CLOVIS, Calif. (KSEE) – On Thursday, the Clovis North and Bullard baseball teams played in a doubleheader. In-between games, both teams changed into No. 26 t-shirts with “Bennett” written on the back.
Bob Bennett is the winningest coach in Fresno State baseball history.
But Bennett also coached for more than a decade at Bullard High School. And his grandson, Jeff Prieto, is the head coach at Clovis North. So it was the perfect opportunity to honor the late Bob Bennett, who passed away on May 31st, 2020.
“Yeah, I had no idea what was going on,” Prieto said after the tribute game. “I’m scrambling to write the lineup for Game 2 and then I see some cameras start rolling into the dugout, some of our administrators were coming in and some of the parents brought me outside the dugout and let me know what was going on. So, totally surprised by it.”
Clovis North administrators, with the help of Bullard and the CIF, organized the event.
“Knowing how much Coach Prieto misses his grandfather, we wanted to do something special to honor his memory,” said Mike King, whose son, Blake King plays for Clovis North.
“We wear (No. 26) proudly,” said Tom Donald, Bullard’s head baseball coach. “Coach Bennett has meant so much to so many people for so long, and to be able to do that, to be a part of this, is really gratifying in a lot of ways.”
Clovis North players explained how much Bennett meant to them.
“He actually came to some of our practices a few years ago,” said senior third baseman Rees Kent. “It was always good to sponge up all the information he had and he was just a great coach. We miss him.”
“That’s the greatest coach ever right there,” said senior first baseman Blake King. “I mean, you always go to a Fresno State baseball game and you see his name right there on the board and that’s something special here in Fresno.”
Jamie Prieto, Jeff’s wife, says that she was a little overwhelmed when she met the entire Bennett family for the first time.
“I was super nervous when my husband and I started dating because I knew of Bob and his family,” she said. “I remember the very first day when I went over to Jeff’s aunt’s house to meet the whole family, and there was this grandiose figure of Bob Bennett, and who he is, and all of these things.
“He’s the warmest, kindest, welcoming…I mean he gave me a hug and wanted to sit down and talk with me,” she added. “In fact, I think I spent most of the afternoon just sitting and talking with him. He’s just a wonderful man.”
As evidenced by a story told by Wyatt Prieto, Jeff and Jamie’s son.
“I guess he was the first person there when I was born, and I always thought that was pretty cool,” said Wyatt. Nobody else was there yet and he was the first one.”
Bob Bennett’s great-granddaughters, Morgan and Avery, also have fond memories.
“Well, I know he was really good at baseball and he was really nice,” said Morgan.
“I remember that every time I went to his house, he would always give me big hugs,” added Avery.