2013-04-18 / Sports

It’s all about family for Lions

Oaks Christian baseball coaches establish dominant program
By Eliav Appelbaum


PRIDE OF LIONS—Tim and Rick Penprase are coaches for Oaks Christian High baseball. Tim, left, and his dad, Rick, have coached the Lions together for seven years. Oaks Christian is ranked No. 1 in Division 4. 
MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers PRIDE OF LIONS—Tim and Rick Penprase are coaches for Oaks Christian High baseball. Tim, left, and his dad, Rick, have coached the Lions together for seven years. Oaks Christian is ranked No. 1 in Division 4. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Call them the Politician and Godfather.

Tim Penprase, Oaks Christian High’s baseball head coach, makes sure everything runs smoothly for the Lions, the No. 1 team in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4. He says the right things and puts his players in position to excel.

Tim’s father, Rick, is an assistant coach who dispenses sage advice to the Lions as if he’s Willy Wonka lobbing Gobstoppers to young whippersnappers. Rick works with the infielders and pitchers, and he provides input on strategy during games.

“He’s the politician, I’m not,” Rick said with a smile. “I’m not the head coach. I actually get to coach.”

Tim and Rick Penprase are very different.

Maybe that’s why they get along so well.

Tim is subdued and mellow. Rick might be distant cousins with Charles Barkley—he’s not afraid to crack jokes or speak his mind.

They’re both charismatic leaders who know how to motivate people.

“The atmosphere is generally pretty nurturing,” said Cody Phillips, a senior shortstop who will study politics at Princeton. “They’re about, ‘Get all your work in and we’ll have fun when we’re winning.’”

Phillips, who is considering walking on Princeton’s baseball team next year, described the coaches’ distinct styles and how their insights helped mold him into a more polished ballplayer.

“Tim looks at the big-picture stuff,” Phillips said. “He looks at the whole puzzle.

“We call Rick ‘Godfather.’ He’s a wise figure. He gives you tips on you specifically. Rick always says, be quick but don’t hurry. Trust your hands, but don’t hurry your feet. I came in here with raw talent. He helped me harness the athleticism I did have and made me into a skilled player.”

Tim and Rick also work with each other during the day for Rick’s waterproofing construction company, Watertight.

“I only had kids to put them to work,” Rick said. “Thank God he came out a boy.”

The Moorpark residents spend all day with each other, but they rarely argue.

“The balance of power works,” Tim said. “He’s my boss during the day. I’m his boss in the afternoons.”

Rick interjected: “He bosses me around both places.”

Tim, 29, a 2001 Moorpark High graduate, played one year in the outfield at Cal Lutheran University before nerve damage in his right elbow ended his career prematurely.

He has coached with Oaks Christian for eight seasons, including the past five as varsity skipper. The year before Tim took over the varsity squad, the Lions won eight games. Under Tim, they consistently contend for league and section championships.

During his first season guiding the Lions’ junior varsity squad, Tim had a mentor to show him the ropes.

Bill Redell, an Oaks Christian football coaching legend, assisted Tim during the young coach’s first year at the school.

Somebody, after all, needed to drive the team to road games.

“I was too young to drive the van,” Tim said. “Bill drove the van, and we had good conversations to and from games.

“He gave me a lot of guidance on how to build a program and how to treat people. I learned a lot from him.”

The next season, Rick took Redell’s spot in the dugout.

Rick, 58, has been coaching baseball for a quarter-century. He got his start helping out at Moorpark High.

“I’ve mellowed,” Rick said. “Even though I had a reputation as a hothead, I’ve never been kicked out of a game my whole life.”

Rick played baseball and basketball at Westchester High. He and his wife, Elaine, have another son playing pro ball. Zach Penprase, 28, suits up for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks in North Dakota, who play in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.

Zach, whose long blond hair and fanny pack make him look like MacGruber’s stunt double, was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies after leading the NCAA in stolen bases at Mississippi Valley State.

Dad couldn’t stop gushing about his oldest son. Tim shifted his feet nervously as his father spoke.

“I’ve been around a lot of coaches, and this guy is the best I’ve ever been around,” Rick said. “He should be doing college and pro stuff.

“This program wouldn’t be anywhere near where it is without Tim. He surrounded himself with old coaches—that’s the smartest thing he’s done. He controls all the old guys. . . . He’s built this program literally by himself.”

The Lions, who entered the week 14-3-1 overall and 2-0 in the Tri-Valley League, are playing great baseball. It’s amazing what hard work, confidence and a savvy coaching staff can do for a team.

“We’ve evolved a little bit with surprisingly different coaching styles,” Tim said. “We both do it completely different, but we have the same goal.

“It’s a blessing to work with my dad every day.”

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