Courtesy of NMSU
ALBUQUERQUE- Former New Mexico State University baseball pitcher Orlando Griego faced several obstacles as a young athlete, but did not let getting cut from his high school baseball team stop him from playing professional baseball and taking what he has learned to Rio Grande High School.
Griego, an Albuquerque native, attended Rio Grande High School where he tried out for the ninth grade baseball team and was cut after two days of tryouts.
The following season in 1983, Griego tried out for the Raven’s junior varsity baseball team, where he made the team by telling the coach he would be the team scorekeeper. Griego went on to play for the Ravens his junior and senior years as a catcher. He led the varsity team in almost every offensive category and was named to the all-city, all-district, and all-state.
After finishing his high school baseball career at Rio Grande, Griego tried out for New Mexico Highlands University baseball team, while after several weeks with the Cowboys, Griego was cut from the team. He finished the fall semester at NMHU before dropping out in the spring.
The following fall semester, Griego transferred to NM State where he walked on and played for the baseball team from 1987-1990. Griego originally walked on as a catcher but was converted to a pitcher earning a scholarship.
“When I tried out in the fall of 1986, they had just got rid of the coach,” Griego said. “They had the two assistant coaches running tryouts and that was Scott Crampton and Keith Lytle.”
Griego explained that Lytle was the one who saw his potential. He said Lytle looked at Griego, not as he existed, but by what he could become.
“I will forever be grateful for Coach Lytle for seeing the potential in me,” Griego said.
Griego went on to break eight school records during his four years as an Aggie. Griego still holds the NM State record for the most pitching appearances in one season with 30, during the 1989 season. Griego is also tied for the most saves in one season when he collected nine in 1989. Griego also led NM State in wins in 1989, with seven. NM State Athletic Director Mario Moccia played with Griego and mentioned his intensity, passion and hard work to become successful.
“Orlando [Griego] always brought tremendous energy and excitement each and every time he took the mound,” said Moccia. “He was a throwback closer who really summoned up his internal energy on each appearance making the games he was in a lot of fun to watch. He was such a talented pitcher who was able to intimidate his opponents in many ways, whether it was pacing around the mound, adjusting his hat, tugging on his uniform.”
The summer after Griego finished his career at NM State he was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers during the 24th round of the 1990 amateur draft.
Griego is now in his 20th season as a baseball coach at Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque and has reached a breakthrough in his coaching career. During Thursday night’s game against the Manzano Monarchs, a 5-3 win for the Ravens set Griego at 300 career wins.
Griego said his biggest accomplishment did not occur during his time as an athlete, but occurred now that he is coaching. Griego explained that he coaches and teaches at a high school with a high dropout rate, but almost all of his baseball players graduate high school.
“I’ve had over 116 baseball players go on to play college baseball during the 19 years I have been at Rio Grande,” Griego said.
Griego also coached Ken Giles, a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies.
“He is the 28th player from the state of New Mexico to make the major leagues and the only player from our school ever,” Griego said.