What’s the best kept athletic secret at Culver City High School? It’s the baseball field at the southwest end of the campus. It’s hidden behind a canvas fence covering, and when you walk through one of the gates on Harter Ave., you discover a baseball player’s dream. It’s one of the best kept fields in Southern California.
“I have been blessed,” said longtime Culver City varsity baseball coach Rick Prieto during a telephone interview last week. “My father and mother showed me how to be responsible. They taught me the work ethic and the pride. I saw this all of my life. They instilled that in me.”
Prieto has been the baseball coach at Culver City High School for the past 30 years. For 27 years, he has been the varsity head coach. He is also a teacher at the high school. “In 1997, I was hired as a full-time teacher,” said Prieto.
He teaches 9th grade physical education and in the past, he also taught Social Studies. He has a Master’s Degree in Physical Education from Azusa Pacific and an undergraduate degree in history from Loyola Marymount.
Like other coaches and teachers all over the world, Prieto has had to make adjustments because of the coronavirus pandemic. “I gathered all the players together, and l let them know that we will have restrictions. This was right before the stay at home orders were implemented. I told them let’s continue to be positive and stay strong and I also told them to stay on top of their academics.”
There are six seniors out of 17 players on this year’s team that saw their seasons cut short by the virus. Prieto was hoping for a banner year. “This year was the kind of year that I thought we were going to do something really special because of the chemistry of the team. All six of our seniors started as freshmen in the program and we had a good combination of juniors and sophomores. We were also blessed this year with two outstanding freshmen. When I see young players like that it takes me back a long way to players like Hector Zamora, Tony Walsh and Devaughn Wallace. When you look at the young athletes, you get excited.”
This season, one of the players that played four years on the varsity was infielder Joaquin Hines who was featured in an article in the Los Angeles Times a few weeks ago. Hines was also the team captain. “We have been blessed to have Joaquin for four years,” said Prieto. “Just his personality, his character and the makeup of this young man is so special.”
Prieto continued to talk about Hines. “He is the type of player you want to lead a baseball team. He was a silent leader. He led by example. He was the first one in the club house to get dressed and the first one out on the field. He was like that all four years.”
Another senior that contributed a lot to the Centaur team was pitcher, outfielder and first baseman Dylan Singh. “Dylan stepped up quite a bit this year,” said Prieto. “He was more of a quiet individual the past three years but this year I saw a whole different person. He started to be a leader that cared about his teammates.”
Prieto also had one of the best two sport athletes in Southern California in Tanner Duve. The senior outfielder was also an outstanding all-league wide receiver in football. “That young man is so special,” said Prieto referring to Duve. “For him to play two sports and get a scholarship to Penn to play football is awesome. He was an unbelievable presents in the outfield. If the ball was hit anywhere near him he would make the catch. He was one of the best outfielders I have ever coached.”
One of the last things Prieto told his team before the season was cut short by the virus was priorities. Family is number one, number two is academics and number three is baseball. Although he did not tell his players, number four on the list was probably taking care of the Culver City baseball field.