Copyright 2014 Albuquerque Journal
There's no place like home.
And for the Pojoaque Valley High School softball team, home is right where it's supposed to be: on campus where students can stroll over after classes and root on the Elkettes against all comers.
Pojoaque Valley christened its new $800,000 field this week in short but emphatic style, beating visiting Taos 17-2 in three innings.
In a fairly unique combination of soccer and softball field, the FieldTurf surface marks a breakthrough for girls sports, said coach Ricky deHerrera.
"It means a lot," he said. "It means they are truly taking care of us."
That was a feeling shared by the players. "We hardly ever get anything new," said senior captain and first baseman Gabrielle Gonzales. "But we got a new facility - it brings us a little bit of excitement."
Although this was the first official varsity softball game on the field, it's been in use before. Some soccer games were played on it at the end of the season in the fall, the junior varsity squad also played a game there earlier and the team has been practicing on the field.
But the varsity had to wait until Tuesday to toe up the rubber and dent the plate for the first time. "It was pretty good," said senior left fielder Amber Lujan. "Actually being able to play on it instead of just practice, it was awesome."
It was a comfortable feeling. Gonzales said. "It wasn't intimidating because we've been on it practicing," she said. The field, however, loomed like that large package under the Christmas tree. "We've been waiting for this for a long time," Gonzales said. "It's awesome. It's nice having our field actually on campus."
The team had been playing on a Little League field about three miles away, leaving team members to find their own way to and from campus. And that just wasn't an acceptable situation any longer, athletic director Matt Martinez said. "We like to have all of our athletic facilities, our playing field, on campus," he said. "The girls have been driving to their fields and we didn't want that." Besides, Martinez added, the softball players deserve to have the same advantages that the other athletes enjoy. "We're always trying to upgrade all of our facilities," he said.
The complex is something of a work in progress as the dugouts are somewhat makeshift at the moment, with tarps serving as roofs, and some dirt still needs to be pushed around outside the field itself. But the administration wanted to give the player a chance to begin using field as soon as possible, Martinez said. And that's something the players appreciate, Gonzales said.
"I've been a part of this program for five years and I've seen our softball program at the school progress a lot," she said. "It's showing. It's making a difference. Coach D can build a future for softball and be committed with the girls."
Lujan, who also plays soccer, said she wishes that it had been completed earlier, but she will take it now that it's done.
It helps create a real home field advantage, Gonzales said. "It brings a lot more people because they know where the field is," she said. "Our first game, we had a big crowd. It will bring us more motivation and more encouragement, and have more students participate in our softball program for support."