FARMINGTON — The University of New Mexico is trying to build its baseball fan base, so the Lobos took a trip to "Baseball Town, U.S.A."
The Lobos played a nine-inning intrasquad scrimmage at Ricketts Park in Farmington on Saturday afternoon. Head coach Ray Birmingham said the trip was about gaining travel experience for his young players while interacting with the community in an effort to increase fan support.
"I love Farmington. Farmington is an awesome town, and it is a baseball town," Birmingham said. "What a beautiful ballpark. We are jealous."
The Lobos took two hours of batting practice before beginning the scrimmage. They enlisted the help of a few local boys to help them shag balls.
"It was pretty fun because they are college players. The ball was coming off (the bat) a bit harder and going so high in the air you couldn't even see it. That was pretty cool," said 12-year-old Brennan McFarland of Aztec.
Birmingham made sure to chat with everyone in attendance while encouraging all the kids to be future Lobos. Without a college team to cheer for in San Juan County, seeing the Lobos play was as good as it gets for some of the young fans in attendance.
"It was a privilege for us to be out here," said 10-year-old Jacob Thornton of Farmington. "Some people get to do this every day, but it isn't something we get to see every day. The best part was getting to see some baseball."
After the scrimmage, the UNM players and coaches mingled with the fans at a cookout put on by the Farmington High softball team. Birmingham promised to bring the team back every year moving forward.
"We want to spread it around and let them know we are their baseball team, because there is a lot of New Mexico boys who have been playing on this team over the years," Birmingham said. "We need the fans to support this program and to get behind us, because we are going to go to Omaha."
Birmingham hopes his team can win a fourth consecutive Mountain West Conference championship this year and eventually get past the regional and super regional rounds to reach the College World Series.
"When we go to Omaha, we want everyone from New Mexico to go, because there is going to be a Farmington kid on that team and a Carlsbad kid, a Las Cruces kid and an Albuquerque kid," he said. "There will be a whole bunch of New Mexicans on that team, and it will probably be the greatest sports experience this state has ever seen. That day is coming."John Livingston can be reached at email@example.com; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.