Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: From left, Robert Abalos honors junior varsity baseball coach and varsity assistant baseball coach Chris Rojas during halftime of the Safford versus Thatcher boys basketball game Friday night as other baseball coaches watch.
“I’ll always be a Bulldog. Somebody asked me if I was going to coach in Oregon and I said absolutely not. And I will definitely not come back as a duck.”Chris Rojas
By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – The hours are long, the pay is bad, and one must handle administrators, parents, and students – many of whom may believe they would do a better job. Yes, the plight of a high school athletics coach (which is a second or third job for most) is a rough one filled with adversity, but it’s the rewards – the feeling of triumph when one looks into the ecstatic eyes of their players after a victory or the realization of how one’s actions molded youth into productive adults – that keep those dedicated to the craft coming back year after year.
After 16 years on the sideline, Safford junior varsity baseball head coach and varsity baseball assistant coach Chris Rojas is hanging up his cleats. Rojas, who works for the Federal Corrections Institute – Safford, took a promotion and is transferring to Oregon.
Rojas was honored for his dedication during halftime of the Safford versus Thatcher boys basketball game Friday night as girl’s varsity basketball and varsity baseball head coach Robert Abalos presented Rojas with a framed baseball jersey Rojas wore in 2008 when the Bulldogs’ varsity baseball team won the state championship.
“My friend, my brother Chris Rojas got a promotion at the federal prison and took a job in Oregon,” Abalos said. “He works extremely hard and takes pride in everything he does. He’ll be greatly missed on the Safford diamond. Thanks for all the years of service, as you’ve touched so many young men’s lives. The Bulldogs staff will not be the same without you. Good luck in your new adventure, and you deserve nothing but the best.”
Rojas said being a coach was a tireless and thankless job but one that he would gladly have continued doing at Safford had he not received a promotion and transfer.
“We don’t do it for the money,” he said. “You do it for the kids. I love to be where I’m at. I love the JV program because I get to teach the basics, and that’s what I love.”
Rojas also thanked his family for their support over the years and that playing and coaching for Safford has been a blessing.
“Between playing for Safford and coaching for Safford, I’ve given half my life to town, this community, and this school,” Rojas said. “And I would have gladly have kept doing it had I not got transferred.
Thank you for everything. I thank the parents, the kids, the fans, everybody (who) showed up and supported (us for) 16 years. I thank all of you, whether it was on my side or the other side. I thank you all.”