Lobo Field still a work in progress

Lobo Field isn’t up to NCAA standards even after a $3.5 million renovation.

By Thomas Romero-Salas

ALBUQUERQUE — Last season, the University of New Mexico baseball team looked set to make its first run to the College World Series.

The team had won a second consecutive Mountain West title, had an overall record of 37-22, and were in contention to host the NCAA Regional tournament.

But school officials didn’t bother sending a request to host the regional because UNM had no place to hold it. Lobo Field wasn’t up to the NCAA standards even after a $3.5 million renovation.

Instead the Lobos traveled to Fullerton, California, for the NCAAs and were eliminated in just two games.

UNM sports information director Terry Kelly said the Lobos offense, which is usually one of the best in the nation, loses its potency on the road.

“If you look at the last four years, the teams that host the regional win the regional,” Kelly said. “As you’ve seen the past few years, the type of teams we typically have here, the offense doesn’t play at the coastal air of Fullerton or at Cal.”

Since Lobo head coach Ray Birmingham took the helm in 2008, 67 of 96 regional hosts have won their regional or 70 percent. In that same time span, 86 of 96 or 90 percent of regional hosts have played in their regional final.

Getting up to standards

The $3.5 million renovation included new bleachers, press area, turf field, dugouts and lights that were put up last fall. Lobo Field has been a product of state, university and private funding, much of the latter being raised by Birmingham himself.

“It’s a lot nicer than it used to be, but it’s not even close to what the other teams have,” Birmingham said. “It’s time for that help to make it a first class facility.”

UNM does intend to add concession areas, a new press area, more bleachers and a permanent locker room, according to an athletic department press release. The Lobos spent a majority of the past nine and a half seasons at Isotopes Park before moving permanently back to Lobo Field last year.

The school does plan on putting in the new bathrooms and clubhouse this summer. The bathrooms will cost $270,000 and the clubhouse will be $500,000.

“We’re still in the beginning phases,” said Brad Hutchins the associate athletic director of marketing/revenue “There’s still a lot of work to do… It’s coming along nicely. We obviously need to get more of it done.”

Lobo Field ranks third in terms of construction/renovation cost

When comparing Lobo Field to other Mountain West venues in terms of construction/renovation cost, it ranks third out of seven teams in the conference.

“It’s a lot nicer than it used to be, but it’s not even close to what the other teams have” — UNM head coach Ray Birmingham.

By counting for inflation, San Diego State’s Tony Gwynn Stadium ranks first at $5,829,682.24, while Fresno State’s Pete Beiden Field is second at $5,166,189 spent. The Aztecs originally paid $4 million to build Tony Gwynn Stadium in 1997 and the Bulldogs shelled out $2.2 million in 1983 for Pete Beiden Field to be renovated in 1983.

Air Force spent $2.1 million in 2009 to renovate Falcon Field to rank fourth in the conference. In 2014 dollars that amounts to $2,312,959.

UNLV funded $1.2 million in 1994 for Earl E. Wilson Stadium to be created, which amounts to $1,894,056.68 in today’s dollars and for fifth place in terms of spending in the conference.

The sixth team in terms of expenditure was Nevada, who put $1.6 million into Peccola Park to be renovated in 2006 or $1,856,476.19 in 2014 dollars.

UNM pitcher Drew Bridges throws a pitch during the Lobos 12-0 win over Northern Illinois on Feb. 21. The Lobos were unable to host an NCAA Regional last year because Lobo Field didn’t meet the NCAA’s standards. (Photo by Thomas Romero-Salas)

UNM pitcher Drew Bridges throws a pitch during the Lobos 12-0 win over Northern Illinois on Feb. 21. The Lobos were unable to host an NCAA Regional last year because Lobo Field didn’t meet the NCAA’s standards. (Photo by Thomas Romero-Salas)

San Jose State came in last with $1.15 million spent on Municipal Stadium which is also the host for San Jose’s minor league baseball team. The stadium was built in 1941-42 with $80,000. The Spartans play a majority of their games at Municipal Stadium, but also host games Blethen Field. Numbers for Blethen Field were unable to be found before press time.

