The essence of coaching is turning question marks into reliable assets.
No one knows that better than Rivera coach Travis Parker, who recently concluded his ninth season at the helm of the Raiders’ baseball program. Parker was voted the District 32-6A coach of the year, and he is The Brownsville Herald’s 2019 All-Metro Baseball Coach of the Year.
“All credit to the boys,” Parker said. “The kids, the student-athletes, the ones that buy in and do what we ask them to do. Year to year, you get the feel of a team and see what that team is going to bring to the table.”
Parker said this year’s group far exceeded the expectations he and his coaching staff had for the Raiders this season. Coming into the 2019 season, none of the starting pitchers on this year’s Rivera staff had thrown a single inning in a District 32-6A game.
Rivera went 22-10 and 11-4 in 32-6A play, notching a 4-3 win against Region IV-5A finalist Sharyland High and clinching the district title on the final day of the regular season after trailing by three runs to Harlingen High on April 27.
The Raiders were led by senior shortstop Michael Gomez, who repeated as District 32-6A defensive player of the year, and junior second baseman Omar Rodriguez, the District 32-6A offensive player of the year.
Rivera also featured four players who were named to the East roster of the BCARGV All-Star game in Gomez, second baseman Jose Hernandez, catcher Ricky Ibarra and outfielder Raul Gonzalez.
“To have a season that went the way ours did, you have to have guys who rise up to the occasion,” Parker said. “We had opportunities in games. … It was written for us to do it the way we did it this year.”
Ending the regular season on such a triumphant note was validation for Parker and his players after a tumultuous conclusion to last year’s playoffs. The Raiders finished their 2018 district slate with a 10-4 record, but Rivera was ruled by the district executive committee to have used an ineligible player and thus forfeited the games in which the player competed, knocking the team out of the playoffs.
“These guys that came back had to endure all that,” Parker said. “Getting thrown out of the playoffs, the tears, the hugs. It’s the character of this program, of our staff, our players, to do what they did after what we went through last year.”