Norco High Coach Bobby Torres Remembered For His Loyalty

By Jerry Soifer
Featured Contributor / soifer44@gmail.com

Bobby Torres loved coaching baseball and football at Norco High School – and playing softball – so much that he worked the graveyard shift at an Orange County meat business for 28 years to make time.

The life of the Cougars was his life. Their joy was his joy. Their sadness was his pain.

He was on the Norco sidelines on April 4 when the Norco football team upset national power Corona Centennial, 33-31, in a game delayed to spring by the COVID-19 pandemic. He celebrated with the players.

He was in the third base dugout at Dodger Stadium on May 18, 2019, when Norco’s baseball team lost to Rancho Santa Margarita,1-0, in 12 innings, for the CIF Div. 2 championship. He cried with the players.

TORRES

Torres’ connection to the players went way beyond the boundaries of the playing field. He went to the weddings of all six Gerhart siblings including Toby, the star Norco running back who was the 2009 Heisman Trophy runner-up for Stanford, and a six-year NFL veteran.

As a member of the Vikings, Toby reciprocated by treating Bobby and his wife, Candy, to a trip to Minneapolis for an NFL game. The Torres’ met the players after the game.

Torres pushed himself continuously up to the age of 68. “He wasn’t a person to sit back,” said Candy Torres, his wife of 49 years. “He was crazy about sports, anything sports.”

The Torres’ had moved to a home on Fourth Street in Norco from Orange County in 1976 for affordable property and so he could be closer to Norco High and the softball diamonds where he played.

At that house in the early morning hours on June 14, Torres succumbed to a heart attack.

Torres is survived by his wife, their three daughters, Brandy Rodriguez, Lisa Hernandez, and Natalie Heredia, five grandchildren and one great grandson.

A viewing was held on July 15 at the Norco Family Funeral Home. A celebration of life followed at The Farm in Norco that evening.

Toby Gerhart flew out from his home in Nashville to be a featured speaker along with two of his five siblings and their parents, Todd and Lori.

“Bobby was everything that was good about Norco,” said Toby Gerhart, by phone from his home in Nashville. “He was like a second father. He was a mentor, a coach. He was loyal, supportive. He was loved by all in Norco. He was the most unselfish person I’ve ever met.”

Gerhart was stunned when he heard of Torres’ passing.

“I hadn’t talked to him in a while,” Gerhart said. “I quickly remembered fond memories. I regret not reaching out to him more. It was a shock to hear. Norco lost one of the great people in the town.”

Slow-pitch softball was Torres’ connection with his first friend in Norco, businessman Danny Gonzales. They met in Orange County and started playing on teams that traveled all over the state and the country. Gonzales convinced Torres to move to Horsetown USA.

Gonzales coached at Norco. He persuaded Torres to join him on the Norco football staff. Torres then joined the baseball staff, too. Torres was an assistant coach for all five Norco football teams that won CIF titles.

“It was devastating,” said Gonzales of Torres’ passing. “I cried for four days. He meant that much to me.”

Former Norco offensive line coach Alan Krueger said, “He (Torres) was like an energy source people can plug into. He brought energy to everything he did, practice, the games. He would run drills for me at a high energy level.”

The Corona-Norco city boundary wasn’t a barrier between Torres and lifelong Corona resident Ronnie Smith. They met in 1979 and were friends until the end.

Smith said he caught on quickly to a trick play Torres would try, throwing to first base to pick him off. They wound up as teammates traveling all over the United States to tournaments.

Life with Torres was an adventure. They once played softball in shorts in 30-degree weather at Lake Tahoe. They competed for MVP honors in tournaments.

Once they were driving north in a motorhome on State Route 99 through the San Joaquin Valley. A big rig blinked its lights at them. Smith said they realized their motorhome was on fire. They pulled off the road. The motorhome was towed to Stockton. They rented cars and drove on to the tournament in Lake Tahoe. They got there 16 minutes before game time.

“Bobby was a small man with a huge heart,” Smith said. “He would never quit. He always worked on getting better.”
Todd Gerhart, the former Norco star athlete and coach, said, “He was the most loyal coach and person I’ve ever met.”

“He always looked out for my kids. Good, bad or ugly, he was there for us,” Todd Gerhart said. “He was like their private coach. He went to their college games. He would show up at Stanford baseball and softball games. I would see him in the crowd. He was like part of our family.”

Cougars’ Kyle Hatton (#15) holds Assistant Coach Bob Torres as Coltin Gerhart dumps water on him after winning 1-0 against King at Norco on Thursday May 9, 2013. / MILKA SOKO for The Press-Enterprise

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