RIVERSIDE – This is one of those kind of articles that are never fun to write, especially when it hits so close to home, and even more so when it involves someone you know personally. The Valley News has been reporting on the Austin Gorrell Memorial Baseball Classic since the 2015 passing of Kerry and Gina Gorrell’s oldest son. While I was the head baseball coach at Murrieta Mesa (2017-2020), my wife and I personally got to know the Gorrell’s on a friend level and can attest to how much their love and support for our baseball community means to everyone involved.
Their son Austin, who played in high school for JW North, was not wearing his assigned defibrillator vest when he died from heart failure at the early age of 19. At the time of his passing, in his dorm room, Austin, a freshman playing baseball for the University of Nevada, had been diagnosed with a heart condition called cardiomyopathy. The diagnosis came during his preseason physical administered by the school’s athletic department in 2015.
His sudden death shook the Inland baseball community and that is when the Austin Gorrell Memorial Baseball Classic was created. Austin’s family and friends wanted to not only help honor Austin, but to also help local players with scholarship opportunities for college.
The Gorrell family, and tournament, which takes place at this time every year, suffered another tremendous loss two weeks ago when Gina, who had been battling pancreatic cancer for almost four years, lost her battle. Gina was surrounded by close friends and family when she passed away at her home in Riverside County on Friday, Oct. 27.
“She was the toughest woman I know,” says Kerry. “She was working on this year’s tournament all the way up to the evening before she passed. That’s how much it meant for her to spread not only our families love to the young high school players playing the game, but Austin’s as well.”
Gina will be laid to rest Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the Grove Church in Riverside. The service is at 10 a.m. and open to any and all that want to pay their respects, but there is a catch, pun intended.
“Gina said that nobody should wear black,” Kerry stated. “She wants people to go in their closets and get the brightest thing they have. She loved her family and friends and wanted to have a celebration, and that’s what we are going to do.”
Kerry and his oldest son Adam, who currently works for the Los Angeles Angels organization, will immediately head back into tournament mode the day after laying to Gina to rest.
“She was the backbone of this tournament, and we made a pact to see this through,” says Kerry. “While (Adam) and I will do our best, along with our team of family and friends, we could never do what she did behind the scenes. We know the both of them (Austin and Gina) will be overseeing things from above, and that gives us the strength to do this in both of their honor now, and for as long as we can.”
The tournament will open with the annual Home Run Derby Friday, Nov. 17, at Ryan Bonaminio Park in Riverside starting at 5 p.m. This year 47 teams are signed up to play, which tops last year’s mark of 42.
“We just keep growing, and it’s a testament to what Gina was doing every year to bring more and more attention to the tournament,” added Kerry. “She was having a hard time internally when she had to turn teams away, but because of what went into the tournament itself, and there being a lot of moving pieces, she was pretty stuck on a certain number. When I mentioned adding more teams, she wanted to punch me, but with all that has happened, I opened it up to a few more teams and we are close to 50 teams, which is awesome!”
Area high school teams, inside the Valley News coverage area, that are competing this year include Great Oak, Chaparral, Heritage, Citrus Hill, Liberty, Temescal Canyon, Paloma Valley, Murrieta Mesa, Murrieta Valley, and Vista Murrieta. A complete tournament recap will be online at www.myvalleynews.com the week of Thanksgiving. To find out more information about the event, visit www.austingorrellbaseballclassic.com.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at email@example.com.