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The Luna Community College Rough Riders baseball team routed their bosses and administration last week, without putting on the cleats.
In fact, the Rough Rider players hit a grand slam last week without picking up a bat. What they did was join together and put their names on the line to stop the years-long shameful drinking on the job by their coach, Peter Ortiz.
It’s not easy being a whistle-blower. Some misguided people blame whistle-blowers for upsetting the apple cart. Some blame those who make justifiable complaints about superiors for “ruining a man’s (or woman’s) career.”
That’s bass-ackwards. Whistle-blowers like the Luna Rough Riders usually have endured long periods of abuse before they decide they have to go public with their charges.
In this case, the student ballplayers and their parents tried repeatedly to get a competent response from Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, who is also Luna’s president.
Ex-player Will Wilson, who now attends UNM in Albuquerque, gave details to reporter Vince Kong of the Albuquerque Journal. Wilson reported that he saw Ortiz apparently intoxicated at least 10 times during the two years Wilson played for Luna.
Wilson’s parents called Campos’s office and e-mailed him repeatedly about Ortiz’s drunkenness, “but we got no response at all,” said Carrie Wilson, Will’s mother.
Will Wilson was not just one disgruntled player. Last week, a letter to the Luna administration, signed by 18 current players, submitted a grievance about Ortiz. The letter said all 18 players saw him drunk on two recent road trips.
Victor Alvarez played for Luna in fall 2008 and spring 2009. On a road trip to Borger, Texas, the players assembled at 9 a.m. to go to the local ballpark, and players smelled alcohol on the assistant coaches’ breath.
Ortiz didn’t even make it down from the hotel. “I saw him in the hotel hallway, wearing nothing but his underwear, eating a piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken,” Alvarez said. “We could tell he was still drunk because he was being loud and obnoxious.”
Wilson apparently took the lead in trying to get Pete Campos to do something about Ortiz but got no response from the Luna president or anyone else in the administration.
“We tried to handle it as a team. And basically, Coach Ortiz said it’s not going to happen. He said he’s of legal age to drink and he can do whatever he wants to do.” Alvarez added, “He made it very clear that we’d be punished for it” if they told on him.
Ortiz’s drinking has not gone completely unnoticed, except by state Rep. and Luna President Pete Campos. Ortiz was convicted of second offense DWI in 2008.
Had the student-athletes not put up a united front and risked their scholarships by filing a signed grievance, it may have been years before this raging drunk was slowed by the DWI system.
You may recall that James Ruiz, who killed the Peshlakai sisters last month, should have been declared a felon for his fifth DWI. But it was only his third on paper because of the underfunded and poorly-run system of tracking drunk drivers.
Roberta Vigil, bilingual education director in Las Vegas schools and the wife of Democratic state Rep. Richard Vigil, was convicted in May 2009 of fraud in reporting false test scores to get more state money for bilingual education, then misusing thousands of dollars. She then landed a job teaching teachers how to teach at — you guessed it — Luna Community College.
Things won’t improve for our children until people demand that “leaders” like Campos step up to the plate.
The Rough Rider baseball team just showed us how it’s done.
Steve Fox is part of the new Mexico News Service.