Amid pandemic shutdown, New Mexico student athlete relocates to Kansas City to continue sports

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After COVID-19 shut down schools across the state, one New Mexican family decided to make the move to Kansas City for one big reason: baseball.

"We had to split our family, to make this choice for our children, so that’s been rough,” said Shannon McConkey, mother of two.

Kasey Crawford, Shannon’s son, was throwing close to 90 mph as a freshman at La Cueva. However, COVID shutdowns that came during a time when recruiting, scouting, and scholarships are handed out put his future in peril.

"Here, it gave us the opportunity to continue to play, continue to play with the same kind of level of baseball, and even higher, and give him those opportunities to be seen,” Shannon said.

On Sunday, a crowd of about 300 gathered at APS’s headquarters for a “Let Us Play” protest where students, parents, and coaches called on school leaders to allow school sports to resume. Shannon said she knows she would’ve been there if her family hadn’t moved.

"I would be right there with those folks if I was there,” she said.

For many people, sports can help open the door to higher education.

"I wouldn’t have gone to college,” said La Cueva basketball coach Brian Joyce.

“And I was able to get six years of college paid for including my masters as a result of getting seen my senior year,” he added.

Joyce, a 1991 grad from La Cueva, said playing basketball his senior year helped change his life. He went on to coach at the college level, and helped hand out $3.5 million in scholarships to student athletes, including some athletes from New Mexico.

"I can’t call anybody right now, and I know a lot of college coaches. I can’t call any of them and recommend any player in this city because they can’t come see them. But, they can go other places and see them play, and that’s really disappointing,” he said.

In the meantime, athletes and coaches will continue to put pressure on state and school leaders to get them to reconsider.