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Former Nevada baseball player happy to call Sparks home
by Dan Eckles
Feb 27, 2013 | 3452 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Dan Eckles -- Washoe County Juvenile Probation Officer John Preciado.
Tribune photo by Dan Eckles -- Washoe County Juvenile Probation Officer John Preciado.
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John Preciado grew up in San Diego County. He developed a love of baseball, became a high school standout and even played two years of junior college baseball near his home. When he moved to Reno in 1984, at age 20, to play baseball for the University of Nevada, the life-long southern Californian probably didn’t think he’d make the Truckee Meadows his home for the foreseeable future and beyond.

And yet, that’s exactly what happened. After earning his undergraduate degree from UNR in Criminal Justice, Preciado did move back to the San Diego. But 10 months later, he was back in northern Nevada and he’s been here ever since.

“After I graduated, I moved back to my hometown for about 10 months, but it had grown so much and changed so much while I was gone. I grew up in a small beach town and it turned into a city,” Preciado said. “I came back up here, worked in the hotel industry as a valet parker. Then I worked at the Boys and Girls Club.”

In 1990, Preciado got hired on with the Washoe County Juvenile Services Department. A year later he and his wife Mary Kay bought a home in Sparks. More than two decades,  two more homes and two children later, Preciado still calls the Rail City home.

“That first home we found, it was in Sparks. We really liked it and the neighborhood,” Preciado said. “We didn’t really find what we were looking for in Reno. Now, we really like Sparks, the whole community and everything. It’s where we’ve wanted to be. We’ve raised our kids here and everything.”

Sparks has more than tripled in size since Preciado first moved here. The city extends well beyond the McCarran Circle. Preciado has witnessed much of the growth but he said it has not hindered the city.

“I think the pace has been steady; so I don’t think Sparks has gotten too big for itself,” Preciado said. “The city has been able to maintain, like in youth sports programs. It has not exploded to the point where people are being turned away from programs and services.”

Preciado graduated from the University of San Diego High School in 1982. He played baseball at Nevada in the 1985 and ‘86 seasons. He cherishes his Wolf Pack memories.

“It was a great time,” he said. “I played with some great guys, but it was a different era then. We didn’t have a field on campus. (Veteran Nevada coach) Gary (Powers) had to work hard to keep the program afloat. There was a lot of talk of the program being dropped at that time, but it was a lot of fun.”

Preciado put his Criminal Justice degree to work after college, eventually becoming a juvenile probation officer with the WCJSD. Preciado is closer to retirement now than he is the beginning of his career, but he says he still likes his work and finds it rewarding.

“I still enjoy it every day,” he said. “The interaction with coworkers and the kids and their families, it’s far from always all negative. I think that’s one of the things I enjoy most. Every kid, every person is one bad decision away from being mixed up with the legal systems. One of the misconceptions is all the kids we work with here are the worst of the worst. That’s not the case. Some kids make one bad decison and it puts them in hot water. We try to work with them and get them back on the path they were on before. That part is really rewarding.”

Preciado is a veteran at his work now, having racked up more than 20 years in the field. He says he’s seen plenty of change in his work, both in the expectations and goals of his occupation as well as the process in how to serve troubled juveniles.

“When I was starting, we were seeing so many changes. I never thought we’d see more changes after that,” Preciado said. “I didn’t think we could make more changes to the way we do business on a day-to-day basis, but everything is different. Technology is a big part of it, both positive and negative.”

Preciado admitted the toughest part of his job, after more than two decades in his department, is staying fresh and open minded.         

“Just staying fresh and keeping a fresh outlook on everything is the key,” he said. “It’s easy to get jaded about things. I have to work hard at staying fresh. The other big thing is leaving the job at office. You see some tough things here and I learned early on in my career you have to be able to leave it here and not bring the issues and problems home.”

Outside of work, Preciado said it’s easy to target what he’s passionate about, his family. His daughter Anna is a sophomore at Boise State. She was a standout distance runner at Spanish Springs High School and now competes for the Broncos. Preciado’s son Sam is a junior at SSHS and plays football for the Cougars.

“I’m passionate about my kids, supporting them and being involved in their lives,” he said. “When I get some free time I’ll usually do something sports related, maybe watch a game or go to a high school game.

“I’ve got no regrets, no complaints about where I am. Life brought me here to play baseball. I got everything out of the talent I was blessed with. The memories I have as a ball player are wonderful. That led me to my career path and where I am now. I’ve got great kids, a wonderful wife, a lot of friends.”
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