By Kevin Wilson
With the possible exception of the weather, every element is seeming to fall into place for Portales High’s summer baseball program.
The Ram baseball program has returned after a two-year absence, thanks in most part to a former Ram and a former major league coach.
Dusty Nusser, a 2001 graduate of PHS, and Oscar Acosta, a former pitching coach for the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers, have combined to give next year’s core group a chance to compete in District 4-3A.
“We’re in the grass roots of it and trying to get it started,” Acosta said. “Hopefully, this is the beginning of something good for them every year.”
It was evident following Portales’ 7-18 season that something had to be done, said Nusser, who played summer ball in all four of his offseasons.
“You could tell (we needed it),” Nusser said. “We had a pretty new team and they were inexperienced in games.”
“It’s like in any sport. The more you play, the better you get — even more so in baseball.”
With that in mind, Ram coach Greg Hill got on the phones and started scheduling games with opponents across New Mexico and Texas.
“It takes quite a bit of work because the Texas schools schedule (summer) games in May and we’re in district play,” Nusser said. “It would be difficult if it wasn’t for these guys coming out here every night (for practice). We’ve never had less than 10 guys out every night.”
The Rams have been on the field three times a week since the last week of May, when the weather allows them. The storms of last Wednesday and Thursday knocked out a pair of their practices.
In addition, Portales also had the second game of a doubleheader at Muleshoe rained out. All told, Nusser said, they’ve played one game (14-0 win) and one inning (leading Muleshoe 2-1 after one).
Portales will see action on Friday and Monday, with home doubleheaders against Roswell and Muleshoe. Friday’s games start at 5 p.m., and Monday’s begin at 5:30 p.m. at Ram Field.
The lightened schedule in not a situation that has pleased Acosta so far. He insists that baseball is a sport where you can’t get away with being a “weekend warrior,” that playing 70-80 games a year is the only way to succeed. He called that the biggest difference between the major leaguers that he’s coached since 1983 and the high schoolers he coaches now.
“The biggest difference is they don’t see situations on a daily basis,” Acosta said. “They can’t react because they don’t know. It’s basically a game of failure and learning to deal with failure.”
With the help of Acosta though, they’re learning to deal with more success than they’ve had on the baseball field.
“We’ve got a wider knowledge of the game,” said Kevin Cheatham, a senior-to-be at PHS. “Oscar has been a super coach. He’s just helped us a bunch.”
Nusser, who is an assistant coach with the baseball team, hopes that Acosta’s help will translate into more wins in the 2004 season.
“We’ve got guys that are hitting the ball out of the yard that normally haven’t been,” Nusser said.
Acosta said helping out the Rams is helping fill a void while he is out of professional baseball.
“I miss the competition, I miss the travel. I don’t miss being away from my family,” said Acosta, whose son Ryan will be a freshman at PHS next season.
“I look forward to watching them play. What’s exciting is when they’re successful and they didn’t know they could be successful.”