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Desert View senior regained love for baseball only to have senior season cut short

Desert View’s Refugio “Kito” Del Cid returned to baseball for his senior season after two years away from the sport. (Courtesy: Refugio Del Cid)

TUCSON, Ariz. (BVM) – Growing up, Refugio “Kito” Del Cid heard stories about his father. Not war stories or memories from others about the type of man he was, but about his curveball.

“A bunch of my dad’s friends used to tell me how good my dad was when he was coming up,” Kito said. “They used to tell me stories about how he used to play and about his big curveball and this and that.”

Kito had heard enough and before long, he asked his father to teach him the game. A young Kito began to watch the sport more closely while simultaneously gaining skills and gleaning tips from his father. The fiery, competitive nature of baseball had Kito hooked by the time he entered his freshman season at Desert View High School.

But just as quickly as Kito’s passion for America’s pastime formed, it vanished.

Despite the presence of talent on the Jaguars’ baseball roster, Kito said he walked into a losing culture. Kito said the former head coach rarely even showed up for practice, and when he did, he didn’t do much other than watch. The program was void of motivation and the atmosphere was not one that brought out the best in its athletes, Kito said.

Following Kito’s freshman season, he quit baseball and gave up on the passion instilled in him by his father.

“Everyone was just playing for themselves and just playing to play,” Kito said. “I just wasn’t having fun anymore. I’d rather stop playing than to just go through the motions.”

Kito wasn’t done with athletics altogether, as he played volleyball at Desert View during his sophomore and junior year in the spring. Picked up almost as a joke in eighth grade, Kito developed a liking for volleyball that carried through his sophomore season.

But by the conclusion of his junior volleyball season, Kito’s first love began creeping into his consciousness. At the same time, some of Kito’s friends who still played baseball were trying to convince the senior to return to the baseball diamond after a push for a new head coach was made.

Kito was convinced to attend a meeting that summer with the school’s baseball team and its new hire. Almost immediately, Kito was sold.

“Everything he had to say was ideal,” Kito said. “He’s very motivational and all about winning. Of course he wants us to get better, but he wants that belief and he wants that win. With that kind of motivation how could you not play harder?

“He’s only missed one or two practices the whole year and that’s pretty awesome for a head coach. I mean, our last head coach never showed up and just hit us ground balls when he did. It made a difference. I was happy to be there and excited to play.”

Matt Garcia is the man who took over Desert View baseball for the 2019-20 season and helped reunite Kito with his first love. Although Garcia might have changed the culture of the program, he wouldn’t be allowed many games to showcase that evolution on the field.

The Jaguars were able to play just nine games before the spring sports season was canceled due to the novel coronavirus.

Garcia warned the team before its March 12 game against district rival Sunnyside that it might be its final game of the season, and for seniors, the final game of their career.

“It just caught me by surprise and I was really emotional,” Kito said. “It was hard because I never let my emotions show on the field; I stay neutral and never get too high or low.

“But it was crazy because I played the worst game of my life, I believe.”

The senior went 0-3 at the plate as the Jaguars fell to their bitter rival, 8-1. Luckily for Kito and Desert View, they were able to squeeze in one final game the following day before sports were officially canceled. Kito bounced back to pitch a complete game and despite a 4-3 loss, the senior was awarded the game ball for his final time on the mound.

Looking back on it, Kito has mixed feelings. On one hand, Kito said he regrets his decision to walk away from the sport because he now wishes he had more baseball. On the other, the senior maintains that he was truly just going through the motions under the previous coaching regime and those two seasons he missed would’ve been a waste.

Kito will remain in-state to study marketing at the University of Arizona and although the story of his baseball career could be summed up as “too little too late,” Kito is just happy to have made a few memories with the game that stole his heart as a child.

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