Some good words to embrace: Make each day your masterpiece.
Rick Lepire would agree.
Most know Lepire from the diamond as a gem of a North County baseball coach. He led Vista High to 365 victories, a playoff spot in 17 of his 18 seasons and a CIF San Diego Section title.
He also worked two seasons at Cal State University San Marcos, putting some bite in the Cougars’ outfield play. And he improved the aim of Palomar College pitchers as an assistant coach.
Now Lepire’s best work comes via blank canvases, doing just what he did for his players: making them sparkle and shine.
“I thought that one day I might like to paint,” said Lepire, who won numerous coach of the year honors. “So, the last four years I’ve self-taught myself. I wanted to develop a style, and be unique, so people would know who did it.”
It’s a who-done-it with amazing results. Lepire’s acrylic paintings present his subjects as if the viewer is spotting them through a stained-glass widow.
“I always felt I was very creative in the field as a coach with our style of play,” said Lepire, who also pitched at San Diego State. “I try to do the same thing with my paintings.”
One can draw a line from Lepire’s coaching, which he stepped away from in 2016, to his easel. His artist efforts on baseball are stunning and those with Dodgers roots, as Justin Turner and Vin Scully, would concur.
Lepire’s ears always perked up for Scully’s signature line, “It’s time for Dodger baseball.” That Lepire’s version of Scully graces a wall in his home is pinch-worthy stuff.
“One of my good friends runs a clothing store in Beverly Hills and dresses Vin Scully,” said Lepire, who is in his 28th year on Vista’s faculty. “He said, ‘Why don’t you do one of Vin and I will deliver it.’ ”
Soon after the phone rang in Lepire’s Vista home of 23 years.
“It was Vin with a personal message of how much he loved it and that he hung it in the hallway in his house,” Lepire said.
Soon it was Turner giving thanks.
“I wanted to do Turner because he is such a unique individual with his long red hair and beard,” Lepire, 58, said. “I sent a direct message of it to his wife, she loved it and said she wanted to hang it in his office.”
After being a fixture in baseball’s world for so long, Lepire found another creative outlet. Although it’s not the first time he’s revealed his cultured side. He wrote and recorded a CD of baseball songs on “Play Ball,” in 2006.
“He can sing a little bit,” said David Demarest, who coached Lepire at Orange County’s La Quinta High and later became a close friend. “He’s always up doing the karaoke.”
How did his nine-song effort do?
“We sold a few,” Lepire said, “then it went to the bargain bin.”
Lepire hit the right notes as a coach and now he’s doing it through art. He’s been commissioned to paint everything from the Brooklyn Bridge to scenic landscapes to music festivals.
Minus baseball, Lepire fills the afternoon hours with flourishing strokes.
“I was used to getting home at 6 after practice and now I was getting home at 2:30 so I had to figure out something to do,” Lepire said. “I just never really had other interests when coaching. So, by not coaching, I guess it was a blessing in disguise as a I started painting and just kept going.”