A sure sign that Spring is just around the corner is when baseball players begin swinging bats and fielding grounders. The Tucumcari Rattler baseball team has begun workouts in preparation for the upcoming season which begins March 16. Coach Mike Russell heads into the season with optimism.
“We were 14-8 last year, “ said Russell. “We are returning eight sophomores from last year. We should do even better this year.”
One major question mark remains for the team, however. Senior Ray Johnson injured his knee late in the basketball season and Russell does not know if Johnson will be available to play.
“Ray played well for us last year,” said Russell. “I hope he can help us out this year.”
The Rattlers should get a boost from A.J. Molinas. Molinas, a power hitter, was injured last year, but is healthy now.
Russell, glad to have a power hitter in the lineup, says it’s mainly pitching and defense that win games.
“I tell my players that if we throw strikes and make plays, the wins will take care of themselves,” said Russell. “Offensively, we will take chances. I teach aggressive base running. I expect a lot of steals.”
At least two of last year’s starting pitchers will be back, Matt Braziel and John Sewell. Russell said there is no real shortage of talent on this year’s team.
“The talent is there. We’ll rely more on our quickness than our power,” said Russell.
Russell’s only complaint about the upcoming season is that the home games are played out near the convention center.
“We would draw bigger crowds if our field were located closer to the school,” he said.
The Rattlers begin the season March 16 at Las Vegas. The following weekend, Tucumcari will host the Route 66 tournament. Eight teams will participate.
“Last year the tournament was rained out, “ said Russell. “Hopefully the weather will cooperate this year and a lot of fans will have a really good time.”