It’s only a game, but it’s one that Roswell baseball coach Tyrell Curtis loves. He knows that innate churning inside his stomach. Like when he was called on in relief at New Mexico Highlands to get one batter out to win the game.
Curtis remembers what it’s like to stand on the pitcher’s mound exactly 60 feet and six inches from home plate with his hat pulled down tight on his head. The hitter can only see the tops of his eyes as the glove is covering his face.
The hitter has only a second to pick up what pitch is being thrown from the lefty. Curtis relished the opportunity of those one-on-one battles to give his team the win.
He was so successful at New Mexico Military Institute that he parlayed his pitching into a scholarship to New Mexico Highlands. He wound end up NMMI’s career leader in ERA.
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Curtis was out of baseball for three years and had a good life. He was working as a certified strength and conditioning coach before realizing how much baseball meant to him.
Curtis can identify with his team as much as anyone, what it’s like to have the game of baseball end. Roswell found out their season was canceled before playing in the Goddard Southwest Classic Tournament.
“I hope these kids get to have a season,” Curtis said. “Regardless of if kids go on to play college baseball, sports is still a big part of kids’ lives in high school.”
One of his mandates was to get players stronger. Curtis put his team on a lifting program. In the first year, Roswell showed improvement on the diamond and conditioning. Roswell improved in the win-loss column, falling one game short of making the playoffs.
Curtis hopes to establish a level of talent and depth that can play with teams like Goddard, Hobbs and Clovis. For Curtis, it has started with this year’s senior class.
Curtis feels like Goddard is always going to be one of the top programs in the state, but with the right foundation, Roswell can be right there. Curtis thinks RHS has had some good players but has not reached their full potential. He thinks Goddard athletes reach their potential.
Curtis hopes the season will be played this year. Roswell is expected to contend for a playoff spot in District 4-5A. The team will have to replace some key players from last year’s squad in Xavier Lomeli at first base, Noah Byrd at third base, and on the mound, A.J. Palomino, Derek Natividad and Kayleb Wright, to name a few players.
Curtis is seeking big things from returning players: Xavier Gonzales, Armando Silva, Rhett Stokes, Taymon Burrola and Brady Villegas to name a few.
On the hill, the Coyotes look to be deeper than they have been in a while. Look for Andrew Sedillo, Burrola, Sylvester Lomeli, Adiel Parra and his twin brother, Udiel Parra to eat up innings.
Curtis noted that Sedillo threw a gem against Goddard before losing 2-1 last year. Burrola never played a game last year because the basketball season had not ended. This could be a big year for him on the mound and behind the plate. Burrola was honorable mention as a catcher and was second-team all-district as a pitcher his sophomore season.
Roswell has two athletes that have signed letters of intent. Villegas committed to Otero Community College and Stokes, one of the most coveted baseball players in the state, has signed with NMMI. Stokes and Villegas were second-team all-district as sophomores.
According to Curtis, this group of seniors will leave a positive mark on the baseball program. They won a record-high 13 games in 2019. Last season Roswell beat Goddard for the first time in eight years and laid the foundation for the underclassmen to emulate.
“They’re (seniors) are a good group,” Curtis said. “They’re the group our underclassmen need to watch. They show what it takes to win games and the work you have to put in. I believe I will have a few more kids with the opportunity to go play in college which is good.”
One of the main concerns heading into the season will be athletes staying eligible academically. In January all athletes will be eligible regardless of the previous semester, but in the second nine weeks of the grading period, grade point averages must be a 2.0 and no Fs. Throughout the state, a lot of athletes have had trouble adjusting to online learning.
As a teacher, Curtis understands how and why kids may have trouble learning online. He feels like there is only so much he can do without personal interaction with kids.
“You can’t tell if a kid is struggling online,” Curtis said. “If they are having any issues they can’t come talk to you. Who wants to get motivated to stare at a computer all day?”
For the students, Curtis noted that the kids missed out on prom last year and graduation. They also have missed out on homecoming this year and could miss out on prom and other activities as well.
“I tell the kids to stay positive,” Curtis said. “I think the coaches feel worse than the kids because they don’t have a chance to compete against other people.”
With the way the baseball season is set up, kids could graduate and still be playing baseball games in June. The state championship is scheduled for June 27.
Roswell is slated to play 21 games this season, mostly doubleheaders. They will play on Tuesdays and Fridays. Roswell will play 12 district games, nine warmup games with four of those games against Goddard.
“To me,” Curtis said, “your high school years are supposed to be the best years you remember. If you think about it, if they don’t go to college, their (kids) life starts after they graduate high school. They have to get jobs to pay for everything, they become part of the 40-hour-a-week workforce in May. I feel bad because these kids are losing out on a lot.”
Roswell’s first game of the season is scheduled for May 3, at Alamogordo.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.