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The Fuego are back and burning

SF City Councilor Ron Trujillo, who pushed to bring the Pecos League to town, passes the hat for a Fuego player who slugged a home run during the team’s season-opening series last week. Fans have established the custom of collecting tips for Fuego players when they hit a homer. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SF City Councilor Ron Trujillo, who pushed to bring the Pecos League to town, passes the hat for a Fuego player who slugged a home run during the team’s season-opening series last week. Fans have established the custom of collecting tips for Fuego players when they hit a homer. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Bill Moore has seen the hinterlands of professional baseball for a long time.

But nothing may be quite as far out as the Pecos League, which includes teams from Trinidad, Colo., to Bisbee, Ariz., and from Alpine, Texas, to Roswell.

But Moore, in his third season at the helm of the Santa Fe Fuego, has nothing but glowing accolades for the independent professional league that has players grasping at a chance to sign with a team in affiliated ball.

“It keeps you busy,” Moore said. “I’ve been doing these summer leagues for 42 years and, in this one, there are no surprises,” he said. “It’s baseball and you’ve got other things to do besides on-the-field stuff. Quite honestly, I’ve been in leagues where you have to sit down as a manager, figure out the schedule, figure out umpires, figure out transportation.”

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That’s not the case with the Pecos League.

“We show up game day and we don’t worry about whether the other team is going to show up,” Moore said. “We don’t worry if the umpires are going to show up. We don’t worry about whether we’re going to be able to cash our checks. It’s very organized.”

The Fuego’s Omar Artsen, right, is congratulated after hitting a home run last week. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The Fuego’s Omar Artsen, right, is congratulated after hitting a home run last week. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Heading into a 4-game home-and-away series with the Roswell Invaders (which included a late game Thursday), Santa Fe is off to a strong 6-2 start, sticking to the game plan with which Moore entered the season.

“Our goal was speed,” he said. “We wanted to be able to run like hell and press the other team into making a few mistakes. That was our primary goal. And it’s nice when you have a corner guy or two to hit a long fly ball when you have some of those rabbit guys on.”

First baseman Chevas Numata is one of those corner guys that strives to get the rabbits home.

He’s second in the league in hitting at .459 and he has 16 RBI.

“No matter where you’re playing, baseball, it’s the same game,” said Numata, a rookie who is a native Hawaiian and played two years of junior college ball at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, Nev. – a school made famous in baseball circles by Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.

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When the 20-year-old Numata realized he would have to sit out too long to transfer to a DI school, he decided to get started on his dream of playing professionally right away.

The Fuego’s David Brandt takes some practice swings on deck during a game against Taos at Fort Marcy Park on May 15. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The Fuego’s David Brandt takes some practice swings on deck during a game against Taos at Fort Marcy Park on May 15. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“The league is a pretty good league and hopefully somebody will see and I will get to move to the next level,” he said. “And hopefully that will get me a shot into organized ball. I think that’s pretty much all of our goals.”

Pitcher Austin Carden was able to take that next step up the ladder last season from the Fuego to El Paso Diablos, but his time there was cut short by an arm ailment.

Carden, 24, is healthy again, making his first start of the season Thursday night. “I’ve had a great time out here so far and I’m happy to be back here,” he said.

Carden too wants to get back to affiliated ball, but his timetable is drawing to a close. The Pecos League has a 25-year-old age limit.

“I’m doing this because I love baseball,” he said. “I want to keep playing until I can’t play anymore. People say stuff about the Pecos League, everyone says this and that but, at the end of the day, I keep playing, all you have do is get to be seen by the right person and you never know. I love the game and I want to keep playing a while longer.”


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