Jan. 19, 2023
Pleibol banner with red cutout image of baseball player

¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues will be featured in the Tucson Desert Art Museum through February 17th.

If you arrived at the front desk of the W.A. Franke Honors College and asked for Alex Nuñez, you might find him working away diligently at his desk, taking zoom calls, reviewing applications, sending emails to prospective students, or coordinating various admissions efforts and events.  

More often than not, however, you probably wouldn’t find him at his desk at all—but not because he isn’t working.  

As the Assistant Director of Admissions, Nuñez is often in the field, giving in-person tours of the Honors Village to prospective students and their families, tabling at recruitment events, visiting high schools and telling prospective students about all the amazing opportunities available to them at the Franke Honors College. 

Alex Nunez at the baseball hall of fame

Nuñez gave a conference presentation about his research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY in June 2022.

Or you might find him working in another space: the classroom. This semester, Nuñez is teaching a seminar offered to Franke Honors students called Field of Sueños: Becoming Mexican American through Baseball, which examines ideas about race, gender, class, and citizenship through the lens of baseball. Like most HNRS courses, his subject matter is interdisciplinary, and designed to initiate intellectual conversation that spans beyond the favored past time.  

While only Franke Honors students have the chance to take the class, anyone can learn more about Nuñez’ work with a traveling Smithsonian exhibit: ¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues. On January 24, Nuñez will be speaking at the Tucson Desert Art Museum, with a reception to follow. Other featured guests at the reception include Rafael Barcelo Durazo, Consul de Mexico, and Eddie Leon, former professional baseball player for the Naranjeros de Hermosillo and the New York Yankees, and a former University of Arizona Men’s Baseball team member. 

Ranger to Researcher 

A Franke Honors alum, Nuñez earned his Bachelor's degree in History and dual Masters degrees in Education and History from the University of Arizona. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of History, and hopes to add a doctorate to his resume by May 2024.  

A 3-time (almost 4) University of Arizona graduate, his career journey has been nonlinear in the traditional sense. During his first Masters program, Nuñez dabbled in student teaching, but later pivoted to taking a job in Washington D.C where he worked in educational programming and outreach as a ranger for the National Park Service.  

“I did a lot of public facing work with visitors, tours, and educational programming. So, I would assist with school trips, make lesson plans for educators, lead community-based events that revolved around some of the narratives of the historic sites that I worked at.” said Nuñez.  

newspaper photo

The cover of the June 1946 edition of the Alianza Alliance, the publication for the Alianza Hispano Americana, founded in Tucson. From the Arizona Historical Society, MS 597, Alianza Hispano-Americana Collection Records, 1894-1962. Photo by Alex Nuñez.

Growing up in the Phoenix metro area, Nuñez learned quickly that living (and commuting) in Washington wasn’t what he had initially imagined. That led him back to his home state and his alma mater, ultimately landing himself in the Office of Admissions at the W.A. Franke Honors College.  

While his D.C. residency ended in 2017, his ties to the capital continued, and he later became involved with a traveling Smithsonian exhibit: ¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues.  

“I was a part of a virtual graduate fellowship with the exhibition in the summer of 2021 hosted by the Latino Museum Studies program,” he said. “I put together an online resource module for educators and users to create lessons, presentations, grading sheets, etc.” 

The mission of Pleibol explores “the extraordinary stories of Latinas/Latinos alongside the artifacts of their remarkable lives and demonstrates the historic role that baseball has played as a social and cultural force within Latinx communities across the nation for over a century.” 

During his fellowship, Nuñez converted much of Pleibol’s information and artifacts into an educational format to complement the exhibit. For example, if a high school teacher wanted to incorporate the subject matter of Pleibol into their curriculum, they would utilize his resource material to create learning targets, lesson plans and more. 

¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues is coming to Tucson this winter—the Tucson Desert Art Museum will be hosting the exhibit through February 17th.  

For The Love of the Game 
Alex Nunez at diamondbacks game

Nuñez attending a postseason Arizona Diamondbacks game at Chase Field in Phoenix, AZ in October, 2017.

Baseball has been a longstanding fixture in the life of Nuñez. His love affair with the sport dates back to his youth, playing on a team with his twin brother, and practicing under the watchful eye of his dad as his coach. Both his father and grandfather have made their careers out of sports, another reason for Nuñez’ interest. 

“My grandfather always used the colloquialism of saying his involvement in sports was his ‘way out’,” remembered Nuñez.  

His grandfather grew up in intercity Phoenix, and his life as a young Mexican American in the barrio was not an easy one. Sports offered him a means to lift himself out of poverty and typical teenage rebellion. His grandfather’s inspirational story has been an impetus for Nuñez to continue the work that he does and lean deeper into his research and academic pursuits around the intersection of Latinx communities and baseball.  

Nuñez stresses the importance of accessibility within history and education, hence his dedication to making historical information bite-sized enough for the classroom setting. 

Learn more about HNRS 195H-002: Field of Sueños: Becoming Mexican American through Baseball 

Attend the ¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues January 24 reception: 


Visit the exhibit anytime through Feb. 17th