Baseball

Matthew Narvaiz/Taos News

Junior Milo Collignon swings at a pitch during batting practice on Feb. 24, 2020, shortly before Spring sports were suspended in the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

From the editor’s office at the Taos News, it’s easy to see the baseball field at Taos High School. It’s easy to hear the coach calling to his players as the Tigers practice. But best of all, it’s easy to hear the “ting” of the bat.

Of course, there are other sounds associated with America’s pastime: the pop of a mitt, the strike call of an umpire, the shout of the peanut vendor, but there’s nothing quite like that sharp, metallic “TING” that comes when a baseball collides with the sweet spot on an aluminum bat. It’s the sound of youth (professional ball players use wooden bats with a completely different, but still beautiful sound) and it’s the sound of spring.

While the crack of a wooden bat reminds people of going to a stadium with a parent or grandparent to see the Yankees play, the sound of a metal bat reminds people of what it was like to play baseball as a kid.

Baseball, naturally, doesn’t hold a monopoly on beloved sounds of the American sports landscape. There’s the squeak of new sneakers on a polished parquet court, the impact of a lineman sacking a quarterback, the swish of a basketball through a net, but nothing calls up pictures of America’s past – played in fast forward with sepia tones – quite like the sounds of baseball.

Now, that sound is filling the Taos News offices and one can’t help but feel like the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel has finally arrived. Sure, there have been signs before, and other sports have already played their full seasons, but just as COVID didn’t become real for many folks until it got Tom Hanks, the return of Tigers baseball seems to be an unofficial ending of COVID.

So how does the year look for the Tigers? Well, THS baseball has been on a bit of a down-swing in recent years. The last time they made the State Tournament was in 2018, where the Tigers took a staggering 10-0 first-round loss to St. Michael’s. They missed the tournament in 2019 and COVID stole 2020. But this year, like the recently resurrected sound of batting practice, the Tigers are back!

Under the guidance of Coach Miguel Quintana and Assistant Coach Chris Padilla Jr., the team will look to run through their 4A opponents and restore the good name of Tigers baseball.

But ultimately, it’s just nice to have our kids back outside and playing on the field.

On a national scale, Major League Baseball seems to be all about quarter-billion dollar contracts, ever-rotating rosters, and diva players moving at a snail’s pace. What was once the King of American Sports has fallen well below football and basketball in the major sports power rankings.

But none of that takes away from baseball’s special place in our national consciousness. In a word association game, when the word “America” is mentioned, chances are that the word “baseball” will pop up quickly. Perhaps not at the top, as in years past, but certainly high on the list ... maybe just behind “apple pie” and “bald eagles.”

Take that engrained patriotic association with the sights and sounds of the ballpark and combine it with the fact that it will be Taos High School Seniors Chris Rodelo and Milo Collignon taking the field, and one can’t help but feel like “normal” has finally arrived. Because after all of the shouting and the arguing, and the mask mandates, and the staggering death tolls, and the pain and isolation of the last year, we all get to realize, when we hear that sweet “TING,” that Taos is back!

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