April 30, 2009
Up Next: Lobos vs. UNLV - 3-game series
When: Noon, Friday; 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Isotopes Park; Noon, Sunday, Lobo Field
Online: GameTracker, live video, recaps on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Tom Hanks once informed a nation of baseball fans that there is no crying in baseball. OK, fine, but there is a lot of dust blowing around New Mexico this time of the year and for sure that dust can irritate sensitive eyes.
So, when the Lobos meet the UNLV Rebels this weekend, it's possible that there will be some dust in the air and that some of that dust will get into the eyes of Lobo coach Ray Birmingham.
And Birmingham's eyes will tear up and the veteran of 20 years on a collegiate diamond might have to rub some dust-formed tears off his cheek.
"I'll probably tear up, but don't tell anyone," said Birmingham. "These seniors mean a lot to me. I'm going to miss them and I don't just mean for what they have done for us on the field. These are class guys. These are the kind of people you let babysit your kids."
Saturday is Senior Day for the University of New Mexico as ten seniors play their last home games as Lobos this weekend. UNM will play UNLV Friday and Saturday at Isotopes Park and conclude the three-game series Sunday at Lobo Field.
"Losing those guys is going to make me cry," said Birmingham. "I've become attached to these young men and that's because of the way they conduct themselves as Lobos on and off the field.
"Many of these seniors have come out of a tough situation and they have put us in a position where we are good enough to play in the NCAA regionals. It's a special group of guys for us. I challenged them to perform as students and as athletes and as seniors and I'm proud of them for their accomplishments in all areas."
Coaches usually miss players the most because of the type of person they have grown into under his watch. But Birmingham also loses a whole lot of production from a portion of this senior class.
Brownstein, Atkinson, Cavazos-Galvez and Hamilton are the top four Lobos in six extremely important hitting categories: runs scored, hits, RBI, doubles, triples and total bases.
They also represent four of UNM's top six hitters: Brownstein at .415, Atkinson at .413, Cavazos-Galvez at .386 and Hamilton at .372. They represent 197 runs, 285 hits and 184 RBIs.
Those lost numbers would bring tears to a lot of coaches' eyes - dust or no dust.
"There is no question that we got a lot of production from those guys at the plate," said Birmingham. "You go from Brownstein to Atkinson to Cavazos to Hamilton and those guys are tough to lose and tough to replace. But I'm also losing a lot on the mound in Hesketh, Grubbs, Cox and Kerr.
"But coming from junior college (18 seasons at New Mexico Junior College), you get used to losing quality kids. I lost kids all the time. I would lose freshmen to the draft (Major League) and lose sophomores to graduation.
"On paper, you would think next year is going to be a challenge. But I'm used to reloading and I'm going to bust my butt to make sure we are even better next year. I'm up for the challenge. The loss of these seniors is going to hurt me a lot more on a personal level."
The Lobos are eyeing the three-game series with UNLV as a chance to catch up on TCU in the Mountain West Conference race. The Horned Frogs top the MWC standing at 8-4 with UNM and Brigham Young tied at 11-6. The Lobos are 31-14 overall coming off two losses at Nebraska. UNLV is 23-23 and 7-8 in league play.