Former Belen head baseball coach and board of education member Al Wisneski will be inducted into the New Mexico High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Honor at 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 21, in a virtual ceremony.
Wisneski coached at Belen for 10 years from 1988-1998, and took the program to unprecedented heights during his time in charge. He left a lasting imprint on baseball in Valencia County, one that is still evident today.
Prior to his appointment as the head coach at BHS by current school board member, then-athletic director Jim Danner, the Eagles had never reached the state playoffs, which at the time consisted only of the top eight teams from each classification, unlike the 16 which make the field today.
Under Wisneski, the Eagles made the field eight out of his 10 years in charge, won their district title four times, another feat that hadn’t been done prior to his arrival. He also lead the Eagles to three district runner-up finishes.
Wisneski took the job after he retired from the Albuquerque Police Department, and in his new role at the VA hospital, he was able to dive further into coaching two decades after he began coaching Little League teams in Albuquerque, a year after his oldest son was born.
In a decade in charge, Wisneski finished with a record of 167-57, averaging more than 16 wins a season while leading BHS.
In addition to the improvement the Eagles made on the field under Wisneski, they also made major improvements to the field itself.
“When I got hired, our field was all dirt; we didn’t have any grass,” Wisneski said. “The school paid to sod the outfield and I paid, out of my own pocket, for the infield and the foul lines.
“We had the parents and the kids come out to help sod it. One of the parents was a correctional officer up at the prison, so we had inmates come help, too,” he said. “It was a great experience for the kids.”
In addition to his time leading the BHS baseball program, Wisneski also led the American Legion program in New Mexico for 27 years in addition to serving as the chairman of American Legion national.
Wisneski found out he had been inducted to the New Mexico High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame two weeks prior to the ceremony, which he said was a terrific feeling.
“I was elated; I couldn’t believe I had been selected,” Wisneski said. “I was flabbergasted by it since I’ve been out of baseball for a number of years now. I keep up by watching my sons’ coach now.”
Tom Wisneski, the current head coach at Belen, is the middle of the three boys that Al and his wife, Barbara raised. All three of his sons played college baseball and were involved in the game after their playing careers drew to a close.
The coaching legacy that Wisneski left behind goes beyond just what his sons are doing in the game of baseball. His former players, who are still evident in the county, including Paul Cieremans, who previously coached softball at Los Lunas and is now the head baseball coach there. He played for and coached with Wisneski, serving as his head junior varsity coach.
Induction is done by the NMBCA board of directors, which is chaired by Rio Rancho head coach Ron Murphy, as well as a special board who votes on nominees.
While Wisneski is the one being honored, he emphasized his family had a lot to do with his success, as well as the athletes who played for him throughout the years, as none of this would have been possible without them.
“Lots of credit for this goes to my wife, Barbara. She’s seen more baseball games in more towns than just about anybody,” Wisneski said. “She knows the game really well.”
Wisneski is one of two inductees in this year’s class, with the other being Bill Gracey, who was the head baseball coach at Cibola High School in Albuquerque.
“It’s a heck of an honor,” Wisneski said. “Not many people are honored this way so it’s pretty special.”