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Professional baseball continues in New Mexico through Labor Day with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes and spillover into the lower Mesilla Valley from the first-year El Paso Chihuahuas, also a Triple-A team.
New Mexico had other baseball, organized and professional, during the summer of 2014 and it is that effort that this column pauses from all the state government matters of recent weeks to honor and applaud.
Wait. The question might come from much of the state, “What other baseball?”
Answer: The Pecos League of Professional Clubs.
If the Pecos League seems a little obscure, that’s because in the grand world of baseball, it is. The Pecos League is one of eight independent baseball leagues. “Independent” means not tied to major league baseball, unlike the 20 leagues Wikipedia tells us are “affiliated.”
Since I paid any attention to this as a kid 55 years ago or so, the old Triple-A, Double-A, A, B, C and D structure has turned into Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, Low-A, Short Season A, Advanced Rookie, Rookie and the Arizona Fall League.
The Madison (Wisconsin) Mallards of the Northwoods League is the only one of the many minor league teams with which I have the slightest acquaintance other than the Albuquerque Isotopes.
The Northwoods League is described as “a collegiate summer baseball league.”
Over the Pecos League’s four years of operation, teams have come and gone. Pecos commissioner and co-founder Andrew Dunn said in a telephone interview that if a community builds a ballpark, then “baseball will find you.”
Carlsbad and Ruidoso fielded teams in 2011, the first year of operation, but not since. Roswell, Alamogordo (aka the White Sands Pupfish) and Alpine, Texas, have been in the league all four years with Santa Fe and Trinidad in for three years.
For 2014, the league had 10 teams. Besides the five listed above, there were teams from Las Vegas, Raton, Taos and Douglas and Bisbee in far southeast Arizona.
Eight return next year. Raton and Douglas dropped. The league’s core is stable, Dunn says.
The Pecos League traces to the Las Cruces Vaqueros, founded by Dunn and, in 2010, part of the now-defunct Continental League.
The build-it-and-they-will-come notion got support last week with the announcement of plans for a team in Ciudad Juárez, which has three ballparks including a new, 12,000-seat stadium. The team would play in an independent league. The Pecos League is handy.
Dunn invites people to consider the league by noting that 174 players have moved up the baseball ladder since the league began play in 2011.
Watch the Pecos League and watch future stars, is the logic. This year Alpine and Raton were the nation’s smallest population communities to host a professional baseball team. (Alpine, south of Carlsbad in Big Bend Country, is well out in the middle of nowhere.)
Another point of pride is the website, “one of the top websites in baseball,” said Dunn, a Houston-area businessman who does real estate, website development and soon will sell bats. Dunn’s baseball history is playing in “every kind of semi-pro league that existed.”
One thing Dunn is not, though, is related to the man who has purchased the banner ad at pecosleague.com.
The advertiser is Aubrey Dunn, Lincoln County rancher and banker who is the Republican candidate for Commissioner of Public Lands. Indeed, Andrew Dunn said he had not heard of Aubrey Dunn until a few days before we talked.
The league website’s audience is one element Andrew Dunn cites to support the league’s legitimacy.
Through the ad purchase, Aubrey Dunn would seem to agree. Small world.