Education and baseball are inseparable positive forces at Culver City High.
When the 2013 baseball season began in late February, varsity baseball Coach Rick Prieto emphatically stressed, “I think our best asset is our players, their character and their academics. We're 3.5 across the board in our program academically.
“ I'm very proud of that, very much so because that's where it all starts. Everything is secondary after that. Then the students come out and dedicate themselves to our program without question.”
Nine weeks into the season and two weeks through the Ocean League schedule the Centaurs are catching, throwing and hitting straight A’s. In winning a home and away series over Hawthorne by concerted scores of 5-0 and 8-2, they are undefeated in league play with four victories. Culver is tied with Santa Monica, which is also 4-0.
Culver tossed its second consecutive 5-0 home field shutout on Tuesday, April 16, in very windy conditions. Jay Sterner started five innings of resolute work by striking out the Cougar side in the top of the first. He had registered eight strikeouts and given up only one single when Louie Ortega took over for two innings of successful relief.
The game was still scoreless as Culver senior outfielder Jon Im related: “Coach pulled us together in the fourth inning and asked, “Who’s going to start this? Who is going to give us that spark to get us going?” Daniel Hennessey gets on with a walk and Tim Stewart just goes up there and jacks one over the right field fence. That was the spark that got us going.”
Juan Alcala followed with a triple and scored to make it 3-0. Mike Netzel drove in two more runs with a double in the sixth.
Jon Im discussed being a student-athlete, “Most likely I will be attending UCLA in the fall studying biochemistry. Culver City High has helped me a lot. At first I thought baseball would be detrimental to my grades because baseball takes a lot of commitment. But it’s helped me all the way to develop a hard work ethic.
“What Coach taught me was, “If you want it you’ve got to really go and get it. You’ve got to work really hard for it with all your soul and your might.” Learning that on the baseball field, taking that work ethic into the classroom more so: Do I want to go to a good school? Do I want to do something with my life? Then I’ve got to work hard for it.”
Im reiterated this work ethic in Culver’s Thursday 8-2 win at Hawthorne, “Darian Sylvester, our leadoff batter, hit a hanging curve ball to left field to start us off with a home run. Eventually we were tied at 2-2 as we had a couple of defensive errors. Coach always tells us, “We have to get back into that mental state where we are focused. Forget all the errors we just made. We just have to get focused.” And that’s exactly what we did.
“Darian hit another home run in his third at-bat. He took it to centerfield this time. And even Little Mike, Michael Netzel, took one to left field with a three-run shot. Senior pitcher Nate Matthews did a great job. He started and threw six innings. One of our players made an error. Nate went over and patted him on the back and said, ‘Forget about it.’
“That was huge. The seniors’ role is to help out. But here everybody helps out everybody. More than anything, as a unit, as a team, we are very close. We’re like a family. Definitely.”
Im appreciates education and success in the classroom as well,
“Despite Culver City being a huge public school, the departments have done a great job teaching the kids even though the class sizes are large. Ms. Leona Mullen teaches English. She actually got me to like English. She opened my eyes up to a totally new subject that I didn’t even really consider.
“ She taught me more than anything, “Don’t give up on anything because you don’t like it, if you’re not good at it initially. You have to try out things.”
“Mr. Jerod Dien, my algebra II, trigonometry and calculus teacher, sponsors a club called M.E.S.A. It stands for Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement. We’re in the USC region and Ben Louie is the coordinator. I’ve been in that club since my freshman year.
“ We compete in the annual Jet Propulsion Laboratory competition. Last year one of the school’s teams went to the finals and we won that competition.
“I want to study biochemistry because it has to do with medicine. I want to be a doctor later but I also want to be a medical researcher while I’m practicing medicine. I’m definitely not going to forget about baseball though.”