A New Mexico baseball team is struggling to keep its players eligible due to a major change in players’ class schedules.
KRQE reports that Albuquerque’s Rio Grande High has gotten rid of a seventh-period “baseball class” that was used as a means of keeping players’ grades up, and that the players did not find out until they picked their class schedules up for the fall.
“Well, we were panicked, we didn’t know that they were gonna take it away,” said Eliazar Torres, a Rio Grande senior baseball player.
“Seventh period does, it really does help a lot,” said Rio Grande junior Mario Armendariz. “I mean grade issues became a problem for the baseball program, we had a few people miss out to be on this team because of grade issues.”
Players told KRQE that the class was one dedicated to not only studying and practicing baseball, but longtime Rio Grande coach Orlando Griego says it gave him an opportunity to mentor his players throughout the year.
According to what Rio Rancho head coach Ron Murphy told KRQE, Rio Grande is far from the state’s only school with a baseball class.
“To be honest I don’t know how a coach could survive without it,” said Murphy, who is also President of the New Mexico Baseball Coaches Association. “It gives me a chance to keep track of the kids all year long, their grades, if they’re getting in trouble in school, they don’t get in trouble.
“I’d be frustrated, I’d fight it like heck, and I feel bad for Rio Grande that they lost their seventh block class,” Murphy added. “And I know it’s got to affect their kids, their coaches, and their community.”
While players and their parents claim they weren’t given an explanation for the change, Rio Grande principal Amanda DeBell gave her explanation for why the three-day-a-week class was cut.
“Quite frankly with the budget and with my graduation rate and with our scores of proficiency, I had some incredibly hard decisions to make,” DeBell told KRQE.
Now, players can enroll in an “athletic class.”
“They can get off-season training, they’re learning strength and conditioning, and the coaches still have access to those kiddos,” DeBell said.
Griego claims to KRQE the schedule change has made an impact, as nine students who wanted to play baseball were academically ineligible. Low on numbers, there is no C-team for the first time in his run at Rio Grande.
“The only thing different this year from the last 23 seasons is me not having the athletic class,” Griego told KRQE.
But the principal disputes the coach’s claims that the schedule change has impacted eligibility, saying the team has the fewest amount of students who are ineligible.
The coach told KRQE that he only has 30 players, which in baseball is bare-bones for two teams.
Rio Grande has major issues aside from the baseball class, as DeBell pointed out. She told KRQE that the school has only a 51 percent proficiency rate in English and that the graduation rate is just 57 percent.
Additionally, the New Mexico Activities Association is tightening up eligibility requirements next year, as athletes with a single ‘F’ on their report cards will be ineligible to play. Currently, students are permitted one ‘F.’
“You know I’ve spent half of my lifetime essentially putting my heart and soul into this baseball program,” Griego said. “I don’t have a problem with them raising the standard, but give us the tools to succeed.”