“There are some other fields that have more stands than us and have more of a stadium feel right now,” UNM right fielder Chase Harris said. “Right now just because other stadiums have more of a stadium feel than us that they’re in front of us, but that’s just a matter of opinion. After it’s finished it’ll be hard to say one place is better than ours.”

The Lobos may rank third in spending but are dead last in terms of stadium capacity with a maximum of 1,000.

Fresno State’s Beiden Field holds 5,575 fans which is first in the Mountain West, San Jose State is second when the team plays at Municipal Stadium that holds 5,200 people.

SDSU, UNLV and Nevada are tied for third because all of their stadiums hold a maximum of 3,000 fans.

Lobo Field isn’t just used for the UNM baseball team, as the New Mexico Athletic Association (NMAA) hosts state playoff games on it, several baseball camps are hosted there, and last year some of the Texas state high school playoff contests were also played there.

“It’s not that the Lobos are the only team that plays on it,” Birmingham said. “NMMA is going to play on it, school systems are going to play on it and so are summer league. It’s a place of baseball.”

Before having an opportunity to host an NCAA regional, Lobo Field will hold the 2016 Mountain West conference tournament, according to the MW website.

UNM and Birmingham might be less than two years away hosting not only the MW tournament but holding their first NCAA regional as well.

Thomas Romero-Salas is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo, covering both football and baseball. Follow him on Twitter (@ThomasRomeroS) for more updates on UNM athletics.


Increased use of heroin by NM youth

Survey and anecdotal evidence suggest more heroin use among high school kids

By Hayley Mitchell

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Experts have detected a slight but troubling increase in heroin use among teens in New Mexico.

The Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, administered by the New Mexico Department of Health, gathers data every couple of years through an anonymous survey of high school students. In 2011, 1.5 percent of high school students admitted to using heroin 1-2 times in the last 30 days. Two years later, in 2013, that percentage topped 4.0 percent, according to epidemiologist Dan Green of the YRRS.

The 2013 survey has not yet been made public.

For the Albuquerque metro area, the NM Dept of Health reports an increase from 2.8 percent in 2011 to 3.0 percent in 2013.

Earlier data indicated New Mexico teenagers were twice as likely to experiment with heroin as teens in any other state, according to the Albuquerque based non-profit group Healing Addiction in Our Community.

Data gathered via Albuquerque-based substance abuse treatment facilities show that young people under 21 years of age comprised 11 percent of all admissions for heroin abuse in 2012 (the last year for which data are available). The largest cohort of heroin abusers seeking treatment was 21-30 years old — comprising 48 percent of all heroin admissions in Albuquerque.

SOURCE: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) Based on administrative data reported by States to TEDS through Apr 07,2014

SOURCE: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS)
Based on administrative data reported by States to TEDS through Apr 07,2014

Lives Affected by Heroin

Albuquerque has seen the devastating effects of heroin abuse by teenagers.

In 2010, 16-year-old Haley Paternoster lost her life to heroin. In 2011, 18-year-old Cameron Weiss also died from heroin abuse. Both were high school students in Albuquerque Public Schools (APS).

Vaughn Bishop lost his sister to a drug overdose. Bishop is now a member of Healing Addiction in Our Community. He started using drugs regularly by age 13.

“Drugs were OK in my household,” Bishop said. “My parents were drug addicts, so I wanted to use drugs because all the people I looked up to did it.”


Bishop said he believes heroin use is increasing among local youth. He said he believes kids graduate to heroin after abusing prescription drugs.

“A lot of kids are getting drugs from home,” Bishop said. “All they’re doing is looking in the medicine cabinet and finding an old painkiller prescription from mom or dad or grandma.”

Bishop said these teenagers discover heroin partly because it is cheaper and more readily available than other drugs.

According to the Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, in 2011 some 10.2 percent of high school students reported having used painkillers to get high.

Bishop said educating teens and showing examples of the effects these drugs could have might help decrease this issue.

