Southeast Valley Ledger
Queen Creek Athletic Director Paul Reynolds announced last week that former Arizona State University All-American Mikel Moreno has been named the school’s new varsity baseball head coach. He replaces Mike Campbell, who stepped down in May.
Moreno played for the Sun Devils from 1995-98 and was a member of the 1998 team that reached the College World Series. After a two-year stint in the Chicago Cubs organization he played one year with the Valley Vipers, an independent team in Scottsdale at the time.
Since then, Moreno served as head coach for Florence High School before serving as an assistant coach at Central Arizona College and the University of New Orleans. He returned to ASU in the mid 2000s and worked in Player Development in 2007. Most recently he was at San Tan Foothills, where he was the Sabercats’ head coach during the 2015 season.
He takes over one of the state’s premier programs at Queen Creek, which will move up to Division I in 2016.
“Most of (our players) played on travel teams so they know the competition,” said Moreno, adding that he’s looking forward to the jump in Divisions. “What I can do to prepare them is make practice as arduous as possible because, as a coach, that’s really the only thing I have an influence on. The game is for the kids. In practice I can do whatever I want to, and hopefully we do a good enough job of preparing them.”
All of the players in the Bulldogs’ program were born after Moreno starred as a two-sport athlete at Mesa High School, where he was named Player of the Year in both football and baseball. But don’t count on him sharing stories of his prolific athletic career with his players. If the players want to know what type of athlete he was, they’ll have to find out from their parents.
“With our players I have to earn their trust and they have to earn (mine),” Moreno said. “I can throw out what I did but they’ll say ‘show me.’ It comes down to how we prepare them and hopefully they take to it and work hard.”
Moreno, who was once teammates with Campbell on the Valley Vipers, admitted he didn’t follow Queen Creek or any other high school from afar. Instead focusing solely on the group he was coaching at the time.
Nonetheless, he is aware of the type of program he is inheriting at Queen Creek.
“I knew Coach Campbell was the coach so I knew they played hard,” he said. “I knew (he) ran a great program; kids are hard-nosed, disciplined, and (know) fundamentals. (Coach Campbell) was my impression of the program and it was all positive.”
Players can expect a simple and straight-forward approach from their new coach, who talked about what he expects from his players before a recent summer league game.
“Number one is respect,” Moreno told the Ledger. “They’re going to respect their parents, they’re going to respect administrators, teachers, coaches, and the community. We can’t do anything without that. The second thing is accountability. They’re a bunch of kids – they’re going to make mistakes. I want them to be accountable for what they do – positive or negative – and we’ll have a great relationship.”
Drew Ramirez, a long-time coaching colleague of Moreno, will serve as an assistant on the varsity staff. The pair previously worked together in the college ranks. Ramirez is anxious to help Bulldogs’ players who want to get better.
“I think it’s going to be exciting, that’s why we took (the job),” he said. “There is going to be a lot of competition and the players are going to have to show us they want to keep their job. (They’re) going to have to work at it if they want to play.”
“High school players listen, they want to be out there, and they want to know what it takes to get to the next level,” Ramirez continued. “To have the opportunity to start teaching that every day is going to be exciting for them and for us.”
The Bulldogs’ new staff didn’t waste any time getting started. They’re already leading the team through the remainder of the summer season and is certain to be planning their offseason program, which will begin when the new school year begins in July.