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Prep baseball: Eldorado coach has rough debut

RIO RANCHO — There will be better days for Reid Figiel.

Perhaps even today.

On a chilly Wednesday, for the first time since 1988, the Eldorado High School baseball program opened a season with a new head coach.

“It’s a new ballgame, a new era,” Eagles senior catcher Tomas Martinez said.

Figiel, who turned 30 on Feb. 18, had a rough go in his debut with the burnt orange, as Rio Rancho whipped the visiting Eagles 10-0 in six innings.

“Honestly, I was a little nervous,” said Figiel, a 2005 La Cueva graduate and former assistant at Volcano Vista before Eldorado hired him to assume control of this storied program. “But it’s because I care so much. I want to meet the needs of what everyone wants in Eldorado.”

The Rams (4-2) already had played five games this season before Wednesday. This was Eldorado’s season opener.

Shortstop Garrett Gouldsmith had a pair of RBI triples, and Noah Brewer added a two-run double for the Rams, who honored longtime head coach Ron Murphy before the game.

Murphy had won his 500th career game last weekend in El Paso.

“It was exciting right off the bat,” Figiel said. “I talked to coach Murphy before the game. It was the 500-win man against the 0-0 man. There was a little anxiety.”

Murphy sits at 503 victories after Wednesday.

“I told him that I hope I’m there for him when he gets his 500th,” Murphy said.

Figiel’s Eagles are back at it today against Highland as he chases his first victory. Eldorado also faces Atrisco Heritage on Saturday.

“I feel like I’ve come into a program that has a tradition of success, and I want to build on that,” said Figiel.

His predecessor, Jim Johns, retired last May after 29 seasons as Eldorado’s head coach and having well over 30 years invested in the program.

Johns was in the stands Wednesday to watch the Eagles — the first time, he said, he was watching a prep baseball game as a civilian outside the bubble of New Mexico’s prep baseball universe.

Figiel was only a few months old in 1987 when Johns was named Eldorado’s head coach. The torch officially passed with this first game for Figiel.

“I honestly think it’s gone well,” Eldorado senior pitcher/first baseman Cole Schoepke said of the transition of coaches. “He’s so high energy, so positive about everything, it’s fun being out there every day with him.”

This is Figiel’s first head coaching job. He won a couple of titles with La Cueva as a player.

He already is on record as having high expectations for this team. The Eagles didn’t look overly polished Wednesday, but then again, that happens to a lot of teams in their openers.

“Everyone has bought into the program,” he said. “It’s been trying to get the seniors to buy into the new coach and a new person and a new program.”

“It’s been smooth,” Martinez observed. “He’s brought a fun environment to the team.”

The players know that Figiel is about old enough to be a big brother to anyone on this team.

But, as Martinez, noted, “It is like talking to an older brother, but you have to show him respect. He’s our coach.”

Figiel laughed as he recalled some of the early days of his tenure.

“I think right off the bat, the kids tested me here and there to see what they could get away with,” he said.

Wednesday’s result didn’t discourage him.

“We’re gonna get there,” he said. “I like this group of guys.”