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Cal Villareal doesn’t take anything for granted

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Anthony McKenna Photo/NM State Athletics New Mexico State’s Cal Villareal steps up to the plate earlier this season.

Cal Villareal is a study in perseverance. He was coming off a championship in his senior year. It had taken him four attempts to win the Blue Trophy, but on his fourth try, he and Goddard defeated Albuquerque Academy, 10-3, at Isotope Park on May 13, 2017.

“Cal was making his fourth trip to the championship game,” former Goddard coach Alan Edmonson said. “He had experienced a lot of heartaches there. It was fitting to see him get the last out on the mound. I love both of those boys, Cal and Ty Villareal, they’re great kids. It was such a special moment.”

Cal parlayed four years of baseball excellence into a scholarship to New Mexico State. He was redshirted his freshman season. In his sophomore season, a week before the regular season was to start, he rolled his ankle. Cal thought nothing of it and continued to play on it.

The swelling in his ankle would not go down. It wasn’t until a week later doctors told him it was broken. The doctors put his foot in a cast in February. It was three weeks before the start of the baseball season. Cal missed the season; he played summer ball and worked out.

“I was happy with the work Cal did,” former coach Brian Green said. “He had changed his body and it showed.”

Cal increased the intensity of his workouts, watched his diet, and was more committed to working out. He also felt like he was having a good fall and winter until he got hurt.

“Once I was injured,” Cal said, “I came home and worked out nonstop to try and get back and play because there were times I wasn’t sure. There were times it was pretty frustrating with my ankle.”

To make matters worse, Aggies’ coach Brian Green recruited Cal, he had taken another coaching job at Washinton State going into this year. The Aggies hired Mike Kirby, who did not recruit any of the players on the team this season.

Cal talked to Kirby. Kirby told him he would have to earn his position and playing time. Going into fall camp this year, Cal didn’t know what to expect because he had not played baseball in over a year.

At the beginning of this season, Cal was swinging a hot bat going 2-for-3 against Texas Southern in the first game of the season. In the sixth game of the season, Cal went 2-for-2 against Purdue Fort Wayne. Cal started in the outfield and ended up batting .429 on the season before the season was called because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think I was more committed this year,” Cal said. “I was more relaxed, and I knew I could play. My injury made me realize I could not take baseball for granted. I didn’t know if I would ever play again.”

The left-handed-hitting Cal seemed to be seeing the ball well. One of the biggest adjustments for him is seeing multiple pitchers throwing in the high 90s mph. He has to adjust each at-bat.

His best college memory to date was playing against Texas Southern in the first series of the year. Cal had not played for a whole year in a collegiate game. Cal credits his dad, Henry, for helping him through a rough time and keeping his perspective on the injury. Cal ended up going 2-for-3 in his first game back.

“My dad helped a lot,” Cal said. “He told me to keep my head up and I would play again.”

Baseball has been a bonding factor for the family. Cal can remember going to the field with his dad when he was younger, as well as being coached by him. It helps his dad is able to travel and watch his games.

“If I have a bad game at the plate,” Cal stated, “his dad (Henry) will say, ‘I saw something, you might want to take a look at after the game if you can watch it.’ That’s pretty nice. I always take his advice, it calms me down, too.”

He also feels an appreciation for his mother, Sandy, who has always been there for him, as well.

“She’s been the best for all three of us,” Cal said. “She has been there for me, my brother, Ty, and my dad, Henry. She has been doing this for how many years with my dad when he was coaching? She’s right there for my brother and me after every game.”

His best high school baseball memory was when he was with his dad, Henry. As a family, they won the 2017 championship at Goddard his senior year. Cal pitched the whole game allowing three runs for a complete game. His dad didn’t think he would last the first inning based upon his pregame warmup.

“I guess I was really nervous in warmups,” Cal said. “It worked out in the game. That feeling was the best feeling. My dad had been there for all five years I played. We had been so close to winning it all. My little brother, Ty, was there. Ty hit a double and had some good catches in the outfield.”

COVID-19 affected the Aggies baseball team, as well. The team was getting ready to go to San Diego State on Wednesday, the day the NBA was postponed. The team’s baseball series was postponed that weekend at home; the following weekend Cal saw on Twitter the Western Athletic Conference season was canceled.

Cal will be a redshirt sophomore athletically this fall, and a senior academically when he returns to school in the fall. He wants to be a physical therapist when he is done with baseball.

Cal is planning to play summer baseball in North Dakota starting in July, depending on what each state has decided about coronavirus restrictions.

“The speed of the game is quicker in college than in high school,” Cal said. “The game is more intense, and the competition is really, really good. Even on our own team, we have backups just as good as the starters ready to go in. You have to perform and keep playing well. You have to keep doing the right things all the time.”