558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Reporting local sports in the 1960s
Jerry Pimentel may be known for his teaching career, but he started out writing for the Central Oregonian
Jerry Pimentel with his hat collection.
October 29, 2012
Special to the Central Oregonian
These days, role models for young people are getting harder and harder to find. Prineville, however, has been blessed with many.
And one of them has been encouraging young people, both athletically and journalism-wise, since the 1960s.
Jerry Pimentel is a well-known and much-loved grade school teacher, who retired after 30 years with the Crook County schools. Interestingly, Pimentel acquired a love of writing and journalism during his high school years in Centerville, Calif. (now Fremont.)
“I co-wrote a column for my high school newspaper called “Bachelor Duds.” It was about what the boys were wearing and became a general interest column. The girls wrote a similar column which I recall was mostly about the boys too,” recalled Pimentel.
That first foray into journalism lit a spark that continued into college.
“I was the football team manager and, following the season, I wrote sports pieces for the college newspaper. As time went on, I realized how much printer’s ink was getting into my blood.”
Pimentel first started visiting Prineville in the 60s because his girlfriend (soon to be his wife) and her family sold their home in Mission San Jose, Calif. and relocated to Prineville.
“In the 60s, I used to climb on a Greyhound bus and come on up to Prineville to court my girlfriend who moved up here with her family,” recalled Pimentel.
He jokingly added, “I wondered if my in-laws were trying to send me a message by moving her 500 miles north.”
Pimentel had been working with youth in Salinas, Calif., before his move north.
“I was working with boys at a boys’ ranch in Los Angeles and the juvenile hall in Salinas. But working in juvenile corrections was frustrating because I wasn’t seeing any change (in the kids), so about the time I got married, I started thinking about teaching as a career,” said Pimentel.
Unbeknownst to Pimentel, it was about this time that the Crook County Schools Superintendent, Cecil Sly, was desperately looking for male grade-school teachers.
“An advisor of mine said that Oregon, and Prineville in particular, was in desperate need of male grade-school teachers. I came up and interviewed with Cecil Sly and he didn’t want to let me out of town because he knew I also had an interview in Bend,” recalled Pimentel.
Pimentel began a 30-year career as a sixth- and fourth-grade teacher, never regretting the career change.
He’s also credited with having organized after-school sports activities for the kids.
“We started playing flag football after school and basketball in the winter. We made sure to involve both boys and girls in the fifth and sixth grades,” said Pimentel.
Pimentel also took the reins of the summer youth baseball program from Red Huntley who originally started the program. For 17 years, Pimentel administered, umpired, and mentored both boys and girls during the summer at Davidson Field.
And it was about this time that Pimentel’s passion for journalism resurfaced. He started writing and submitting sports stories to the Central Oregonian.
“In the late 60s, I would write a little blurb about the kids’ games and send it into the newspaper. I wanted to be sure that all the kids had a chance to get their name in the paper, to share the glory,” recalled Pimentel.
“They didn’t have much of a sports section back then. There were only two people who wrote as I recall — Mrs. Donnelly (Doris Donnelly, former owner and publisher) and her son (Alan Donnelly).”
The Donnelly family liked Pimentel’s writing and asked him to become the sports reporter.
“Somewhere along the way, they asked me if I would write about high school sports. Almost all the contests were on the weekends, so I’d attend, get all the stats, type the articles, and on my way to school on Monday morning, I’d slip it under the Central Oregonian’s door (at the previous location on Fourth Street),” recalled Pimentel.
Pimentel wrote about football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and track and baseball in the spring for a number of years.
“I really can’t remember how many years I wrote for the Central Oregonian. I know I wrote one more year than I had planned, because I wanted to buy the family’s first travel trailer.”
Pimentel marvels at the quality and professionalism of the journalism produced by the Central Oregonian these days.
“Sports journalism at the paper has gotten a whole lot more professional since I was there. The quality of journalism that Lon (Austin), Jason (Chaney), and Ramona (McCallister) produce is just wonderful.”
Pimentel believes he had a positive influence on Lon Austin, the Central Oregonian’s sports reporter.
“We hit it off when he was in school (in Prineville). I was thrilled to see him become a journalist because journalism is my second love. And what I like about Lon is that he seems to be interested in more things (sports participation-wise) than just wins and losses. Maybe, just maybe, I had a little bit to do with that.”
Pimentel believes that participation, not who wins, is the real value in athletics.
“We really wanted anybody who had any interest at all to give it (sports) a try. I always emphasized participation over glorifying the win. And as a result, I think many of the kids thought, ‘He’s really interested in me even outside of school.’”
Pimentel continues to be positive role model to this day. Although officially retired, he runs the scoreboard at all the football games, regularly reads to grade-school children, and is an active member of the Prineville Lions Club.
And yes, he’s still writing.
“I write a monthly column called ‘The Knight’s Corner’ for my church, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, here in Prineville,” said Pimentel.
When asked what’s motivated him to be such a good role model, Pimentel softly said, “I’ve felt that the talents and abilities that I have were God’s gifts to me; what I do with those talents and abilities are my gifts back to God.”
On his contributions to the community he added, “In the back of my mind, I wanted to see if I could leave this place a little better than when I got here.”
The Crook County High School baseball field was named after Jerry Pimentel in 2010.