The league – which had its inaugural season in 2011, is back for a second season and features teams in towns one might not expect there to be pro ball – towns like Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Roswell and Alamogordo.
While the league is professional, the players aren’t paid that much, and they rely on extremely generous fans to open their homes and give them a place to live as they chase their dream.
“These guys are giving up their whole lives for this, and they’re giving it everything they’ve got,” said Casey Dill, manager for the Las Cruces Vaqueros. “People taking players into their homes is essential. This league isn’t possible without that support.”
Alamogordo is home to the White Sands Pupfish – a team named for an endangered species native to the Otero Basin – and the coming of the Pecos League marks the first time professional baseball has ever been played in this city where the desert and the Sacramento Mountains meet.
The Pupfish play at Griggs Field – a converted Junior League park now known as “The Aquarium.” Tall netting has been erected on both the left and right field fences, and center field has been extended to accommodate long fly balls hit in the dry desert air.
The league is independent – no affiliation with any Major League teams – and there may not be a whole lot of money to go around for players or operations, but fans that go to these intimate venues are treated to some high quality baseball presented in enjoyable atmospheres.
“We have great fan support, and we love to get out there and connect with the community,” said White Sands manager Chris Patterson, who led the Roswell Invaders to the first-ever league championship last season. “The health of the league is great, and we’re starting to get more and better talent here.”
Because of the paucity of professional ball in the area – Albuquerque was the only New Mexico city with a pro team prior to the founding of the Pecos League – commissioner Andrew Dunn said the fans flocked to the league in the beginning, and some teams – like the Invaders – have built on that success.
“The altitudes and attitudes are all offensive,” Dunn said, referring to the high number of home runs hit in small parks located in arid country. “Every park has its quirks, and it’s a lot of fun for the fans, both that live here and that are visiting.”
Dunn has made it no secret that he’d like to see a team back in Ruidoso. The Osos finished second to the Invaders in last year’s League championship before folding, and Dunn said the location of the village – halfway between Roswell and Alamogordo – makes it a natural for inclusion.
Even if there isn’t a team in town, it’s a fantastic place for visitors to visit – within a short driving distance of two league cities.
“Even though there’s no team in Ruidoso now, it was an experience when they played there,” Dunn said. “It’s a great place to visit.”
Currently, the league boasts six teams – Alamogordo, Roswell, Las Cruces and Santa Fe in New Mexico, as well as Trinidad, Colo., and Alpine, Texas. Dunn has also spoken of plans to extend into Durango, Colo. And Del Rio, Texas.
“I think it’s great to have pro ball in these small communities,” Dill said. “This is fun family entertainment, and you don’t even have to be huge baseball fans. I’ve found the promotions and being able to get to know the players help them all have a lot of fun.”