Las Cruces baseball coach battles COVID-19 for NM Dept. of Health

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LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO (KTSM) – In any normal year, Las Cruces High School baseball coach Gil Padilla would be spending most of his spring at the Field of Dreams and dreaming of coaching the Bulldawgs to the playoffs.

However, with the season canceled because of the outbreak of COVID-19, Padilla is spending most of his time at his day job, working on the front lines for the New Mexico Department of Health as they work to test potentially-infected patients.

“That’s our priority now is working with that and getting people tested,” Padilla said.

With his side gig shelved, he’s devoted completely to his main job as a health promotions specialist. Normally, it’s Padilla’s job to teach the public healthy living strategies. Now, with the Department of Health conducting drive through COVID tests, along with all their other services, he’s directing traffic on the base paths…literally. He mans the parking lot each day to send patients in the right direction.

“If you need a birth certificate, here’s the number you need to call, they will help you out with the curbside services. If you need a COVID test, I’ll send you in the direction of where we’re doing the testing,” Padilla said of his current duties.

It’s all hands on deck right now and Padilla is fine pinch-hitting wherever he’s needed.

“It’s not about me, it’s about the nurses that are doing it on the frontline, it’s about the emergency personnel,” Padilla said. “It’s a team effort right now, similar to baseball.”

His leadership is well-known in Las Cruces; he was co-captain of the New Mexico State baseball team in the late-1980s, alongside current Aggies athletic director Mario Moccia.

“He was the adult out of the two of us and he still is, as you can tell with his current work,” Moccia said.

Moccia went on to call Padilla, “a glue guy,” the man who kept the Aggies together when they needed it most. Now, he’s doing the same thing for a more important team, with an important message.

“Stay home as much as possible,” Padilla said. “That helps with the spread of the disease. Then, we can go out and play baseball again.”

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