Recently a small New Mexican newspaper interviewed a highly celebrated and recently graduated (from an affluent private high school) New Mexican baseball player, who was chosen as a pick-up player from a regional tournament after his club team took it’s second loss in a Connie Mack regional tourney. The player, who is signed at perhaps the premier university in the premier conference in all of NCAA baseball and who had arguably the nation’s highest bat-tool grading in the 2012 draft class (at least I thought so), was quoted at length and offered several controversial opinions regarding the host team rights of the Connie Mack World Series held annually in Farmington, New Mexico. Those opinions basically can be summarized by the assertion that baseball players, coaches, administrators, and fans from Albuquerque and the surrounding metro area do not feel as though the CMWS hosting rights should be accessed solely through winning Farmington’s city CM league. In other words, Albuquerque should be in the tournament that crowns the host for seemingly no other reason than relative geographical proximity to Ricketts Park and the assumption that, due to their win-loss record this summer, they are capable of fulfilling the host role in a superior fashion than whatever team won the Farmington tournament. In the last few years, that event has been won by the Strike Zone Cardinals who have gone on to numerous wins in the CMWS against several premier clubs from across the nation. In fact, the host representative has wins in each of the last four CMWS, while the winner of the New Mexico state CM tourney has never qualified for the World Series.
Still, win-loss record, quality of roster in terms of both commitment/drafted list and high school stats, strength of schedule, event invitations, or reputation hardly represents what the host team is expected to be each year. The Connie Mack World Series is the third oldest annual amateur baseball event in the world to use the same host city (48 years) and the oldest for high school-aged players. The quality of baseball is as good as it gets. Ken Griffey Jr. played here. Manny Ramirez played here. Barry Larkin, Zack Greinke, Chris Carpenter, Cameron Maybin, Eric Hosmer, Todd Van Poppel, Joe Benson, Stephen Drew, Micah Owings, Gordan Beckham, Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy, Archie Bradley, and a freakishly long list of players who have gone on to unbelievable accomplishments within the game of baseball and beyond played here. In light of those names and the hundreds of professionals left off the list, the suggestion that even the finest team in New Mexico baseball history, the Albuquerque Heat of the early part of the 2000s which featured multiple Big Leaguers and was comprised of many players from consecutive nationally No. 1-ranked HS teams, would deserve a berth in the event purely because they happened to think they might be capable of defeating the best club from Farmington is considerably arrogant and a little silly. The Heat had more respect than that, though. They went to the regional, played hard, were defeated, and went on with their lives and baseball careers without complaining about the structure of local Connie Mack leagues.
What’s more, the notion that the community of Farmington, which has hosted the CMWS for nearly half of a century, would willingly support a team from what would be considered simply another metropolitan baseball academy is preposterous. The value of the host team’s place in the CMWS field is both motivation and reward for the community of Farmington. The host team provides the city a reasonable team to root for in the tourney every year. My guess is that there are even more Midland Redskins fans in Farmington than exist in Cincinnati and perhaps as many Dallas (DBAT) Mustangs fans as well. The East Cobb Yankees, despite not qualifying for the event in recent years, have a tremendous following too. No team fills the stands like the host team, though, and the atmosphere at Ricketts when the host team is in a close game is uniquely tense and the entire city feels it. To think that this degree of support is somehow not unique for Farmington’s team and could in fact be the case for teams from any other town in New Mexico is simply incorrect. The very notion defies the logistical fact that the seats at Ricketts are bought decades in advance and passed from generation to generation by Farmington families.
The city of Farmington and in particular its young baseball players are fortunate beyond words that the Connie Mack World Series is held at Ricketts annually. However, this good fortune works both ways. The CMWS is just as lucky to have Farmington as its host. While the community benefits greatly from the revenue generated by the event every year, the real reward is the opportunity to cheer on the city’s players as they challenge the country’s best amateur talent, winning a better than could reasonably be expected share of its games. Additionally, since many of the players comprising the host team are graduated seniors soon to be departing to whatever school they may be taking their baseball talent; it is a perfectly staged farewell for these young men. The Connie Mack World Series belongs to Farmington. It does not belong to New Mexico, and thusly, the winner of Farmington’s league, and only the winner of this league, deserves the right to host so long as the event is held at Ricketts.