A few East Mountain High School baseball players sat in their cars and pickup trucks in the parking lot of Vista Grande Community Complex before a team workout last Saturday morning. Having heard the news that the state was tightening its public health order, the players acknowledged the forgone conclusion that the workout would be their last for a while.

“I honestly don’t know what to think,” East Mountain junior Cole Phillips said. “It’s hard to process it all.”

“It’s gonna be a bummer, you know, because this is another thing to get out and do,” Deshawn Torrez-Griego said.

The New Mexico Activities Association announced this week that high schools can continue workouts during the current public health order. But East Mountain had to put all workouts on pause because the school uses the Vista Grande complex in Sandia Park, including the ballfield the Timberwolves call their home field. Vista Grande is a Bernalillo County facility and is closed during the public health order.

“I think everyone’s a little upset,” Phillips said before last Saturday’s final workout.

The NMAA has tentatively marked April 5 as the start of the 2021 baseball season. Despite the start date being more than four months away, East Mountain’s new head coach Ray Demarest had been getting players together for the past month for offseason workouts under the NMAA’s guidelines with players wearing masks and separated in pods.

“This is my first year so I wanted to kinda get the ball rolling, hit the ground running, especially with the year that we’ve had, you know, most of these kids haven’t done anything since March,” Demarest said.

Demarest was holding workouts a few days a week, focusing on conditioning and working on overall athleticism. He said he wasn’t doing many baseball-specific drills other than hitting.

“We were doing a lot of hitting, mainly tee work,” he said.

During a workout a few weeks ago, Phillips said that besides getting into good physical shape, the workouts were an opportunity to bond with teammates.

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East Mountain head baseball coach Ray Demarest (center) and players doing a two-ball drill during a workout Nov. 7. Photo by Ger Demarest.

“With online school we’re not really around each other a lot, so this is a good time to kinda be around each other even though we have to stay a few feet apart,” Phillips said.

East Mountain junior Caleb Martin added: “I haven’t seen some of these guys in months, so it’s really good to get bonding time with my teammates.”

Now, with East Mountain’s workouts postponed, players say they are bummed but are trying to stay positive.

“Oh yeah, it hurts, it hurts,” Phillips said. “But we’re just gonna have to figure out what we can do without it I guess.”

Demarest said he’s glad he got a month to do something with the team and thinks it’s better to sideline the workouts now rather than later.

“I guess it’s not the worst time for this to happen,” Demarest said. “I’d much rather shut down with the holidays coming and hopefully get to start up again come February or March—hopefully this little bit of sacrifice now will be worth it in the long run.”

Editor’s note: Ray Demarest is the son of The Independent’s sports editor, Ger Demarest.

Ger Demarest
Ger Demarest

Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.