Manuel Alvarado will be leaving the coaching profession, but there’s no way his heart won’t belong to baseball.
Alvarado, who will turn 54 in May, is retiring as the only head baseball coach at Victoria West at the end of the school year.
“Baseball’s been good to me,” Alvarado said before Tuesday night’s home finale against Corpus Christi Carroll at Riverside Stadium. “I’ve been blessed. It’s been able to provide for my family, so I’m going to miss it. It’s been a big part of my life. It’s got me things I could never imagine.”
Alvarado’s accomplishments include being a part of a state championship team at Victoria Stroman, and playing college baseball at Sul Ross State.
“I didn’t really know I wanted to coach until I got to college,” Alvarado said. “Just being able to play college ball and seeing how it got me to that point. I kind of decided when I got to college that I wanted other kids to be able to do that, too.”
Alvarado started his 25-year coaching career at Stroman before moving to Victoria Memorial when it merged with Victoria High in the 2000-2001 school year.
He became the head coach at Memorial for two years before taking over at West when the school opened in the 2010-2011 school year.
“It’s been a ride. I’ve enjoyed every day,” said West assistant Gabe Rojas, who has coached with Alvarado for 16 years. “I’ve never worked a day under him. It’s a joy to come to the practice field, the game field, the weight room and it’s been an honor and our program is going to miss him. His leadership is second to none. I’ve learned so much from him and our kids have learned just as much.”
Garrett Harrison played for Alvarado at Victoria West and is currently in his senior season at UHV.
“I remember him being a great coach and extremely passionate coach about winning,” Harrison said. “He was all about making sure we were doing everything correct all the time.”
Alvarado’s main role models in the game have been his father, Santos Sr., his brother, Santos, and coaches Hodie Garcia at Stroman and Byron Brooks at Sul Ross.
“He was top dog,” Garcia said. “I guarantee you. The years that he played he was one heck of a second baseman. He was a very good hitter, ran the bases well and he was a team player. He was outstanding really.
“As far as fundamentals, it was a joy coaching him because he did the fundamentals,” Garcia continued. “He didn’t go out there to waste time doing things wrong. He went out there and worked on good baseball fundamentals. It made him better.”
Alvarado still plays softball and has looked into playing in a senior baseball league.
He played in a Stroman-Victoria High alumni game in 2013 and went 3-for-4 with a home run and a double.
“I still feel young,” Alvarado said. “My body doesn’t feel young until I get out there. I’m still competitive. I’m playing senior softball, and they still have a hardball league and one of my former college buddies is still playing so I might give him a call and see if I can do that.”
Alvarado admits coaching has changed over the years.
“I guess with all the select stuff sometimes you’re fighting battles with kids playing all the time and being hurt during the season,” he said. “That’s a battle you’re fighting. You want them to play, but you want them to be in the weight room getting stronger. They need a break. You’re kind of working around injured kids you were hoping would help you. Other than that, it’s still baseball. You’ve got to hit the ball and play catch.”
Alvarado’s wife, Ramona, is a counselor at Cade Middle School and his daughter, Alyssa, is attending UHV.
He hasn’t made any concrete plans for next year, but won’t stray far from the game.
“I guess it will hit me once July comes around,” he said. “I’m just going to take a little time off and see what I’m going to do after that.”