ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As the high school baseball season begins this month, the state runner-up Sandia Matadors are playing for something beyond themselves. It has been a tough off-season for the team, as they suffered the loss of their head coach named Chris Eaton.

“When we first found out about it, it was definitely a shock. I mean, we were really sad. I knew him before I even got to Sandia, so he has motivated and impacted me since I was 10 years old.”

“It affected us mentally, but we have to stay strong and just keep pushing and do it for Chris,” Nico Barela said.

While the team has been preparing to take the field this month, they have also dedicated plenty of time to focus on their mental health.

“What we kind of focused on after things happened was to just get back on the field, get back to playing baseball and having fun,” said Coach Hendrick. “We talked about teamwork a lot more, talked about being together, and talked about mental health. We have spent a lot of extra time working on that part of it.”

The team is coming into this season with plenty of experience as many players from last year’s team are returning to the lineup. They know they are capable of playing championship-level baseball, so this year they want to finish what they started.

“Most of us were in the state championship last year,” said Santiago. “So, we all have that drive and the fire to get back and actually get the job done this year.”

“If we say just one word, it’s ‘together,'” Hendrick said. “That is our word for this year. ‘Together,’ we are going to do this together.”

Sandia opens the season on February 22 against Volcano Vista.