Crossroads Program

Crossroads is a program in seven high schools across Albuquerque Public Schools.

Its focus is to prevent drug use and educate teens about the dangers of drugs before it is too late.

Debbie Medina is one of nine Crossroads counselors. She is based at Rio Grande High School.

“It’s a wonderful program,” Medina said. “I wish it were available to every high school in APS. We’ve seen lots of successes and lots of great results.”

Medina said the program has received numerous thank you letters. She said people say that if the program didn’t exist they don’t know where they would be and that now they know where to go for help.

“If we save one kid a year is it worth it? I think so.”

— Debbie Medina

The Crossroads counselors see kids individually to help them through any issues they may have relating to drugs.

Crossroads also provides a parent-involvement program, which is for students who are caught on school property with drugs. It involves after school sessions where they stress the importance of communication between parents and students and teach problem-solving techniques.

Each counselor has a unique way of spreading the word. At Rio Grande High School, Medina does a 30-second morning announcement discussing different drugs. Each month she educates the students on a different drug – most recently it was spice, which is synthetic cannabis.

Another way Medina makes their program known on campus is by doing a “prom promise.” Students who want to make this promise sign a piece of paper that promises they will make good decisions for prom and they get prizes.

Medina has worked with students who have struggled with a variety of different drugs – including heroin.

Medina said sadly she believes heroin is increasing among the youth.

“They are starting out with pills and graduating to heroin because heroin is cheaper,” Medina said.

“Parents are thankful,” Medina said. “If we save one kid a year is it worth it? I think so.”

A mother steps up

Suzanne Frazier is the mother of a son and daughter who struggled with heroin addiction.


Deborah Barkoff, member of Healing Addiction in Our Community and mother of two kids who were prior heroin addicts

Frazier said her Vicodin “disappeared” when her daughter was just 14.

A few years later spoons were disappearing and she started noticing black things on the wall which was from smoking black tar heroin.

Frazier said she discarded any thought of it being from her kids because it was too hard for her to believe.

“I saw a lot of signs, but it was so foreign to me,” Frazier said.

“I put my head in the sand and ignored everything that was going on.”

She said her biggest regret was enabling it and wishes she could have been stronger.

Frazier said during the time her kids were using, her house was broken into four times by her kids’ friends and her kids knew but remained silent.

Frazier said both her kids have attended a handful of funerals of friends who have died from drug overdose.

Frazier said as soon as she joined Healing Addiction in Our Community she gained the confidence to practice tough love on her kids in order to save their lives.

Both her kids went to a rehab facility in Michigan and are in recovery. She said their relationships are great now.

“It makes me want to do more and more work, just the fact that my kids could have died from it,” Frazier said.

Video: Interview with Barkoff and Bishop

This video discusses the dangers of heroin use via the personal experiences of Deborah Barkoff and Vaughn Bishop.

Hayley Mitchell is in her junior year at the University of New Mexico and is an aspiring multimedia journalist.

Challenge Fund Winners Hold “Hack the Curriculum” Twitter Chat

See the Storify account of the chat held on Twitter under the hashtag #EdShift.

Here’s more on the chat, as previewed on PBS MediaShift by Lauren Simonis:

On Friday, April 18, our bi-weekly #EdShift chat will focus on helping educators “hack the curriculum” with experiments. The special guests will include first-round winners of the recentChallenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education.

The chat will take place on Twitter at the #EdShift hashtag at 10 am PT / 1 pm ET. It will be moderated as usual by MediaShift’s Education Curator Katy Culver, with special guests David Craig of the University of Oklahoma, Cindy Royal of Texas State University and Robert Gutscheof Florida International University. These four winners will briefly discuss their projects, and then explain how others can implement innovation in their own classrooms and find funding to do it.

The Online News Association, The Democracy Fund, Ethics & Excellence in Journalism, Knight Foundation and McCormick Foundation support the Challenge Fund, which is designed to stimulate experimentation in journalism curricula through collaborations that benefit communities. Join the conversation and get more details about these innovative ideas and how you might adapt them in your own programs.