One of the pro-playing hopefuls who recently participated in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball’s highly attended league-wide open tryout session at Sonoma’s Peterson Field was the Valley’s Tommy Lyons, who said after the tryouts, “This is an opportunity that really allows dreams to come true for local guys.”
Well, earlier in the week, the dream did come true for not only Lyons, but another local, Jayce Ray, with both former Sonoma Valley High School graduates and teammates becoming the first players signed by the independent minor league Sonoma Stompers Baseball Club in its inaugural season.
Lyons was an all-league-All-Empire player for the Dragons under his father, SVHS head varsity baseball coach and English teacher Don Lyons, as well as a college diamond standout.
“Tommy (Lyons) represents baseball and Sonoma in everything he does,” said Sonoma Stompers General Manager Theo Fightmaster, who made the signing announcement. “His father Don has dedicated his career to working with young, aspiring ballplayers, and has taught many about the game of baseball, as well as far more important things in life.”
Lyons, who spent 2013 in the Pacific Association with the then-named East Bay Lumberjacks, said he heard talks of the league adding a new expansion team, and kept his fingers crossed that the team would land in Sonoma.
“I was pretty excited when I heard the Stompers were joining the league,” Lyons said. “Being given an opportunity to represent a new franchise, in front of my hometown no less, is truly a dream come true. Words cannot express my gratitude toward the entire Sonoma Stompers organization for giving me a chance to continue my playing career, and especially to play in front of my hometown.”
Lyons, 23, was a key member of the first North Coast Section championship baseball team in SVHS history in 2008, when he hit .321 with 30 runs batted in, and earned his second straight All-Redwood Empire first-team honors.
In college, Lyons played for Sonoma State University before transferring to NCAA Division-2 New Mexico Highlands University, where he began playing midway through his junior season and continued to contribute as a solid-hitting first-baseman through his standout senior campaign.
The Sonoman posted a .321 batting average, with four doubles, two home runs, a slugging percentage of .500 and a .418 on-base percentage, and ended up earning Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference all-academic second-team honors, while graduating with a degree in criminal justice.
Also a prep all-league and All-Empire standout who helped lead the Dragons to the NCS title, Ray, 25, was an All-American at Santa Rosa Junior College, who accepted an athletic scholarship from the University of Washington and turned in two outstanding seasons, while receiving 2013 all-PAC 12 honorable mention.
“Jayce is a great fit for what we’re doing here in Sonoma,” Fightmaster said. “He has a chance to do some great things with the Stompers, and in the Pacific Association. It’s my hope that this is just a brief stop in a very long career for Jayce.”
Graduating with a degree in sociology, Ray finished his senior season starting all 56 games for the Huskies, batting .309, with 11 doubles, four triples, 36 RBIs, 35 runs and .395 and .380 slugging and on-base percentages, respectively.
“Playing in my home town brings a lot of excitement to me because I am able to go do what I love and I still get to come home and be with friends and family,” Ray said, “I have had so much support and love from family and friends over the years when I have been away, it feels great that they only have to travel downtown to watch me play.”
Stompers manager Casey Dill added, “(Jayce) has had success at every level of baseball he has played at, and the team is fortunate to have an impact player of his caliber in the community. Jayce is a projectable player who is expected to be a starter in the Stompers outfield.”
In their season opener on Tuesday, June 3, the Sonoma Stompers will face the 2013 Pacific Association Division Champion San Rafael Pacifics at Albert Park in San Rafael.
Rounding out the PAPB league are the Vallejo Admirals, and the soon-to-be-named Pittsburg team.
The Stompers’ home opener is slated for Tuesday, July 1, at Arnold Field, where 33 home games during July and August will be played, with a featured home spring training exhibition game against Pittsburg on Wednesday, May 28.
Season tickets are on sale now at stompersbaseball.com., and start at $3 a seat.