FARMINGTON — The Connie Mack World Series has added two new teams to its field this year, giving 12 clubs a chance to call themselves champions.
In the past, the CMWS has consisted of a 10-team field — a host team, eight qualifiers open to any team from America's 50 states and a Puerto Rico qualifier. But for the first time, the Don Mattingly (17U) World Series champion will earn a bid to the CMWS this year, along with the 18U Continental Amateur Baseball Association champion.
Richard Neely, the president of the American Amateur Baseball Congress, the governing body of the CMWS, said there were a couple of reasons for the addition of two new teams, but it mostly came down to making the CMWS better.
"In adding the two more teams, they should be very high-caliber, competitive teams," Neely said. "The whole thing is to continue the quality of the tournament. The Connie Mack World Series has been one of the best amateur baseball tournaments for years, and we always have to do something to keep improving it. I think this will make a difference."
The DMWS will be played Friday through July 29 in Surprise, Ariz. The winner of that tournament will jump on a bus July 30 and drive to Farmington in time for the first day of the CMWS.
While the DMWS champions will be made up solely of players 17 and younger, there is no reason to write the younger squad off as simply a filler team in the CMWS. Last year's CMWS champions, D-BAT Gallegos, was made up mostly of 17-year-olds, and Neely expects the team that wins the DMWS will be a legitimate contender for the CMWS title.
"I expect them to be extremely competitive," Neely said. "There (are) going to be about 24 teams coming from all over the country playing in (the DMWS). I expect whoever wins that tournament will be able to compete at the Connie Mack World Series. In the past, we've had several teams comprised of 17-year-olds that have won the Connie Mack World Series."
The CABA tournament is being played this week in Charleston, S.C.
With less than two weeks left until the CMWS gets underway on July 31, six teams have punched their ticket to Farmington.
D-Bat Nelson won the National qualifier in Surprise, Ariz., to make it to the CMWS. The team consists of one player from last year's D-Bat Leach team that made it to Farmington, and five players from 2014 CMWS champion D-Bat Gallegos. Among the returning champion players from last year is Josh Watson, who won the Big Stick Award after finishing with a batting average of .462, a .533 on-base percentage and a .923 slugging percentage.
D-Bat will face the Bayside Yankees in its first round game, scheduled for 5:15 p.m. on July 31.
The Bayside Yankees, out of New York City, won the American qualifier in Troy, N.Y., knocking off the Florida Legends 8-5. The Yankees will be bringing a native New Mexican with them. Roman Trujillo, a 2015 graduate of Oñate High School and New Mexico State University commit, will be playing for Bayside.
The East Cobb Yankees from Marietta, Ga., won the Southeast regional qualifier in Atlanta to get back to the CMWS. The Yankees have won six CMWS titles, their last coming in 2013.
East Cobb will play in the series' opening game, scheduled for 2:15 p.m. July 31, against the winner of the DMWS.
The 4C-Clubsox won the host team bid earlier this month, coming from behind to top the 14ers in the City Championship game. The Clubsox will play Chicago-based Prairie Gravel in opening day's nightcap.
Prairie Gravel earned its place in the CMWS by winning the North Central Regional qualifier this weekend in Battle Creek, Mich.
Representing Puerto Rico will be EDC Escuela de los Deportes de Carolina. EDC will play the winner of the South Plains Regional qualifier at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 1.
The remaining six qualifying tournaments with their location and dates are as follows: North Atlantic, today through Saturday in Troy, N.Y.; South Plains, continuing through Sunday in Enid, Okla.; East Central, continuing through Friday in Batavia, Ohio; West, continuing through Sunday in Orange County, Calif.; CABA, continuing through Saturday in Charleston, S.C.; Mattingly, Friday through July 29 in Surprise, Ariz.