Reid Figiel hadn’t even celebrated his first birthday the last time Eldorado High School introduced a new baseball coach.
But, for the first time since the end of the Reagan administration, the Eagles are beginning a new era on the diamond.
Figiel, 29, a longtime assistant to Kevin Andersh at Volcano Vista, has been chosen to replace Jim Johns with the burnt orange and take over one of New Mexico’s most storied programs.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Figiel said.
In a true bit of irony, Figiel is a 2005 La Cueva graduate.
“To me, this is huge,” he said. “I feel like I can make this program grow and make it even better than it already is.
“I’m willing to throw that out there, because I feel I’ve got the knowledge, the drive, the grit, the hunger to develop these kids.”
Johns retired last month after 29 mostly glorious seasons as Eldorado’s head coach, a period in which he won 552 games and seven state championships, most recently in 2015.
Johns, now 59, was very close to Figiel’s age when he became Eldorado’s head coach before the 1988 season. Figiel was born in February of 1987; it was only a few months later that Johns was chosen to head up the Eagles’ program.
“He’s ready,” said Andersh. “Obviously, anybody that steps into coach Johns’ spot has some big shoes to fill.”
Figiel was a third baseman at La Cueva and won a couple of state titles in a Bears uniform — including one in 2005 against Johns and Eldorado.
“Being a La Cueva guy,” he said with a laugh, “I’m gonna have to get in there and prove myself and take it and make it my own.”
This will be his first head coaching position. It was the first one he ever applied for, he said, adding that he is planning to teach physical education at Eldorado.
He also knows how much attention will be directed his way. “And I welcome that,” Figiel said. “I’m a guy that thrives on a challenge. I’m happy to take that challenge on, and all the scrutiny that comes along with it.”
Figiel has seven years as a Hawks varsity assistant,. He also was the JV head coach for a single season. Andersh, himself is a former assistant coach to Johns, was a “huge advocate for me” and a mentor, Figiel said.
“(Reid) is a young kid, a hard worker, an overachiever,” Andersh said. “He’s done everything he can possibly do as an assistant, and I think he’s ready to move on to the next step.”