In Chapter Seven of Gary Soto's novel Buried Onions, Eddie, José and Coach escape the blistering heat of summertime Fresno and travel to a creek outside of the city. When Coach suggests that they all go swimming, he quickly peels off his shirt, revealing a tattoo on his back which reads "The Good Shepherd," and this might be the best way to describe Coach. He looks after the Mexican-American youth who frequent Holmes playground in the center of Fresno in his role as the coordinator of the playground. He seems to do his best to act as an adviser, disciplinarian and friend to the children who come to the playground. He may look at himself as a difference-maker in the lives of kids like Eddie.
He takes a particular interest in Eddie and even seeks to get Eddie his job back with Mr. Stiles. He also suggests that Eddie should see the military recruiter and that joining the service might be Eddie's avenue out of the barrio. Unfortunately, Coach's plans don't always work out and when Eddie does get his job back with Mr. Stiles, it ends in Eddie's arrest. Nevertheless, Coach is typical of teachers, social workers and others who attempt to change the lives of kids who are mired in poverty and often see gangs as their only viable choice. That Coach sometimes fails in his attempts to help is to be expected, but he should be admired as one person who actually cares about those in his charge.