- Alisal Union School District
Ernie Camacho — Cultivated in Alisal
Ernesto Ernie Camacho
Ernesto “Ernie” Camacho’s time at Alisal Union School District nearly 50 years ago was bittersweet. It was at a time when Latino children were a minority, and teachers behaved very different from how they behave now.
“I’m glad it’s changed,” he said.
Camacho, who went on to play in Major League Baseball, would be punished physically for speaking Spanish and saying his name was “Ernesto.”
“I was made to write ‘Ernie,’ on my papers or I would be graded as wrong,” he said.
Mr. Camacho didn’t know it then but he could not see well, which contributed to his troubles at school. It wasn’t until the second or third grade that a mobile clinic came to his school and discovered he needed glasses.
It was a bit late by then. He was really behind and would not be able to catch up with his studies, he said.
But it was also during his time at Sanborn Elementary — which eventually became Jesse G. Sánchez — where he acquired his love of baseball.
“That’s when they had the President’s badge,” he said, referring to the Presidential Physical Fitness Award, a program that ran from about 1968 to 1981 to encourage young students to get in shape.
“If I could bring it back I would,” he said. “Everyone got the badge. If you competed, you got the badge… It was very popular in school. It promoted athletics and sports. There weren’t any after-school programs like now, which I think it’s awesome.”
Mr. Camacho began his professional career after graduating from Alisal High School, while attending Hartnell College, where he was drafted on three separate occasions by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1975, the California Angels in 1976, and the Oakland Athletics in June 1976. He made his major league debut in 1980, and he played until 1990, when he retired from professional baseball.
During his career, he also played for the Chicago White Sox, the Milwaukee Brewers, and several minor-league teams.
Two years after retiring from baseball, Mr. Camacho began working for Alisal Union School District in the transportation and maintenance department. He was following on his father’s footsteps, a man with a very strong work ethic who was always thinking of the future.
“No matter how much money you have, if you just draw from (your savings) and put nothing back, you’re not going have nothing,” Mr. Camacho said.
In 2015, Mr. Camacho set up an education foundation to reward hard-working students from Alisal Union School District after they’ve graduated from high school – even if they’re not planning on attending college. Students who attended this district and are graduating from either Alisal High or Everett Alvarez High are eligible to apply for an Ernie Camacho Educational Foundation scholarship. Mr. Camacho has received a lot of support for his foundation and is seeking even more.
Even though Mr. Camacho was successful in sports, he believes education is extremely important – that’s why he set up the foundation. In addition to the scholarships, the foundation will have a college and career fair in the spring that Mr. Camacho hopes will be serve as showcase for dozens of universities. This is how he expects to inspire thousands of Salinas youngsters to start thinking about college from an early age.
“Everyone looks up to you for being baseball player, but the only thing you’ll have control over is your education,” he said. “Those books, that will control how much money you have in your pocket — or what you don’t have in your pocket. The more education you have, the more you’ll make.”
Note: This is the eight installment of "Cultivated in Alisal: Homegrown Heroes," a first attempt at documenting and celebrating the history of Alisal Union School District. For more information and other profiles, click here. To submit your name to be profiled, click here.