Connie Mack World Series to remain at 12 teams

Joshua Kellogg
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Connie Mack World Series officials say the tournament will remain at 12 teams for the foreseeable future in the wake of discussions about an expansion to 14 or 16 teams.

Described as the "crown jewel" of the American Amateur Baseball Congress, the expansion of the Connie Mack World Series to 12 teams from 10 teams this year has been viewed as a success by Richard Neely, the president of the organization and governing body for the tournament.

He said when the tournament expanded from eight to 10 teams, it took the CMWS to a new level by bringing in more quality teams and producing great baseball.

"Every year, you've got to make sure, in my opinion, to keep that level up there. We never want to be complacent," Neely said. "That's why we looked at the expansion, and that's why I think the 12-team expansion has worked out extremely well so far."

Neely said if the tournament expanded to 16 teams, it would negatively affect the quality of competition between teams.

Discussions about the possible expansion to 16 teams started during the AABC's national meeting in November 2014, according to tournament chairman Brad Campbell.

Campbell and Neely said input from the coaches of teams who have competed in the tournament was instrumental in limiting the size of the expansion.

"They like it small because of the intimate feel of it," Campbell said. "The whole experience of coming to Farmington is playing in front of 6,000 people and having all of your host families cheering for you. The more teams you let in, it takes away the intimacy of the tournament and the experience of the kids."

The expansion to a 12-team field put pressure on some aspects of the Connie Mack experience.

Even with 85 local families opening up their homes to players in the tournament, two teams — Frozen Ropes and the Louisiana Elite Yankees — were unable to secure host families and stayed in local hotels.

Campbell said Tuesday's competition was the first time that four games were played in one day, which put extra pressure on volunteers and the field staff. Trying to schedule games to account for rain delays proved difficult, too.

Campbell said there were talks about playing some of the games at the Farmington Sports Complex if rain proved to be an issue.

Prairie Gravel coach Sam Sorce said the major attraction of the CMWS is how different it is from other baseball tournaments. He described the tournament as a perfect event that is supported by the community and doesn't overcharge attendees watching the games.

"It's pure baseball, that is No. 1. All the other tournaments, it's pure money," Sorce said. "Those guys are in it to make a buck. Connie Mack is in it for the baseball and the experience. It's a fantastic experience."

The only change Sorce might like to see is extending games to nine innings from seven innings, since some players are or will be on college teams and seven-inning games end quickly.

Brett Alexander, coach of 4C-Club Sox, said increasing the number of teams would be a double-edged sword.

It could possibly draw more scouts and improve the competition but dilute what makes the Connie Mack World Series special, he said.

"It's kind of the pinnacle of your career as an amateur baseball player," Alexander said. "It's the greatest stage you can play on before going to a college or pro career."

Alexander said if AABC officials instituted a pool-play format with four pools of four teams competing, it would guarantee that teams play one more game than the guaranteed two games right now. More games and more teams would also require an increase of the roster size currently set at 22 players.

He also suggested using the Bloomfield High School baseball field as an secondary venue, stating it is one of the better high school fields in the state.

"I think Farmington has proven it's a great city to host, given the community support with host families and the way (residents) treat people when they come to town," Alexander said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.