I never wanted to become a burro
Sitting at the table for the State Farm All-Metro baseball awards this past week, I couldn’t help but glance behind me to a table filled with Mohawk-sporting baseball players that represented the only Albuquerque metro area state champions in the sport.
The East Mountain Timberwolves won the state championship in Class 2A, beating Santa Rosa 9-0 in the final. The team was honored at the banquet by receiving the state championship trophy from the area’s two state senators.
On the way to accept their hardware, I am not sure who was staring at whose hair the most; me at the Mohawks or them at my 80s Bon Jovi do.
Growing up in the mountains as a youth, we never would have conceived of a high school at the base of Sandia Knolls. I have yet to take the trek up Tijeras Canyon to what was Sandia Park to see the old homestead.
And baseball, back in the day, consisted of me taking my glove that my uncle Gary gave me from his high school playing days at Belen and hiking down the mountain to Tim Yeager’s house, where three or four of us would meet for a pickup game.
And now there is a high school state champion there.
As we watched East Mountain accept their trophies, I turned to www.nmpreps.com’s Kyle Henderson and got a tad bit nostalgic.
“I remember the first team from the East Mountains,” I told him, eyeing his raspberry cheesecake with wanting.
It was 1974. Tim, myself and the rest of our gang had been pushing parents to play some baseball somewhere other than the Yeager back yard. I think the dads got serious about it the day that Tim and I stood up in church during the prayer requests and pleaded for a baseball team.
It wasn’t Iowa, but we were sure that if they built it, we could play some baseball.
We didn’t get a field carved out of the corn (or yucca plants), but we did get a coach, Mr. Yarbourgh, and two teams in the Zia Little League.
I was on the Minor division team because my dad assisted coach Yarbourgh. The Twins made quite a splash in the Zia league. I think we finished third. The Major division team, I believe they were the Rangers, finished second.
From those humble beginnings — two Little League teams without a grass field to practice on — there is now a full Little League in the East Mountains, a high school and a premier golf course.
I never could have imagined it, walking down to Tim’s with my Louisville Slugger bat over my shoulder and Uncle Gary’s glove nestled on the end of the stick.
I have to say that mascot names have greatly improved since the early 70s in the East Mountain. While there was not a high school, San Antonito Elementary School underwent an identity crisis when I was in the fifth grade there.
The school administration, in a fit of insanity, let the students submit names for a school mascot. The two that they let the students vote for were the Cavemen and the Burros.
All of the boys in the fifth and sixth grade immediately began to campaign against the Burro choice with much fervor. We knew that we would not be known as the Burros to other elementary schools’ fifth and sixth graders. We knew that a name synonomus with Burro would be used instead.
We already got called jackasses at home, we cried, we didn’t need the moniker from our peers.
The little kids got wooed to vote for the Burro from a cute little stuffed animal donkey that one of the teachers brought in decked out with a Hawaiian lei.
I had to wait two years to go from being a burro to being a Roosevelt Junior High School Ram.
Then I moved to Weed, where I became a Bulldog — one of the many overused names in the state.
I think the Timberwolves is a much better name — worthy of a state champion.