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New Mexico native now a Dodger

Nathan Lucero, New Mexico-born and Placitas-pleased, is a true blue Dodger these days.

But for much of his professional life he mended the aches and pains of the Houston Astros.

Lucero spends his working hours as assistant athletic trainer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the newly ordained champions of the National League.

But as his college days at New Mexico State faded, he was called to be part of the training staff of the Houston Astros. That was in 1993, and for the next 23 years, he tended to teams in the Astros organization, rising to head trainer in Houston in 2009.

In 2015, his contract was not renewed by the Astros, but the Dodgers quickly snapped him up.

So, today he will work the dugout for the Dodgers as they go about their World Series business against — as fate would insist — the Astros of Houston.

“There are lots of emotions,” Lucero said by phone from steamy Los Angeles on Monday afternoon. “I still have a lot of connections there. There’s a good part of that team, a lot of that staff that I know. I want the best for them. But obviously I want us to win.”

Lucero grew up in Villanueva and graduated from West Las Vegas in 1987. When he was a senior playing football for the Dons, he hurt his ankle. The high school did not have a training staff, but he ventured over to New Mexico Highlands where then-athletic trainer Rob Evers helped him heal.

“As the players would come and go, I saw how much they trusted him,” Lucero said. “He was like another parent for them. I thought that was pretty cool.”

When he went to New Mexico State, he knew he wanted to get into athletic training because of that experience.

Ron Porterfield, an NMSU grad who is the current Tampa Bay Rays head trainer, helped him get his professional start. Porterfield was with the Astros in 1993 and called New Mexico State to see if there were any Aggies good enough to assist him.

NMSU’s head trainer called Lucero.

“I thought he meant he needed someone to help with (NMSU) practice,” Lucero said. So he hung up and headed out the door. The trainer called again and Lucero said he would be right there and hung up. The trainer called a third time and told him he “would strangle him if he hung up again.”

Lucero finally got the message that it was Houston who needed him.

When Lucero was hired by the Dodgers, he and his wife, Janet, decided to make their home in New Mexico, where both have family. He decided he wanted a spacious backyard to raise his daughters Isabella, 15, and Sophia, 13, and 1-year-old son Isaiah. So they bought a place in Placitas.

“You can’t do this job without a good wife,” Lucero said.