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Eddie Padilla, right, with his nephew, Isaiah Padilla, during a Santa Fe Fuego game at Fort Marcy Ballpark. Eddie Padilla died in June. He was 57.

Eloy Cardenas said the best compliments officials or umpires can receive is that they’re honest and fair.

That described Eddie Padilla, who was best known in Northern New Mexico as a baseball umpire but also officiated volleyball, basketball and football. Padilla, a 1982 Santa Fe High graduate, died June 16 of a heart attack at the age of 57, said his son, Mikey Padilla.

While the senior Padilla was known for his integrity, Cardenas said he was a good person who would give the shirt off his back if needed.

“He was straight up with you,” said Cardenas, a softball and baseball umpire who worked with Eddie when he first started umpiring in the early 1990s. “And if you needed something, he’d give it to you if he had it. If not, he’d ask somebody. When you become an official, it’s like a family. When you come into the group, you become a part of it.”

For Eddie, being an official was a big part of his life, but being an umpire was his greatest passion. That much was clear when Eddie was 17, as he attended Harry Wendlestedt Umpire School. Mikey said his dad was always calling games at the height of his career, whether it was at the club, high school, collegiate or professional level. It was not uncommon to see Eddie at Fort Marcy Ballpark for a Santa Fe Fuego game or in Las Vegas, N.M., to umpire New Mexico Highlands University and Luna Community College games.

He even had the chance to be home-plate umpire for his son’s games at St. Michael’s and Luna Community College. Mikey said a seminal moment came in 2013 when he played catcher in a Pecos League game for the Las Vegas Train Robbers against the Santa Fe Fuego with his dad behind the plate.

Mikey posted on his Facebook page earlier this week a 2013 column from The New Mexican about that moment in honor of his dad, which he cherished. He added that his dad’s love for him never got in the way of his professionalism.

“Whenever I played for him or he umpired my games, I was just another face in the crowd,” Mikey said. “He never took that into account, and no one never complained about it at the high school level, in college or the professional level. … With him, it would be like, ‘Really, dude? You’re not going to give my pitcher that [pitch]?’ He’d be going right back at me, ‘Well, tell your pitcher to bring it in an inch.’ ”

Danny Lujan, the former northeast region assignor for the New Mexico Officials Association, said Eddie was loyal to his fellow officials but also demonstrated brutal honesty when it came to supporting Lujan when he made difficult decisions. Lujan also said Eddie never turned down an assignment, no matter if it was junior varsity or a varsity game.

“He was just dependable,” Lujan said. “You knew he was going to work hard and do a good job. It didn’t matter what level you gave him, he was just happy to do it. He wasn’t looking for the big game.”

Another key element to the respect Eddie commanded from players and coaches alike was that he was a former player and coach.

Eddie Padilla played football and baseball at Santa Fe High, and his baseball exploits earned him a spot at Ranger Junior College in Texas, then St. Mary’s of the Plains in Dodge City, Kan. At Ranger, he was a teammate of former Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies outfielder Ellis Burks.

After a stint with the U.S. Army, Eddie played at New Mexico Highlands University in the late 1980s and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education. He worked in the Santa Fe Public Schools district in its special-needs program for 25 years.

Eddie was an assistant football coach at Capital, Santa Fe High and St. Michael’s from the early 1990s through the early 2000s, and also coached some AABC teams, especially when his son played. Lujan said Eddie helped himself by learning and understanding the rules, which coaches appreciated.

“A lot of coaches get on that path [with officials], because coaches trust each other,” Lujan said. “They will trust a fellow coach before an official. But Eddie also had knowledge of the game, and when you have that, people will respect you.”

Cardenas said he teamed with Eddie for volleyball matches, and coaches knew what to expect from them when they showed up on the court.

“We would go in there and [coaches and players] look at you they know what kind of game they were going to get,” Cardenas said. “The coaches know what you’re going to call, what you’re going to let go and they already know you because you’ve been around so long. They have respect for you because you gave them a good game.”

Mikey said his dad suffered a heart attack and a stroke a few years back, which kept him from the field for a while. He said Eddie was beginning to umpire junior varsity games in Albuquerque, where he lived for the last several years, but the varsity game was too fast for him.

However, Lujan and Mikey said they were not surprised Eddie continued to umpire — it was his identity.

“He would tell you what his career was,” Mikey said. “He was an umpire first, and a teacher second. I’m not taking away from his work. He took a lot of pride in special education, but umpiring was his passion.”

Eddie was preceded in death by parents Larry and Isabel Padilla, grandparents Thomas and Annie Vigil, brother Carl Eric Padilla, and Eddie’s wife, Cheryl. He is survived by his son, Mikey, and brothers Ken, Larry and Mario Padilla. A rosary will be held Tuesday at Rivera’s Funeral Home at 7 p.m., and the funeral is scheduled for Wednesday at Santa Maria de la Paz Church at 10 a.m.

(3) comments

Mark Ortiz

Eddie was the coolest. Always with a smile and a genuine how ya doing, how's your Pops. Dude was salt.

Diego Mondragon

Wow!! I had no clue of Eddie's passing. Condolences to the family. He was a great coach and an even better man.

Nick Rivera

Great Article For A Great Respectable Man! Rest In Peace Brother Eddie🙏⚾️🏀

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