ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bears wearing bull’s-eye on back as they prepare to open season
The La Cueva baseball team’s recovery from a rough offseason got a little better this week.
Make that a whole lot better.
The Bears are ranked in trio of preseason national high school polls, and one of their players, junior center fielder/pitcher Ryan Padilla, was named an honorable mention All-American by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
La Cueva will open the season Tuesday as the 16th-ranked prep team in the Easton Sports National poll. The Bears, who finished last season No. 12 in the Easton poll, are also 30th in the Baseball America preseason rankings and 36th in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25.
It’s a welcome relief following an offseason in which previous coach Stan McKeever was fired after admitting he paid for exotic dancers to entertain two of his players.
“I think it’s only natural that you have a target on your back when you get the kind of attention we’re getting,” said first-year coach Gerard Pineda. “Right now it’s a nice honor, but a lot of these polls are based on what a team did the previous year. We’ve got a lot of good kids coming back, but this is a new team and it’s hard to say if we’re really the 16th-best team in the country right now. We haven’t even played a game.”
La Cueva has been a frequent visitor to the various national polls the last 10 years. The Bears climbed to No. 1 in the Easton tabulation in 2004 and got as high as No. 9 last season.
Padilla was named an honorable mention outfielder to the Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American team. The 6-foot-2 junior, who has already verbally committed to play at the University of New Mexico, hit .406 with seven home runs while splitting time on the mound as a spot starter and reliever.