Anaya will head Hilltopper program this spring

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By Mike Cote

This weekend, softball will be foremost on the mind of Rogelio “Roger” Anaya.

It will certainly be so for the rest of the year, as well.

Anaya, who is currently managing the White Rock Little League 9-10 All-Stars, was named the new head of the Los Alamos High School softball program June 20. He was picked out of a pool of four candidates for the job.

When he officially assumes his duties Aug. 11, he will be replacing Randy Burditt, who headed the program since 2001. Burditt resigned in May, shortly after the end of the 2008 season in which his team advanced to the state Class AAAA softball tournament.

“I’ve been around the sport a long time, and I love having the opportunity to coach at Los Alamos High School,” Anaya said. “I played with Randy Burditt and I think he’s done an excellent job. He’s built a great foundation and now we’re going to build on that.”

When Anaya starts his new job — he’s already met with some of the players and the coaches — he will have a few items to deal with right off the bat.

In late May, the Los Alamos athletic department announced it had been fined by the New Mexico Activities Association for violation of off-season coaching rules. The rules centered around staff from the softball and baseball programs.

The fines totaled $2,500 for Los Alamos, which LAHS athletic direct Vicki Nelms said would be repaid to the school equally out of the budgets of both programs.

Anaya said he was aware that the softball program would have to cough up an additional $1,250 when he accepted the program, but didn’t think the fine would give his 2009 budget a huge hit.

The softball team has generally been successful in its fund-raising efforts, which will continue this year with the Just For Fun tournament, one of its big off-season pushes.

Anaya said he’s already spoken to longtime assistant coach Jim Ruhe, who handles the program’s finances, and Ruhe told him that there should be enough cash reserves to cover the fine.

He’s also thoroughly pored over the NMAA’s rules regarding off-season coaching and said he’s made sure his assistants, many of whom coached under Burditt, also knew and understood the regulations.

Anaya has been around both the softball and baseball diamonds for some time. He was a star pitcher for Anthony Gadsden High School baseball team, throwing in the state tournament during his prep career.

Following high school, Anaya played for two years at the University of New Mexico.

Since then, he’s also participated in local and regional fastpitch softball teams. He’s played competitively since 1992 and has participated with his team in three world softball tournaments.

Locally, he’s been coaching baseball and softball Little League since 1997.

At his interview, Anaya sat down with some current members of the softball program, and later with Nelms, LAHS principal Grace Brown and member of the community.

Anaya said he wants to continue with and build upon the success the program has had in recent years.

“My goal is for this to be recognized as a strong program,” he said. “They’ve been very competitive, especially in district. We’re going to work hard and get better.”

He has a different style from his predecessor. While Burditt was one of the more animated managers in northern New Mexico, Anaya said he look more relaxed on the field.

That doesn’t mean, however, that he actually is any more relaxed.

“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “Most people who know me (say) I’m usually pretty calm, but deep down, I’m a competitor.”

Anaya will institute an off-season conditioning program to keep his players in shape who aren’t playing other sports.

The official spring sports preseason gets going Feb. 9, 2009.

In 2008, Los Alamos finished 14-13, finishing second in District 2AAAA behind Española Valley. The Hilltoppers lost both of their state tournament games — to Aztec and Deming — to finish the season.

The team’s 2009 schedule still needs to be finalized and confirmed, although it will head up to the Piedra Vista Invitational early on, where it could see some of the best teams in New Mexico. Last season, Piedra Vista took the AAAA crown, while both Aztec and Farmington went deep into the AAAA playoffs.

Anaya said he’s hoping to get another tournament in Los Alamos next season with at least four and preferably eight teams competing. Los Alamos played a three-team tournament in late March, in which it finished second.