is speaking about good players being "the hunters" rather than "the hunted.
calling pitches "chances," swings "decisions" and softball "life" sliced up in scoreboard innings.
Fluorescent yellow softballs spit from pitching machines inside three batting cages that run the width of the room.
Teen-age girls take heavy-armed swings at bullet after bullet, their eyes narrow beneath their hard-plastic helmets, their attention lasting as long as one pitch.
"Make good choices and you'll be successful," says Rico
, the renown softball coach-philosopher-guru who's scuttling among the cages, sprinkling nuggets of wisdom on this hour's batting pupils.
More than 250 players, from beginners to three-time Olympic softball gold medalists, travel from as far as the Bakersfield and Chandler, Ariz., to this hidden space to learn from Rico, 42, the owner of the Softball Connection instructional facility and the coach of the national powerhouse Worth Firecrackers Gold youth softball team.
"I'm teaching life here," says Rico
, who urges batters to think like a CEO running a Fortune 500 company
, a veterinarian operating an office full of gimpy puppies or an Army sergeant needing to talk a terrified soldier out of foxhole.
was born in Bellflower, racing into life "before the doctor could even get his
shoes on" in the delivery room, his
mother told him.
The youngest of five children to Carmen, a full-time parent, and John, a construction worker and former Army sergeant, Rico discovered baseball at age 5.
Succeeding in baseball was important to Rico
father, a man "as stout as a linebacker and two of me," he
says, had to forfeit his
athletic dreams when he
was drafted into the Army as a high school junior.
father never had diamond stories.
had war horrors, memories of ordering young men to "Die on your gun!
troop came under fire in Iwo Jima.
"Soldiers died around him," Rico
eyes drifting to a corner of his
office where an American flag sits in a triangular glass case.
"That's the flag from my father's funeral in 1998."