We’re not sure yet how the Antonio Avila story will turn out, but so far, it’s got a great plot.
Avila’s story also has a great beginning. He’s the only son of Trini and Patricia Avila of Corrales, who met while attending the University of New Mexico.
Trini’s advice to his son? “He just told me a lot of things, especially staying focused and blocking outside noise, focusing on bettering myself.”
Also, he recalled, “He wanted me to do whatever I wanted to do, and it happened to be baseball. Baseball’s my best sport.”
Avila said his mother told him, “If I don’t maintain a 3.5 or higher, I won’t get to play my sports, so that’s a real motivator for me in the classroom.”
Obviously, he’s doing what he likes, is successful and gets the job done in the classroom.
“As a kid, I was doing everything, from soccer, wrestling, baseball, track, basketball; I did swimming for a while. I did everything,” the talented Storm senior said. He twice was named a Cibola Little League all-star, playing shortstop and pitcher.
“I always looked up to Bo Jackson when I was a kid. I was a big fan of him,” he said. “Really, looking up to my dad. He did track and he was a two-time athlete at UNM, football and track.”
Those who have heard of Avila have read about his exploits in basketball and track & field; he’s been on Storm championship teams in both.
“My dad (Albuquerque High grad) and mom (Manzano grad), both being UNM athletes … I would have to owe a lot of my athletic ability to them,” Avila said. “Some things come very naturally to me. But, also, I do work very hard and I try to push myself as hard as I can to get better in every aspect of my game.”
“I would say baseball’s my best sport,” Avila said. “I really love basketball, though. Basketball is my favorite sport — it’s the most fun to play.
“What I found was, I’m better at baseball, and that’s the direction I went with in my career.”
That “direction” will take him west, to Pima Community College in Tucson, where he was awarded a scholarship to play baseball.
It’s a great place to be for two seasons. The Aztecs, coached by former Lobos assistant Ken Jacome, have three City of Vision players there this season — Bohdi Bolen and Hudson White from RRHS, and former Storm standout Jaren Jackson, who recently signed to play at UNM. (Bolen, like Jackson, is a sophomore; Bolen will be there next season as a sophomore.)
No less a recruiter than Perfect Game touts Avila as having “recorded a 6.75-second 60-yard dash time. High-waisted frame with long limbs and lots of long-term projection to be had. Primary outfielder with a longer arm stroke and a loose arm. Fields cleanly out in front and has an athletic finish. Aggressive onto the ball and has good arm strength recorded up to 88 mph. … Right-handed hitter with a functional swing and very good bat speed. Leverages nicely with big power potential.”
Michael McDermott, a former Rio Rancho Ram left-handed pitcher who went on to play college baseball, knows a lot about Avila from his time spent on summer traveling teams (The MAC Elite lately) representing The MAC.
“He looks like a character in a Disney movie,” McDermott joked, “but he can flat-out hit.” McDermott predicted Avila will have no trouble finding a spot on a Division 1 college team when his two years at Pima end.
Coming to Cleveland
Avila attended Sandia Prep before his days at Cleveland, which began his freshman year. It didn’t take long for coaches to notice his size and speed, and his work ethic was another plus.
“Antonio is one of the best athletes I have coached,” said Storm boys basketball coach Sean Jimenez, who had Avila on his 2021 state championship team, and got double-figure scoring from him at least a dozen times in 2021-22.
“He is a competitor that never quits.
“He does everything that I ask of him, and does it without hesitation,” Jimenez added. “He is the type of kid you wish you had 10 of him on your team … the epitome of a student-athlete.”
In the spring, Avila’s busy running and jumping.
“He played JV baseball as a freshman,” Storm track & field coach Kenny Henry recalled. “In his sophomore year, track & field season was canceled after basketball. In his junior year, he won (at state) the 110-high hurdles, was runner-up in the 300-hurdles, placed (sixth) in the long jump and was on our winning 4×400 relay team.
“He had a fantastic season last year.”
He didn’t play football, but former CHS football coach Heath Ridenour said he had no trouble envisioning Avila at wide receiver — a great target for quarterbacks Jeff Davison and Evan Wysong, respectively the past two seasons. (And another state championship.)
“I had a few conversations with him,” Ridenour said. “I have had conversations with all capable athletes at Cleveland about playing football.”
“I thought about it; I really was gonna play,” Avila said. “But baseball was the priority, and with recruiting in the summer and fall, I had to put all my attention in baseball.”
What about the other futbol?
“I never asked him” said Storm boys soccer coach Shaun Gill. “I wish he would have played for us — he is a good athlete.”
“I like soccer, but it wasn’t my love, I guess. It was something I did for fun,” Avila said.
Is this kid good enough to earn a living as a professional?
“As a kid, I always dreamed of going to the major leagues. That could be a goal, if I work hard enough,” he said. “I’m not looking too far into the future. I still gotta prove myself once I get to the college level, and take it step by step, really.”
Arguably one of Cleveland’s all-time greats
Who do you think is the greatest athlete yet in Cleveland High School’s 13 seasons of competition?
Luke Wysong is also a good name to start with, winning Gatorade Player of the Year honors in the state in two sports (football and track & field), and a starter on the UNM football team as a freshman last season.
Any such conversation must include Tre Watson, a key member of Storm state championships in football and basketball, and who played football at Fresno State last season as a true freshman.
Other possible contenders? Caitlyn Espinosa. Dion Hunter. Blake Swihart. Cassie House. Sara Hattis. Gabe Ortega. Henry Hattis. Marcus Williams. Dorian Lewis.
But if you didn’t say Antonio Avila, there might be an argument coming your way.
Avila is the first three-time Allstate Athlete of the Week of the current school year, with two selections for basketball and another for track & field.
“Antonio has represented Cleveland High School and our community with the utmost class and respect,” Jimenez said. “It’s tough seeing him leave us, but he is destined for greatness in the future. I will always be rooting for him and have his back.”