FARMINGTON — The pursuit of a berth in the Connie Mack World Series heats up this month as 10 teams compete for a chance to play in one of the country's premiere amateur baseball tournaments.
For one team, that chase has already come to an end. D-BAT Leach out of Dallas earned its place on Sunday after winning the 30-team Arizona National Connie Mack World Series Qualifier in Surprise, Ariz.
The win guarantees at least one D-BAT team will be in Farmington Aug. 2 to 9. Four Corners fans have grown accustomed to seeing the red and blue D-BAT colors at Ricketts Park on an annual basis.
"You can't beat the atmosphere. The biggest reason you keep pushing to make it to Farmington is you can't beat it unless you are in Omaha for the College World Series or Grand Junction, Colo., for the Junior College World Series," said D-BAT Leach head coach Patrick Leach. "The host families and the community embracing the kids, it is unbelievable. It is what brings me back, and it is always fun bringing new teams and kids who haven't been there before. They really don't know what they are getting into until they get there and receive the police escort and are in the parade and see those big crowds. It is really neat."
Leach played at North Central Texas Community College before finishing his playing career at New Mexico State University. He has spent time as an assistant coach with both the Aggies and University of New Mexico Lobos.
He has brought five different teams to Farmington during his time as a youth coach in Texas, including two with CMWS Hall of Fame coach Sam Carpenter.
Though he has never won a CMWS, Leach believes winning the National Qualifier against a stacked field of 30 teams is almost as difficult.
"We played 11 games in six days. It is a major relief winning it," Leach said. "I think the National Qualifier is the toughest tournament to win because you have to win so many games to do it. I have never won in Farmington, but there are fewer games to win the world series. The biggest difference is just the quality level of teams. In Arizona, teams pay their entry fee and get to play. In Farmington, they have all won their qualifying tournaments to get there. The talent level in Farmington that week is huge."
Leach said his D-BAT team doesn't have any first-round draft picks -- such as Dylan Bundy or Archie Bradley of D-BAT teams in recent years -- but he has a solid core of pitchers who focus on getting the job done as efficiently as possible.
The pitching staff is headed by Jake Elliott, a 6-foot-7-inch right-handed pitcher who was a regional import player for the host Strike Zone Cardinals in the 2012 CMWS. Elliott will attend the University of Oklahoma in the fall.
"It was an awesome experience playing with the Cardinals last year, and I am excited to come with my team this year," Elliott said.
Leach also likes what pitchers Octavio Rodriguez and Ryan Thomas bring to the table. Thomas was named the MVP for pitchers in the qualifier tournament.
Also returning to Farmington for a second time are position players Kramer Robertson, Niko Buentello and Hunter Courson, who won the MVP for hitters in the Arizona tournament.
"The guys who have been to Farmington before have helped all the guys understand just how special it is there. The players on the team are reinforcing what I am saying and helping motivate the guys about the experience they can have in Farmington," Leach said. "Now we are in and we can talk about focusing on just playing the game. It is real easy to get nervous with 5,000 people watching, and you never know how the kids will respond until they get there."
The Connie Mack World Series American Qualifier of 25 teams began on Monday and runs through Sunday in Troy, N.Y. The Connie Mack City Tournament to determine the 2013 host team begins July 8 and wraps up July 14.John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.