Late on a windy Thursday morning last week, Robert Arreola was watching his Lovington baseball team get 10-runned by defending state 5A champion Carlsbad at the Artesia tournament.
The Wildcats had trailed just 3-2 in the top of the fourth inning before the Cavemen rolled up nine runs across the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings to win the game 12-2 in five.
And yet, Arreola didn’t want to be anywhere else that morning. Though he obviously doesn’t like seeing his Wildcats lose – and they had already endured their seventh defeat of the season on Thursday – Arreola is enjoying the whole experience since returning for his fourth stint as Lovington’s head baseball coach.
Arreola, a 1987 Lovington High graduate, coached the Wildcats from 1997-2008, then again from 2013-14, and yet again in 2018. He has been Lovington’s athletic director since 2015, and last spring agreed to coach Wildcat baseball again after Ronald Deck stepped down.
Thursday was Arreola’s 10th game back, and though it didn’t go well for the blue and white, the coach was in his own kind of heaven on earth.
“I love it,” Arreola said after the Wildcats’ game against Carlsbad at Artesia’s Brainard Baseball Field. “Who wouldn’t want to trade places with me right now, playing in a great stadium like this against some great competition. You’ve got to appreciate those things. It gets me out of the office. I love baseball and I love coaching kids. That’s what it’s all about.”
Arreola can relate to the Lovington players because he was one. Before his coaching and administrative careers, Arreola was a quarterback for the Wildcats’ football team, a pitcher for their baseball team, and played some Lovington basketball too.
Arreola went on to have a college baseball career, all in New Mexico. He spent two years playing for Ray Birmingham at College of the Southwest – now known as University of the Southwest – based in Hobbs, then went on to play Division I ball for the University of New Mexico, based in Albuquerque.
Though most of Arreola’s post-collegiate career has been with Lovington, he did spend some time coaching football at Roswell before returning home.
For Arreola, being back in the dugout this year has been fun, though he realizes his methods can take some adjusting on the players’ part.
“You know what, I’m an old-school coach and I coach hard,” Arreola said. “But I’m going to love them afterwards, and I think they understand that.”
“He’s coaching pretty good, it’s going pretty good,” Wildcats senior pitcher/infielder Jonathan Aceves said after last Thursday’s game against Carlsbad. “He puts a lot of effort into it.”
Arreola likes his current team, but knows that it still has some work to do.
“We’ve got to get better as far as understanding situations,” he said. “Our IQ, baseball IQ, is not what it needs to be. So, we’re working on it, and these kids are working hard. I’ve got great kids, and they’re learning, and we’ve got to continue doing a better job of teaching, and we will. It takes time.”
While athletic director duties are important, Arreola says that coaching is different, it builds a unique bond with players that can last a lifetime.
“There are a lot of kids at our school that had no clue that I played sports and was a Wildcat all my life,” Arreola said. “Now I’m getting out there and talking to these kids and they’re understanding where I’m coming from, that I’m a Wildcat, and I’m going to want whatever’s best for them. They know that if they need something they can come to me, that’s what I’m there for. That’s what I missed by not doing it. Now that I’m back at it, I can continue that with these guys.
“It’s nice to get a text or a call,” Arreola continued. “The other day, Calvin Aswell, who played football for us at Lovington, stopped by and just wanted to see me and talk; it made me feel good. That’s what I’m talking about with those relationships; you can’t do it in an office, it’s got to be out here. You’re busting your tail right with them. So they respect that, you respect them for doing it. And for them to come back and talk about you and say good things about you, it makes you feel good.”