PUEBLO, Colo. — Sports is mostly a male-dominated world.
Fortunately, that has not stopped Anna Baca from dedicating her life to Pueblo sports, reported The Pueblo Chieftain (http://bit.ly/2cT8zMp).
Baca, 74, has been involved with prep sports since 1965 as a teacher, coach, counselor, public address announcer and athletic director.
In fact, in 1988 Baca became the first woman athletic director in Pueblo, taking the reins of the South High School sports department and paving the way for women like Pueblo County AD Cherie Toussaint and Rye AD Beth Burns.
After graduating from Central in 1960, Baca attended Adams State University, where she received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in health and physical recreation. She then received an administrative certificate from University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
In 1965, Baca became a physical education teacher at Keating Junior High School. From there she taught at Corwin and then South High School, where she also was the gymnastics coach. After five years, Baca pursued a career as a guidance counselor.
Baca was a counselor at East High School, Freed Middle School and then at South High School, where in 1988 she became the school’s athletic director.
The move was met with great skepticism from male colleagues and supervisors.
“When they called and offered me that position, I about fell apart,” Baca said. “Later I was told by some of my coaches that they were taking bets as to whether or not I would last.”
Baca was determined to prove her doubters wrong.
“It was kind of ridiculous when I look back on it,” Baca said. “The position takes organization. You, of course, have to have an interest in athletics, but if you know how to be organized, that’s all there is to it.
“I even had a district athletic director who was kind of against me at first, but he came around,” Baca added. “He realized that I was able to do the job, and he complimented me a number of times after that on the job that I was doing.”
The love of sports and the kids who participate in them has driven Baca.
“My favorite part was just having that closeness with the kids. That’s why I’ve always been in it, because of the kids,” Baca said.
Baca played recreation softball in high school, but her love of sports began at a much younger age.
As a child, Baca remembers going to Pueblo Dodgers minor-league baseball games with her neighbors.
“That was really something to see. For me, that was really exciting,” Baca said. “I really enjoyed it.”
Baca enjoyed watching her older brother Victor Velarde play baseball at Central, and her mother Natalie Velarde was a basketball player in high school.
Baca also inherited her mother’s loving spirit.
“My mother was very loving,” Baca said. “She had a special relationship with each one of us. She taught me a lot about giving love, because that’s how she was.”
Mentors like Sollie Raso, Tom Keach, Sally Apodaca, Ron Ivan and Edmund Vallejo also helped shape Baca. Raso, in particular.
“I couldn’t begin to say enough (about Raso),” Baca said. “We’d be out for lunch and he’d go from one end of the grass area to another to talk to every kid he could. You could tell he had love for everyone.”
As a teacher and administrator, Baca emulated that quality to her best ability.
“I could never be as good as he,” Baca said. “I always tried to include everyone. Like our special education department: I would try to include them as much as I could because I thought they were just as important as everyone else.”
Since her retirement in 1999, Baca has continued to dedicate her life to kids and sports.
For seven years, Baca was a coordinator for Restorative Youth. The program, sponsored by the district attorney’s office, is geared toward helping youth who are in trouble with the law. The program utilizes volunteers from the community to help relate to the offenders and put them on the right track.
In 2000, Baca became the East stand manager at Dutch Clark Stadium, which she continued to do until the beginning of this year.
Since 2004, Baca has been a public-address announcer for Pueblo City Schools (D60) events.
She has announced at softball and baseball games, wrestling tournaments, track meets, boys and girls basketball games and even football games.
“Not only do I enjoy announcing, but it keeps me in touch with the kids and who they are,” Baca said.
Baca said she’ll continue to do so until she no longer can.
“As long as I enjoy it and can still do it, I want to keep going with it.”
Information from: The Pueblo Chieftain, http://www.chieftain.com