)
2010 – Teri Johnson, Union City James Logan (25-5)
2009 – Tony Dobra, San Pedro (28-4)
2008 – Duane Zauner, Lake of the Pines Bear River (29-3)
2007 – Mary Jo Truesdale, Sacramento Sheldon (29-1)
2006 – John Perez, Corona Santiago (26-5)
2005 – Art Banks, Roseville Woodcreek (28-6)
2004 – Pete Ackermann, Westlake Village Oaks Christian (34-1)
2003 – Rob Weil, Garden Grove Pacifica (31-2)
2002 – Brad Griffith, San Diego Mira Mesa (35-1)
2001 – Gary Walin, Thousand Oaks (24-5)
2000 – Jo Ann Byrd, Corona (28-4)
1999 – Jim Liggett, Belmont Carlmont (35-4)
1998 – Joe Given, Salinas Notre Dame (30-2-1)
1997 – Alan Dugard, Irvine Woodbridge (34-2)
1996 – Nancy Acerrio, Chula Vista Hilltop (27-2)
1995 – Marie Dean, Fremont Washington (27-0)
1994 – Joe Gonzalez, Tustin Foothill (25-7)
1993 – Jill Matyuch, Covina Charter Oak (29-0-1)
1992 – Jeff Carlovsky, Escondido (26-2)
1991 – Kevin Newman, San Jose Gunderson (33-2)
1990 – Susie Calderon, Huntington Beach Marina (28-5)
1989 – Sharon Coggins, Ventura Buena (28-2)
1988 – Rich Kerr, San Lorenzo Arroyo (29-1)
1987 – Bob Regpala, Stockton Lincoln (30-0)
1986 – Dick Barnes, El Monte Arroyo (22-1)
1985 – Neils Ludlow, Woodland Hills El Camino Real (19-0)
1984 – Aaron Ishikawa, Stockton Lincoln (37-1)
1983 – Carol Hamilton, San Diego Madison (23-1)
1982 – Rich Spiekerman, Lodi (29-3)
1981 – Leslie Steffen, Hanford (20-4)
1980 – Bob Bush, Santa Maria Righetti (29-0)
1979 – Barbara Weding, Santa Rosa Montgomery (26-1)
1978 – Peggy Linville, Fairfield Armijo (23-0)
1977 – Betsy Ward, Huntington Beach Marina (17-0)
1976 – Janet Balsley, Chula Vista Hilltop (17-0)
1975 – Sally Carmen, Downey Warren (19-1)
1974 – Sandi Behrmann, El Segundo (undefeated)

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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  1. Jason Ramirez
    Posted June 18, 2024 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the aweawesome article and amazing acknowledgement. It means so much to me! If nothing more I hope this article spreads ALS awareness.

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted June 19, 2024 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      You are very welcome and we are honored that you have left a comment. Congratulations to you and your girls for the great season you all had.

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