Goddard baseball coach Gilbert Alvarado has lived a charmed life in his two seasons as skipper. In his first season, he took the Rockets to the championship game, falling short to Farmington. Last season, the team came short when they ran into a hot Los Lunas team in the semifinals, coming up a run short.
Alvarado has the task of replacing all-world pitchers Ty Villareal and Drew Price. Villareal was 5-1 and Price was 10-1 on the mound. The thing about them was they were able to cover up for mistakes, their own and their teammates. Both were so competitive.
Both pitchers could throw the ball by a hitter and strike out the side as both did against Artesia to win the district championship. Both were the perfect complement to the other. One was a lefty and the other was a righty. Both were power pitchers with an assortment of pitches so that teams couldn’t sit on the fastball.
“I could count on Drew and Ty,” Alvarado said, “for 70 strikeouts each. Now we will have to make people roll some balls over and make them pop balls up. We will still get strikeouts, but we really want to emphasize to the kids pitching to contact and getting people out.”
Villareal is pitching for New Mexico Military, as a freshman in the young season, and has started three games, won one and lost one. He has struck out 12 hitters. Price is pitching for New Mexico State University this season. He has faced competition against Texas Southern where he has struck out one batter as a freshman.
Hall of Fame
Going into the Alvarado’s third season, he has to find a way to replace the one-two punch on the mound. Before any of those questions will be answered, Goddard kicked off its season by hosting their Hall of Fame banquet and Meet the Team.
Inducted into the Goddard baseball Hall of Fame were Roy Gunn, Ricky Rapp and Justine Cooper. There was a silent auction to open the evening, with some handmade items and a baseball signed by Greg Maddux. The silent auction made over $1,000.
Roy Gunn was inducted and is the first person to be inducted that is a non-player or coach in the school’s history. Gunn announced games and was a scorekeeper for over 29 years for the Rockets. Gunn loved Goddard baseball and continued to help the program after his two sons, Geoff and Jason graduated.
“There are a lot of things that go into a good program,” Goddard baseball coach Gilbert Alvarado said, “not just players and coaches. Scorekeeping, announcing, people who help keep city league alive and C-teams alive. People who bring enthusiasm to a program are just as important.”
Geoff Gunn accepted the award on behalf of his dad, who passed away in 2017. Geoff Gunn stated that his dad was not the best baseball player who ever lived. Geoff Gunn also said his dad loved the game and wanted to be around it.
Geoff Gunn talked about how his father, Roy Gunn had a passion for the game and wanted to help young kids play and get better. He was humble enough to do whatever he could to help the game and kids get better at it.
“My father had a servant’s heart,” Geoff Gunn said. “My father wanted to help kids get better in any way he could. If that meant showing someone how to hit off a tee or keeping a scorebook, that’s what he did.”
Rapp did not make it to the event but was honored for his excellence in the field. In 1970, he received the Most Improved Athlete Award and the Outstanding Athlete Award in 1971 and 1972. He went on to attend Eastern New Mexico University and play baseball. His life work has been as an educator and coach with the majority of his time being spent at Gateway Christian. As a coach, he has unparalleled success three-peating in 2006-07-08, and in 2014. In his last year of coaching, he did a walk-off with his grandson, Jaydon Stephens, leading the way to his last NMAA title in 2019.
“He was one of the best players to come through Goddard baseball in the 1970s,” former Goddard baseball coach Don Alsup said.
Justin Cooper played for Goddard from 2003 to 2008. During the ‘06-07 season, he received the Most Valuable Player award and the Golden Bat. Cooper made the All-District team in 4-4A. He was also a four-year varsity letter winner. He was named Goddard Male Athlete of the Year, won the Top Gun Award, was named MVP and made Second Team All-State. He played in the North-South All-Star game. Cooper was good enough to pitch at New Mexico State University.
During his speech, Cooper talked to the players about how to keep their mind right and how to work hard when no one is watching. He noted that wins and losses are important, but relationships are just as important on this journey.
This is Alvarado’s third time being involved with the ceremony.
“I still get butterflies in my stomach when I see the older guys,” Alvarado said. “We have a lot of guys that have been inducted that keep showing up. I think that’s great and it is becoming a really good annual thing that people look forward to and that’s what we want. This has become a really great event for us.”
Alvarado stated that because of the booster club’s generosity, the team had new infield dirt last season. The team has three sets of new uniforms this year. The team has an all-baby-blue set of uniforms, a navy top and then an all-white set. The team had their pants hemmed and will have an old-school look to them this season.
Look for Eli Fairbanks, a lefty, to be the ace on the hill, as well as Noah Nunez. Both players have started varsity since they were sophomores. When Nunez is not pitching, he will be manning centerfield.
This is a senior-laden team, but it is a young senior team. Most of them are inexperienced or played junior varsity last season. Alvarado said if he had to start a game today, his lineup would be: Spencer Robins catching, Nunez in center field, Fairbanks would be on the hill, Owen Alsup at third base, Trotter Boston at shortstop, Brady Lewis at second, with Caleb Seely on first base. Sean Henry would be in left field and Coltin Sons would be in right field.
Look for Gage Evans to do some pitching as well as play outfield. Sophomore Dustin Hardwick continues to grow into his body and impress, and will be in relief, according to Alvarado. Seely will make an appearance on the mound with Sons, Trotter and Gabe Campos pitching also.
“I feel like this is a team that is going to compete really well,” Alvarado said. “Every team every year has to play it differently. Everybody has their own philosophy about how you want teams to be. This year’s team knows it will be pitching and contact. We are going to play good defense and they are ready to battle at the dish.”
Goddard expects a tough district battle from Artesia. The Bulldogs will be young with a lot of juniors. Lovington has a new coach; Portales was young last year with a lot of freshmen and sophomores, they had to learn on the run. Alvarado thinks the Rams will be a lot tougher this season.
For Goddard, pitching and defense will be the key to their season this year.
“We are all going to learn on the run a little bit,” Alvarado said. “I feel confident in our team. We will have to feel ourselves out that first couple of games and see what we have to do to be successful.”
There will be new faces on the bench with the departure of New Mexico Baseball Hall of Fame coach Henry Villareal gone. Ed Henry returns, Larry Hutchison, retired from Texas as a coach — he’s a Physical Education substitute teacher at Mesa Middle School and has plenty of enthusiasm to teach the game. Matthew Williams is back for his third year.
“I don’t ever think I can replace Henry,” Alvarado said. “He saw so many things, and he was an encyclopedia. There weren’t too many situations he hadn’t seen and always had two or three options to present to me.”
Goddard scrimmaged Carlsbad for 14 innings on Tuesday. Goddard was trailing 6-5 when the scrimmage was stopped. Goddard opens up at the Launch Pad at 4:30 p.m. Friday against Mayfield.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or email@example.com.