Rick Hebert has certainly made the most out of his time as Santa Maria's baseball coach.
It was December when he learned that he landed the Saints' head coaching job, not giving him much, if any, time to get his team or coaching staff organized. But he found a way to make it work.
Hebert leaned on a philosophy of guiding the Saints instead of changing the players or having them adapt to his style. The result was a team free to play the game the way it wanted.
In turn, that resulted in an avalanche of success. Of course, the Saints went on to win the CIF Southern Section Division 6 championship in dominant fashion.
But Hebert wasn't one to take credit after the Saints captured their first baseball championship in 60 years. He praised his players and admitted he learned on the fly throughout the postseason.
For his team's tremendous success in 2017, Hebert has been voted the All-Area Coach of the Year by Lee Central Coast Newspapers.
"It's the boys. My goal was not to mess it up," Hebert said after the June 3 win over Moreno Valley in the championship game. "This is a good group of kids that has been playing together for a long time. Honestly, my goal was not to mess it up. I didn't change a lot of stuff, we just tweaked things and mostly got them mentally prepared because they're still young men. And that was the biggest challenge throughout the year.
"But we stayed true to it, battled and at the end of the year we came together and they started to believe everything and became a true family."
Hebert also showed off some veteran coaching savviness after they clinched the title. He was already turning his focus to next year.
"The offseason has already started," Hebert said. "We didn't get this luxury last year. We didn't start until January. During the (Christmas) break I got the job. So I didn't see the kids until we got back in January. I had zero offseason to get things together.
"So now we'll have a true offseason, so coach (Joey) Orozco and I have already started planning."
Hebert was also named the All-CIF Coach of the Year for Division 6.
This is the first time a Santa Maria High baseball coach has been named the LCCN All-Area Coach of the Year since Scott Nickason took the honor in 2004. Hebert is the second Santa Maria coach to land an All-Area Coach of the Year award this school year, though, after Saints football coach Dan Ellington took that honor in the fall.
Nickason led the Saints to a Los Padres League title in 2004 and a playoff berth that ended a postseason drought that started in 1989. But the Saints endured another dry season that ended in 2016, when the Saints made the postseason under then head coach Garold Shaffer. Hebert coached the JV team at Santa Maria last year then moved into the varsity position, helping the team make back-to-back postseason berths and a CIF title this year.
This is the fourth straight year a Los Padres League coach has taken the award after Jonathan Osborne of Cabrillo won last year and Warren Dickey took it the two years prior. Righetti coach Brian Tomooka won the honor in 2013 and was in the running to win it again this year, helping guide the Warriors to the Division 3 title game.