At Los Banos High School on Monday, the softball team’s loss was the baseball team’s gain.
Pat Fuentes, who has been an assistant softball coach under Dustin Caropreso for two years, was named the head baseball coach this week, and will replace Mike Lemos, who stepped down this summer due to a commitment conflict with work.
Fuentes played second base at Los Banos High, winning a section title in 1994 and graduating in 1995. He went on to become a two-time all-American at Merced College before playing at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri. He said Culver-Stockton was the only college that would take him based on his grades, and said he will try to pass on the lessons he learned from that experience.
“That’s one thing I will not let my team lack is grades. I’m coming in, and that’s one thing I told myself I would do,” Fuentes said. “One of my coaches, I always remembered, only coach that ever did it, posted his roster with the names and their GPA (grade point average). That was one of my youth coaches.
“Los Banos High has been around for how long? And how many major-leaguers have we had? None. So, just make them good men, and see what happens.”
Fuentes’ coaching career began as a varsity assistant at Sheldon High in Elk Grove, and he returned to Los Banos to coach baseball under his cousin David Zuniga in 2011. When Zuniga stepped down after that season, Fuentes joined the softball staff while Lemos took over the baseball team.
“I learned a lot of my game from (Zuniga),” Fuentes said. “When he was playing pro ball, I was playing college. He actually took me from being a second-team punk to a first-team all-American. A lot of people don’t know it, and he doesn’t even know it, but a lot of that hard work was from him.”
Los Banos High started strong last spring, then fizzled in league play, finishing with a 15-10 record, and 4-8 in league. That finish was one spot away from the playoffs for the second year in a row. Lemos was 24-23 in his two-year stint.
Los Banos athletic director Joe Barcellos said he wanted to make a hire as soon as possible, since the baseball coach can work with players who don’t play a fall sport.
“He’s obviously played a lot of baseball. I think he’s going to relate well with the kids,” Barcellos said. “He served as an assistant under Dave Zuniga for a couple of years. He spent the last couple of years as an assistant under Dustin Caropreso for softball. He obviously knows the game. I think his biggest attribute is that he’s going to be able to relate well to the kids. He’s played a lot, he’s been successful at a high level in the sport, and I think he’s going to be able to put together a quality coaching staff.”
For Fuentes, his approach to baseball and his off-field philosophy go hand in hand.
“My philosophy is, you do things the right way and winning will take care of itself. You’ll always be in the game. You’ll always have a chance,” Fuentes said. “I never thought of it that way, but that’s not a bad way to look at life. It’s something that I want to instill is hard work.”