Open Announce

Ray Birmingham to Retire From Coaching After Spring 2021 Season

by Sofia M. Lucero

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Ray Birmingham, the winningest baseball coach in the state of New Mexico, is retiring after 14 seasons and 406 wins with the Lobo baseball team at the conclusion of the Spring 2021 season, closing out a 43-year career.

Birmingham has coached in parts of six decades dating back to the late 1970s and led three different colleges and universities to top-25 rankings and national promise, including 22 championships. At the helm of the Lobos, Birmingham led UNM to four regular-season titles, three Mountain West Tournament titles, and five NCAA Regional appearances.

Birmingham has also coached at New Mexico Junior College (1990-2007) and College of the Southwest (1988-89), amassing an 818-328-2 record at both institutions combined. NMJC was ranked nationally multiple times under Birmingham’s leadership, winning the JUCO World Series in 2005.  Overall, Birmingham has 1,224 wins in his collegiate coaching career.

“I want to thank the people of New Mexico for being so good to me for so long,” said Birmingham. “I have always believed that New Mexico kids can do just as much as anybody else in the country, and I have committed my entire life to prove that and helping them prove that. I have always believed in leaving it better than you found it, and I feel good that I have done that.”

With a career centered on New Mexico athletes, Birmingham has raised nearly $15 million in facility upgrades at three schools since 1987, the most significant portion being at UNM. In 2016, he initiated and led the ongoing development and execution of the $3.65 million expansion of Santa Ana Star Field, including UNM’s first privately-funded building on campus – the R.D. and Joan Dale Hubbard Clubhouse.

Birmingham was inducted into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame in 2015 and into the NJCAA Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2011. Currently, he serves on the College Baseball Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

In 2004, Birmingham led the NJCAA all-star team to four wins in five games over the Chinese All-Stars in Beijing, China. In 2009, Birmingham was selected as the head coach of the NJCAA all-star team when China returned to the United States to play the U.S. team. Birmingham also coached the NJCAA West All-Stars to a three-game sweep over the East All-Stars in the summer of 2009.

In the summer of 2014, Birmingham served as the hitting coach for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, which consisted of the top collegiate players from around the country. Team USA played games across North Carolina before traveling to the Netherlands to participate in Honkbal-Haarlem Baseball Week. The CNT won the international tournament by outscoring its opponents 34-6 over its final seven games. Birmingham helped guide Tennessee’s Christin Stewart to “Best Hitter” honors at the tournament, and Albuquerque’s own Alex Bregman of LSU was named Honkbal Baseball Week MVP. Team USA concluded its summer with five games in Cuba, finishing with an overall record of 18-8-2.

Birmingham has also coached or spoke at numerous clinics throughout the United States and South America. He has been published in the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Journal and worked professionally for the Cleveland Indians, Oakland A’s, and Kansas City Royals.

Between the University of the Southwest, New Mexico Junior College, and New Mexico, 167 athletes have gone on to play professional baseball, with 39 coming while the head coach at UNM. Additionally, under Birmingham at UNM, 40 student-athletes have earned All-America honors, including 10 freshman All-Americans. Birmingham was also the coach of NMJC’s first basketball conference championship team – a team that was ranked No. 1 in the country.

In 2020, Birmingham was named the 2020 Keeper of The Game Award winner. 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 joined 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.

Birmingham has logged numerous volunteer hours at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center in Albuquerque and has 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.

Birmingham’s impact on not only UNM’s baseball program but on the state will be felt for decades to come.