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Birmingham Named 2020 Keeper of the Game Award Winner
FRISCO, Texas – The University of New Mexico baseball head coach Ray Birmingham has been named the 2020 Keeper of The Game Award winner, the foundation announced on Dec. 23. Birmingham, who has been in the coaching profession for 42 years, is a long-time supporter of Keeper of The Game.
The Keeper of The Game Award recognizes individuals or families in and around baseball who do exceptional work serving the special needs community and embody the spirit of servant leadership. It is given in conjunction with the Mike Coolbaugh Diamond Dreams Foundation. Birmingham joins Billy Viars, Jose Trevino, Scott Coolbaugh, Sharon Hill Pyburn, Tony Fernandez, Tracy Metten, Jamey Newberg and Chris and Jill Davis as winners of the prestigious award.
“The career of Ray Birmingham has been lined with wins, championships and impacting countless players’ lives, but what he does off the field is even more impressive,” Keeper of The Game Founder James Vilade said. “His work serving those with special needs and disabilities is a passion he has had his entire career. Coach Birmingham is a community champion. We congratulate him, and we know his work is not done.”
Birmingham is entering his 13th season as head coach of the UNM program. He has been a college baseball head coach for 32 years, with other stops at College of the Southwest and New Mexico Junior College. He has totaled more than 1,200 wins, been a part of 22 championships and helped 167 student-athletes go on to play professional baseball. Birmingham is a member of the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame and NJCAA Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.
Birmingham has logged numerous volunteer hours at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center in Albuquerque, and helped deliver youth baseball gloves to patients from Keeper of The Game. He also helped organize Keeper of The Game’s Out to the Ballgame day with the Lobo Little League Challenger Division at UNM’s Santa Ana Star Field and presented the league with a season’s worth of game balls.
In addition, Birmingham has continuously helped create memorable baseball experiences for Lio Ortega, who is the son of one of his former players, Fred. Lio has battled brain tumors since he was two-years old. Birmingham has made Lio feel like part of the Lobos team. Lio has met the players, received tons of UNM gear, thrown out a first pitch and even got to hit a home run during a game against Air Force. Birmingham worked with Keeper of The Game to treat the Ortega family to a Colorado Rockies game.
“People don’t remember what you have accomplished in life as much as they remember how you made them feel,” Birmingham said. “If you want to have a good life, let go of self and have a servant heart!”
Birmingham was notified of the honor by Vilade during a recent team Zoom call (to watch, click here). Birmingham will be formally presented with the award before a home baseball game this spring.
“I am humbled to win the Keeper of The Game Award,” Birmingham said. “I wish all of the coaches across the country would join this great and unselfish organization.”
Keeper of The Game Award All-Time Winners
2020 Ray Birmingham
2019 Billy Viars
2018 Jose Trevino
2017 Scott Coolbaugh
2016 Sharon Hill Pyburn
2015 Tony Fernandez
2014 Tracy Metten
2013 Jamey Newberg
2012 Chris and Jill Davis