SANTA FE, N.M. — There are the Dons, the Demons and the Tigers.
But, beginning this summer, baseball fans may soon add Train Robbers, Fuego, Osos and Blizzard to their sports lexicon – at least that’s what Andrew Dunn, the commissioner of the independent Pecos League, is hoping.
Gone are teams from Las Cruces, Carlsbad and Ruidoso, and replacing them are squads from Las Vegas, Raton and Taos, with Santa Fe already having joined the roster last season. And with the focus of the league shifting to the northernmost part of the state, Dunn believes these changes will be a hit among baseball fans.
“This will be even better for Santa Fe because now you’ll have local rivalries,” he said. “Last year, there was no rivalry between Santa Fe and Trinidad, and Santa Fe and Roswell. Now, Santa Fe has a rival in Taos, Santa Fe has a rival with Las Vegas, and Santa Fe has a rival with Raton. That’s the advantage for this year and moving forward.”
The eight-team Pecos League now consists of the Alpine (Colo.) Cowboys; Las Vegas (N.M.) Train Robbers; Raton Osos; Roswell Invaders; Santa Fe Fuego; Taos Blizzard; Trinidad (Colo.) Triggers; and White Sands Pup Fish.
Taos, which is limited to day games, will be playing its contests at the Tundra at Taos, 134 Cervantes Road. Meanwhile, the Train Robbers will call Rodriguez Park – at 1308 Grant in Las Vegas – their home. In Raton, the Osos’ home stadium will be Gabrielle Field at Legion Park, 901 S. Third St.
Pecos League baseball consists of roughly 70 games in 72 days. And according to the league website, Opening Day of the season is May 10.
IMPROVEMENTS AT FORT MARCY: Ike Pino, public works director for the city of Santa Fe, confirmed that funds have been allocated for improvements to Fort Marcy Park, home of the Santa Fe Fuego.
Improvements include repairs on the existing irrigation system; paint and stucco work to the main building; cleaning and repainting of restrooms; sidewalk repair; and the addition of a public address system.
A new scoreboard has also been donated to Fort Marcy Park by the Santa Fe Kiwanis Club at an estimated cost of $15,000, Pino said.
Asked whether improvements would be finished by the May 16 start of the Fuego’s home season, Pino replied: “None of these improvements are being done specifically for the Fuego. … So, we’ll be working on them as inconspicuously as we can throughout the course of the next three months.”
Pino added: “We have Zozobra there; we have AABC baseball; we have high school baseball using the field and other different events throughout the year. These improvements are for everyone who uses Fort Marcy.
“… It’s one of the oldest facilities in the city, and I don’t think you need to spend more than five minutes to see that it’s in need of repair.”
LEAGUE CHANGES: What do get when you take a Little League-sized ballpark – such as Fort Marcy – and add grown men playing professional baseball at 7,000-plus feet of elevation?
A whole lot of runs, with game times eclipsing the four-hour mark.
Case in point: On July 11, 2012, the Fuego scored 27 runs – in a 27-10 win over Alpine – setting a league record in scoring. But the 37-run contest, which lasted three hours and 47 minutes, was not the exception.
Last season at Fort Marcy, just six of the team’s 36 home games lasted fewer than three hours, with four games nearing the five-hour mark, including a four-hour, 40-minute marathon June 14 against Roswell.
So, in order to keep runs and game times in check, the Pecos League commissioner has announced rule changes for the coming season.
“We’re eliminating the designated hitter for the entire league, and no more composite bats,” Dunn said. “… That should keep runs down a bit, and the added strategy without the DH should be more fun for the fans.”
Dunn also said he was looking into taking a page out of the Albuquerque Isotopes’ playbook.
“The Isotopes got a humidor, so that’s something we will need to look at offensively to try and control these games,” Dunn said. “But that will depend on cost. The bottom line is that it’s just really difficult to control the offense at 7,000 feet at Fort Marcy Park.”
PECOS LEAGUE IN SANTA FE: Santa Fe has been tapped to host the annual Pecos League All-Star Game, which will be played July 8.
“There will be major league scouts at the game to evaluate players,” Dunn said. “We’ve had two guys in the past two years get signed to minor league contracts.”
Most recently, outfielder Jimmy Parque, who played for the now-defunct Las Cruces Vaqueros, was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals on March 11, and recorded an at-bat during spring training. “He’s not going to Double-A, but he got to hit in a major league spring training game – he was just in the Pecos League last season,” said Dunn of the 24-year-old from Pacifica, Calif. Parque was initially drafted in the 40th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers but did not sign.
The City Different will also be where tryouts for all squads will be held April 21 at Fort Marcy. Preregistration is required. Cost is $50.
NEW MASCOT: In with McGee, out with Elmo.
The lovable furry, red mascot, donning a Fuego T-shirt, will be replaced by an equally lovable furry, red mascot, donning a Fuego T-shirt – only McGee is a dragon and his T-shirt is black.
The team’s new mascot got its name from sponsor McGee Memorial Chapel. The fire-breathing Fuego mascot will join team manager Bill Moore for a meet-and-greet Saturday, April 27, at noon, during the Santa Fe Youth Symphony’s Play-a-thon on the Plaza.
BEER SALES: After all the discussion surrounding beer sales for the Fuego’s inaugural season, Dunn has confirmed that Santa Fe Brewing Co. will be back and the league has added Stats Sports Bar to its list of vendors.
“We’ll sell beer in all eight stadiums,” Dunn said. “All eight markets that we’re in are happy to have teams, and support their teams 100 percent. We had teams in Carlsbad and Las Cruces that didn’t support us at all, but everywhere else has been great.”
HOST FAMILIES NEEDED: The Fuego are looking for host families to sponsor players. For more information, email email@example.com.