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What d'ya say Ray

June 02, 2002|By RICHARD MONTENEGRO, Sports Editor

CALEXICO — FOr 22 years Ray Alvarado has guided the sports program at Calexico High, a school for which he played football and basketball and ran track nearly 35 years ago, a school from which he graduated and would see his own children graduate.

In his two-plus decades as Bulldog AD, the 52-year-old Alvarado has seen things that continue to make the job worthwhile.

He's seen children raised in this border town rise from poverty and obscurity to excel in sports, academics and, ultimately, life.

He's seen children with discipline problems turn around their lives on the basketball court, the football field, the baseball diamond.

He's seen those for which things like grades came easily struggle in athletics and finally become even stronger for overcoming adversity.

"I love this job," Alvarado said from his office recently, where team photos of past and present Bulldog squads line his walls like so much garnet and gold wallpaper.


"This job will keep you young. There's never a dull moment. Every day's different and the rewards are plentiful," he said. "It's not all good, but the good outweighs the bad."

Alvarado could go on for days about the former Bulldog standouts he's witnessed go on to glory. But for time being, Carlo Cota and Ruben Niebla come to mind — Cota being a starter for San Diego State University's baseball team and Niebla a pitching coach in the Cleveland Indians organization.

He also mentions Calexico sports alumni who have returned to the high school to offer their own inspiration: Former state wrestling champion Robert Tabarez now teaches physical education and former Bulldog baseball coach Sergio Rubio returned recently as Associated Student Body adviser.

"I've seen them come and go, and it's great to see them very successful," he said. "I love this job … working with the kids, seeing them grow, back then as freshman and leaving as seniors, and seeing some of these kids develop and do good things in their lives."

Alvarado may not acknowledge as much, but he, too, is one of those kids.

With a chuckle and a "no one believes me when I say this," the undersized Alvarado goes on to tell of his days as a nose guard/line backer/quarterback for the varsity football squad, where one year he was named to the all-Valley team. He mentions his exploits as a sprinter and high hurdler on the track team, performing well enough to earn second place among league track athletes at the time. In 1968, he was named Calexico High's outstanding athlete of the year.

After a three-year stint at San Diego State University, Alvarado returned to the Valley in 1974 to begin a teaching career at De Anza Junior High, also coaching football, basketball and baseball at Calexico High.

By 1976, he was teaching full-time at Calexico High and would become athletic director in 1980.

As AD, Alvarado is in charge of nearly every facet of the athletic program, from making schedules and ordering equipment, to checking students' grades for eligibility and keeping coaches apprised of changes in laws.

"I line fields, sweep gyms. Whatever it takes to make sure contests are ready to go," he added.

On non-game days, Alvarado can be home at 4 p.m. On game days, however, he's likely not to see the wife until 10 to 10:30.

He said, "I have a very supportive family. My wife, she knows she's a widow once in a while. That's one of my biggest assets, the support I get from my family."

Alvarado married his wife, Debbie, in 1974 ("Signed two contracts that year, my teaching contract and my lifelong contract").

The Alvarado union has produced three children, all former Calexico High athletes — 26-year-old Monique played volleyball, softball and basketball, Ray Jr., 25, played basketball until his freshman year and finished high school on the track team and Stephanie, 19, played volleyball and softball.

"That's one of the biggest pluses about the job; I was able to see my kids play," he said. "I'd watch most of (their games)."

While Alvarado said he never pressured any of his children to participate in sports, he's sure glad they did.

"I have seen so much good come out of athletics. Kids come in here with chips on their shoulders, problems in the classroom. Once they get in athletics they learn self-sacrifice, dedication. They turn around.

"What I like about sports is it's a common denominator. It doesn't matter where you're coming from, you're all equal out there until you prove yourself," Alvarado said.

Being on the job for so many years, Alvarado has seen sports change, much like society. And, he adds, it hasn't all been for the better.

"Society as a whole is sue-happy. As ADs, you have to be up on it. You have to take law classes, basically," he said. "I remember when you got hurt out there or didn't make the team, that was it. Now if you don't make the team, you've got parents out there that don't think you're doing your job."

Alvarado added there also are sports-related issues indigenous to Calexico and the Valley as a whole.

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