The baseball gods do have a sense of justice. For Goddard’s assistant baseball coach, Henry Villareal, it seems like the last 31 years have gone by so fast that it was yesterday. Henry was a student, outfielder and pitcher when he wore the Navy, Columbia blue and white.
For Henry, what made the 6-5 loss to Los Lunas hard for him was that it was the end of an era — an end of seven good years where he was the pitching coach and he had the opportunity to coach his sons, Cal and Ty Villareal. Henry shared what it meant to be a Rocket and keep the traditions of the program alive. Henry retired quietly at the end of the season.
“The one thing we teach our kids at Goddard,” Henry said, “is we don’t make excuses. Our bats and gloves and our play do the speaking for us. For a team to win state, there is going to have to be some luck involved. Our kids in the loss to Los Lunas gave us every bit of effort they had. They never quit.”
Henry Villareal has been a blessed man. He and his wife, Sandy, have been high school baseball lifers and taken the journey that has kept the family of six together. His son, Phillip, 31, is a doctor in the Navy. His daughter, Laura Fry, 29, is an accountant. Cal, 21, is a student at New Mexico State and Ty, 18, just graduated.
Henry has coached at every level — Noon Optimist, assistant baseball coach for Goddard and head baseball coach at New Mexico Military Institute for 10 seasons, all to be closer to his two sons in hopes of teaching and guiding them.
“Coaching at every level,” Henry said, “I learned from my mistakes, like being too rough on my kids. I loved being out there with my kids, Cal and Ty.”
At NMMI, Henry turned the program into a winning record, with over 100 wins. His goal was to improve to double-digit wins. In his first season, they won six games and in 1996, his best season as a coach, NMMI lost in a one-game playoff to Portales.
The baseball gods smiled not only upon Henry Villareal, but his family, as well. In 2017, he earned three consecutive trips to the state championship game only to come up short. The baseball gods gave him more than he could ask, think or dream of — his sons played a key part in winning a title.
It wasn’t until 2017 when he could enjoy the moment with his family. Wife, Sandy, was in the stands cheering the family on. Both his sons, Cal and Ty Villareal, played well as the baseball gods paid Henry back for all those years of heartache.
In the championship game, Henry was the pitching coach and first base coach: Cal Villareal pitched five strong innings and his sophomore son, Ty Villareal made a couple of nice catches in the outfield to take away base hits and he had a couple of base hits. Their play enabled the school to win their first state championship against Albuquerque Academy, 10-3, at Isotopes Park, after three consecutive tries.
“Having the opportunity to coach with coach V was an experience,” former Goddard coach Alan Edmonson said. “I will forever cherish. We won a lot of baseball games together and shared a lot of heartaches together. There are few people on this planet that you want to experience all of that with and Coach V was one of them for me.”
Henry notes he will be in the land of the undefeated coaches. He understands after being a head coach, that fans will let a coach know that players win games and coaches lose games. He appreciated that he coached under both Gilbert Alvarado and Edmonson. Alvarado is more laid back, but he can change the temperature in the room really quick with his team. Edmonson is more of an intense coach. Henry’s personality was a perfect compliment to both coaches.
“I have been fortunate the last seven years,” Henry said. “I have tried not to mess anything up. I just tell the kids to go out and make me look good. I have tweaked a few things here and there. If a pitcher is a finesse guy, we’re going to work them that way. If they’re a power guy, we’ll pitch them that way. We haven’t had a guy leave here with a sore arm. We try to prepare our players for the next level.”
One thing Henry learned as a player and coach was that getting to state is only one part of the battle. The thing that few coaches realize is that everybody in the state of New Mexico is going to have a good lineup, one through four. The guys five through nine is the difference maker. Those players have to get on base and get the big RBIs.
“Right now,” Henry said, “that’s probably the best baseball moment. It was awesome the boys played such a big role in that tournament. It was an emotional day for us, it was baseball nirvana. To win with my boys, it was one of the best feelings I ever had. After them being born, it’s probably the greatest day, I’ll never forget it.”
Henry is an old school coach and believes in being direct and telling the truth. He will have both Ty and Cal playing baseball at the next level. For now, he seems relieved to be retiring. He plans to take the year off and watch his sons play baseball.
As a pitching coach, Henry never tried to change a pitcher’s motion. He’s proud of the fact that no pitcher has ever had to have arm surgery. He feels like him and the coaches tried to develop pitchers and a staff.
On Friday and Saturday, Edmonson chose Henry to be on his staff in the North-South All-Star game. Both coaches coached Drew Price and his son, Ty Villareal one last time. Henry would like to be remembered as a coach that came every day to give the players and the game his best. He never stopped learning as a coach. He never gave up on a kid and believed in every kid Goddard put out there. Henry might have been hard on them, but he always loved them.
“I learned a lot from the old man,” Edmonson said. “I can never thank him enough. I would coach with him again anytime and any place. Not only do I respect Coach (Henry), but I love him more than words can ever say.”