FARMINGTON – Navajo Prep will have a new baseball coach when the season begins in the spring.
Austin Rochford, originally from Durango, Colo., was named the new coach last week.
“We’re excited about getting him on board,” Prep athletic director Mike Tillman said of Rochford. “I think he’s going to be a big asset to the program.”
After graduating from Durango High School, Rochford played in the 2010 Connie Mack World Series with the Strike Zone Cardinals.
Rockford went on to play two seasons at Trinidad State Junior College in Trinidad, Colo., during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, then transferred to Adams State University in Alamosa, Colo., for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. After graduating from Adams State, Rochford served as a graduate assistant for the Grizzlies in 2015.
Rochford said one thing that made the Prep job so appealing was the chance to get back to the Four Corners.
“I really liked coaching at Adams, but I wanted to come back and get a little closer to home,” Rochford said.
Rochford takes over a program that went 9-10 last season, with a 5-1 record in District 1/6-3A. The 5-1 mark matched Laguna Acoma for best in the district, but the Hawks took the district title on run differential.
Rochford said his main point of focus when the season begins will be teaching the Eagles the fundamentals of the game.
“The biggest thing I learned is if you can teach the kids the fundamentals, it’s going to make a big difference. I don’t know how many games we (Adams State) played that came down to the fundamentals,” Rochford said. “We have to start back at the basics. I had heard they were a successful team, and my job is to keep it going.”
One thing Rochford will have in his favor is the fact that the Eagles listed just one senior on last season's roster and could return the majority of the team.
The chemistry the Eagles have on the field will be something Rochford wants to build on. He hopes that element will be a difference maker in helping the team take the next step in the state tournament.
“Chemistry is everything. If you don’t have good chemistry, it’s tough to build,” Rochford said. “If we can get the guys who return and build on that chemistry, and once they’re used to everything, I think we’ll be OK.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.