By Ryan Menzie
For The Signal
Casey Burrill officially will be stepping down as head baseball coach at West Ranch High School, but plans to stay on as an assistant coach for as long as they’ll have him around, he said this week.
Burrill loves the program but said he wants to be able to spend more time with his wife traveling around in their motorhome together over the summer. Ryan Lindgreen, the school’s athletic director, will be assuming head coaching responsibilities next season.
“The most rewarding thing is the kids you get to spend all this time with,” he said of his tenure as head coach. “What I will always remember and cherish the most is the amount of time I got to spend with some really great young men that love baseball as much as I do.
“We’ve won league titles, won tournaments and got deep in the playoffs, but when I can be out at dinner or at the mall and someone calls me ‘Coach,’ and he talks about how they’re doing … that’s what it’s all about.”
Burrill started his baseball career playing at Hart High School, which included a tough CIF title loss to Cerritos at Dodger Stadium his senior year in 1989. Burrill went on to play at USC on scholarship and eventually got drafted by the Atlanta Braves after earning All-American honors.
Once his playing days were over, he got his teaching start at Valencia High School and stayed for two years, then on to Saugus High School for four, according to an online bio, before joining the original staff for West Ranch High baseball in 2004.
Burrill’s influence on the program will no doubt be felt next year, regardless of how hands-on he is as an assistant coach. Lindgreen, who will be assuming head coaching responsibilities next season, was a senior during Burrill’s first year at Saugus High.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without Casey,” said Lindgreen. “He was my main influence to get into high school coaching and teaching. I was working as a sports journalist, as well as other multimedia work, but he convinced me to become a teacher and make baseball a full-time thing. My career has been absolutely through the roof because of him.”
Burrill was at Saugus for five years, gained significant success and eventually got hired as the first head coach and second teacher at West Ranch. Burrill has led the program since 2005 and, until last month, he was the only baseball coach in West Ranch history.
Mark Crawford, principal for West Ranch, grew up playing baseball and continues to appreciate the game. Crawford said he cherishes all the history and achievements Burrill has brought to West Ranch and looks forward to following him in his next chapter.
“Being a principal, I was so excited to have Casey as a coach and I have so much respect for all the things he has accomplished as a coach,” said Crawford. “I have so much respect for Casey not only as a coach, but also his integrity and how he gets along with the kids. He was always for the kids and never about himself.”
Burrill said he’s been fortunate to coach the best young talent and group of boys turned into men he could have ever asked for, which included Major League draftees Jagger Rusconi and JC Cloney.
Rusconi was drafted out of high school and plays for the Chicago White Sox. Rusconi said he owes much of his success to Burrill and understands the lasting legacy Burrill has built from his time at West Ranch.
“It was evident that Casey cared about his players. He’s a great guy and a great person and always instilled in his players to be good people first,” said Rusconi. “Casey, you have left an incredible legacy. You are a great person to me and my family and I couldn’t be more grateful for what you have done for my career and my family.”
Cloney played in three different colleges out of high school before being drafted in 2017 while playing at the University of Arizona. Cloney appreciates all he has learned from Burrill, the summers working with him Monday to Friday for baseball camps, which he says was all worth it.
“Honestly, it’s more than baseball with him. A lot of people connected with him and he would always treat us like men and always kept us accountable for our mistakes,” said Cloney. “Casey, thank you for sacrificing your time away from your family for us. The amount of time you were on the field for us was unbelievable. When practice ended, we got to go home while you still had to teach classes. I will never forget your appreciation for the game.”
Looking back at his time so far with the program, Burrill expressed appreciation and humility at being able to be able to be a part of their lives and “their baseball journey.”
“Baseball mirrors life, many times difficult and challenging,” he said. “It won’t always go your way, but in the end we’ve all chosen to play and be a fan of the sport. It’s as close to playing the game of life as any sport out there. It was an honor to be a part of their baseball journey. It is the single greatest thing I’ve ever done as a person, to be a coach for all these young men.”