Birmingham Honored at Dedication
2/3/2008 11:29:25 a.m. - Hobbs, NM. It was the stuff that great memories are made of.
Before a throng of adoring family, friends, fans, and former players, on an unseasonably warm and sunny winter day, at the baseball field which will forever bear his name, Ray Birmingham paid tribute to others even as he himself was being honored.
The February 2 dedication of the newly renovated Ray Birmingham Thunderbird Field, timed to coincide with the Thunderbirds' season opener against Luna Community College, held several great touches to add to the memory of the day. Coach B--as he was affectionately called throughout his 18-year tenure as head coach at NMJC until he was tapped last year by the UNM Lobos--threw out the first pitch of the season, and his number--#1--was permanently retired.
In an emotional and often tear-filled speech, Birmingham praised his father, Ray Birmingham, Sr., for being the real hero. "In 1965, I saw another man that influenced me greatly. Prior to that year, Hobbs' 9-year-old Little League played their games in the open fields behind Houston Junior High; we didn't have a ballpark," he said. "That spring, this man and others pooled their resources, went around the county, found lights in Maljamar, bricks in Eunice, fencing wherever they could find it, and worked countless hours for months to build a nice field that 9-year-old kids could play baseball on. And it was a nice park. That man served as president of Hobbs' Little League for the next three years, and his wife ran the concession stand by herself. In fact, it was so inspiring that years later, his daughter became president, too. They named that field after someone else, but today, justice is served. There you go, Dad. Right up front, buddy. Forty-three years later, you!
r name is going to be on the front of this baseball stadium, too, and I'm damn proud of that."
Fitting praise for the man who shaped the man who guided the Thunderbirds to a national championship and national championship runner-up title. But Birmingham wasn't through. He also praised the community in which he was raised. "As I look back on it, Hobbs was the best thing that could ever have happened to me," he said. "I learned so much from the community."
A legend giving the credit to his father and his community is pretty memorable, but to make a great day even better, the Thunderbirds beat Luna Community College 5-4.
Now if that doesn't make for a great memory, then what does?