Between the national anthem and the first pitch on Opening Day, Coronado Little League honored its roots and the father who campaigned 50 years ago to build a ball field.
1973 was the year the New York Mets, once a National League joke now led by Manager Yogi Berra, won its first World Series. It was the second season for the Los Angeles Dodgers' new Albuquerque Triple-A farm team that brought back the name Dukes succeeding the Double-A Albuquerque Dodgers.
And it was the year Jerry Archibeque not only recognized Bernalillo needed Little League baseball but set out to make it happen. Coronado Little League President Amana Lopez said this season fields 20 with and 247 boys and girls, most of whom lined up around the outfield to recognize Archibeque and the many parents who supported his vision.
"This is a special day," Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres said on April 1 at what is now named the Jerry Archibeque Complex. "It shows ordinary people can do extraordinary things."
Archibeque began his quest motivated by watching his son play ball on streets and in schoolyards. It helped that a good friend headed a Little League in Albuquerque's South Valley and that Bernalillo Mayor Hilario J. "Lalo" Torres, father of the current mayor, was open to turning over a corner of the former New Mexico Lumber & Timber Co. sawmill property owned by the town.
"I told the mayor there was no place where kids could play baseball," Archibeque said. "I said I needed it to create some baseball fields."
Archibeque set about recruiting friends and family, soliciting donations and working on a charter from Little League Baseball Inc., the national organization founded in 1939 and based in Williamsport, Pa. With the aid of equipment loaned by the town and Sandoval County, an old softball field in what had been the sawmill log pond emerged as a Little League field.
"A lot of guys came out to help," said Jose B. Trujillo, a longtime friend and one of Archibeque's first recruits. "We started by clearing a field. The fire department provided the water."
The league charter came through too late for a season that year, but 1974 saw eight teams divided into major and minor divisions take the field. By then a formal board was in charge with Archibeque as president and a women's auxiliary with his wife Lena as its treasurer.
As Coronado grew, so did the facilities aided in part by state funding until five fields with shaded bleachers and a central concession stand now grace Rotary Park close by the site of the 1974 field. Coronado players ages 3 through 16 populate multiple age divisions for T-ball, boys and girls baseball and girls softball.
An adult softball league once used the complex but faded away about 10 years ago with intermittent chatter about reviving it.
The complex has played host to state and regional tournaments that will return next year to help celebrate the 50th season. Little League Baseball and Softball today boasts about two million boys and girls representing every state and 80 foreign countries, according to the national league website.
Last year Archibeque's family approached the town on renaming the baseball complex in his honor. Generations of players and coaches were among the 500 people signing petitions supporting the request.
Earlier in 2022, town councilors approved naming the Coronado Major Division ball field in memory of Frank Garcia. He had helped Archibeque with the first field and dedicated 35 years to the league coaching and spending 10 years as league president.
After approving the Garcia recognition and adding an appropriate plaque, the town drafted a policy and established an in-house committee to review requests for naming town facilities. The Archibeque proposal was the first to go through that process.
The town has now erected a steel arch over the main parking-lot entrance to the ball fields proclaiming "Jerry Archibeque Complex, Home of Coronado Little League, Est. 1974." A sign stands at the west entrance near Calle Laguna.
The town paid the combined cost of about $29,000.
"I'm so proud it really happened," Archibeque told the Signpost. "It recognizes all the people who made it possible."
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