With Bruce Springsteen’s blue-collar jock anthem “Glory Days” cranked up on the public address system, the new faces of West Las Vegas baseball paid tribute to the program’s standard-bearers on a sunny, muddy Saturday at Dons Field.
Current WLV coach Dean Gallegos and his team invited members of the 1968 and 1978 teams to take a bow and be recognized before Saturday’s home-opening doubleheader with Miyamura.
A number of those old players obliged, basking in the glow of the moment and the opportunity to reconnect with teammates of yesteryear. And several also delivered words of encouragement to the current and future West players, urging them to take pride in being Dons.
“These are the old-timers,” Jim Abreu quipped about his fellow ‘68 squad members. “It’s a great honor for me to be on the field with two state championship baseball teams ... Many times we were not as big as the other teams. But we had to use our heart ... our speed ... and our brains.”
Abreu, now the West Las Vegas Schools superintendent after years as a professor and administrator at New Mexico Highlands, tipped his hat to those who would follow: “I wish them great luck. I know they’ll carry on with the great legacy of West Las Vegas.”
Another ‘68 Don, longtime NMHU professor Roy Lujan, told the audience he was honored and felt “a sense of pride” to be recognized.
“You cannot use the term pride without thinking about the West Las Vegas Dons,” Lujan said, giving a brief history lesson about the founding of the school district in the 1940s and the christening of the team mascot “Dons” by the late Gillie Lopez.
“It’s a term used with a lot of respect,” he said. Lujan said the school district has a tradition of molding future leaders and has produced success stories in a number of professions, including education, medicine and law.
“I’m extremely proud to be here today,” said ‘78 Dons player Ronnie Archuleta. “I talked to my wife about this all week long, and she told me ‘Shut up, already, Al Bundy.’”
Another who addressed the audience, at the behest of master of ceremonies Richard Tripp, was Marvin Maes, also from the ‘78 team.
“I’d like to say right on, Class of ‘78 and ‘68, the state’s finest,” Maes said. “It’s good to see all my home boys back in the barrio.”
Maes closed by wishing “good luck to all future Dons and Gents.”
As part of the ceremony, the school district’s newest sports program, the West Las Vegas Middle School Gents baseball team, was on hand to help pay tribute to their decorated predecessors.
It was these youngsters as well as the fresh-faced Dons varsity that ‘68 Dons player Michael Lopez — today a doctor — had in mind when he spoke to the crowd.
“You don’t realize it now,” he told them. “But years from now you’ll look at these days with great pride. You’ll appreciate what your coaches and teachers did for you.”