FARMINGTON — The University of New Mexico baseball team is making a trip to Ricketts Park.
The Lobos will play an intrasquad game at Farmington's famed stadium on Oct. 26 as head coach Ray Birmingham continues a campaign to help build a state-wide fan base.
"It is to bond with the state. We are the flagship university of New Mexico, and we want to continue to build our fan support," Birmingham said in a phone interview on Wednesday. "Going to Farmington is big time. I mean, when you talk New Mexico baseball, you talk Farmington."
Birmingham said the fall trip to Farmington is also valuable for his team to learn to handle bus trips before they begin play in the spring. Playing at Ricketts Park, the host facility of the Connie Mack World Series, is an added luxury, he said.
"We are jealous of Ricketts. We wish the University of New Mexico had a baseball field just like Ricketts Park," Birmingham said.
The Lobos have won three consecutive Mountain West Conference championships, earning them a spot in the NCAA tournament all three years.
"One of the best things about Ray Birmingham, beside him being such a good coach, is he wins with New Mexico players," said Farmington resident Jack Fortner, who is UNM's president of the board of regents and helped bring the Lobos' scrimmage to Farmington. "Coach Birmingham is here in Farmington every year during the Connie Mack World Series, and he lets people know he is interested in San Juan County players. That is a big deal."
Farmington and Piedra Vista high schools' baseball teams will not attend the event as several players will be out of town for a tournament. But Farmington High head coach Sean Trotter said the event is great for Farmington baseball fans.
"It is not something I would chose to miss. College baseball is a lot of fun and not something we have an opportunity to see very often," Trotter said. "We are pretty spoiled with amateur baseball in our area with the Connie Mack World Series every year, but it is really cool Birmingham is bringing the kids to town to finish their fall series."
Birmingham hopes to add stops in Las Cruces and Roswell next fall. The team hosted a similar event in Hobbs earlier this year.
The Lobos will arrive in Farmington at about 11 a.m. Oct. 26. They will stretch and take batting practice before playing an eight-inning scrimmage. After the game, players and coaches will mingle with the Farmington community during a hot dog and hamburger cookout at the stadium.
"The players, fans and people of Farmington can eat and get to know our kids," Birmingham said. "We just want to connect with the people. I think we are the only team at our university going out and about traveling and meeting the people of New Mexico. We want to try to build a gigantic New Mexico family and a Lobo baseball nation."John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.