Farmington is the host with the most during Connie Mack
FARMINGTON — Like any other Connie Mack World Series, there are storylines and compelling conversations about the teams which competed throughout this past week, and there may well be more history made as the tournament wraps up this weekend.
With only a couple more days and a handful of games left to play in this year's renewal, one of the more compelling stories has been the influx of teams from the state of New Mexico competing for the title.
For the first time since the tournament's arrival in Farmington in 1965, the state was represented by three teams — the host Farmington Sting, in addition to the Frackers and the Albuquerque Baseball Academy.
The three teams combined to win three games both during pool play and bracket competition.
The ABA went 0-2 in pool play, but picked up an impressive 8-5 win over the Dallas Patriots on Tuesday in the second round before being eliminated Wednesday by the Nashville Knights in a 7-6 thriller.
The Frackers, who won a game during pool play and also settled for a tie due to time constraints within pool play, earned a walkoff win over the Patriots in the opening night of bracket play over the Patriots, then lost to the Enid Majors 8-2 before being eliminated by the Colton Nighthawks by a final of 6-4.
The Sting, which qualified for the tournament by capturing the city league title, were winless in three pool play games. They opened up bracket play Monday with a 3-0 loss to the D-Bat United squad before they were eliminated Tuesday by the Colton Nighthawks 11-1.
Kary King, coach of the Sting, talked about the valuable experience for his team coming into the series.
"It was such a great opportunity for these kids who have dreamed about playing in the series for years," King said. "They wanted to compete and we definitely had our moments."
King specifically pointed to the 3-0 loss to D-Bat United, one of the six teams still eligible to win the 2021 CMWS title. In particular, King mentioned the effort of starting pitcher Jordan Vickers, who threw 6 solid innings in that Monday night game, striking out eight batters and allowing only two runs on four hits in the process.
"(Vickers) game against D-Bat was something really special," King said. "We scared a few teams and that's something we can be really proud of."
King spoke about the addition of two teams from within the state in this series and thinks the potential is there for great things from amateur baseball in New Mexico.
"The ABA is a good all-star team from around the state, and for them to go and compete and win a regional tournament is a good sign," King said. "I think teams like that are good for everyone, in town especially. They can be good revenue generators for the tournament."
Tim Campos, coach of the ABA, also sees the benefit an all-star team representing New Mexico can have on the Connie Mack World Series.
"The series itself is a treasure and I wouldn't necessarily change that," Campos said from his training facilities, just 24 hours after the team was eliminated. "But having a team representing the state just makes sense. You could see from the crowds and the impact that has on revenue for the tournament."
One of the main factors working against the trio of New Mexico teams was the lack of significant playing time as individual units.
The Sting and Frackers had only played a handful of games around Farmington, while the ABA, winners of a qualifying tournament last month in Cheyenne, Wyoming, had only played seven games together before qualifying for the CMWS.
Meantime, of the six teams still competing for the crown after elimination games wrapped up on Wednesday, the average number of games those teams had played coming into the CMWS was 30, with the Colton (CA) Nighthawks having played the most games at 42.
"There was a significant lack of playing time for these teams," said Frackers coach Eli Wyatt. "And when you don't have that time, it's tougher to make gametime decisions, knowing when to extend pitchers, just being able to understand kids and what they're doing."
The minimal amount of game time together for the teams representing Farmington and the state could have had a role in why those teams didn't fare better against more experienced programs.
"Part of that was due to the high school year ending so late, because of COVID protocols," Campos said. "A lot of these other teams were already playing together when we were just ending the school year. It was really impressive to see how well we played as a team and how we all came together so quickly."
Still, the idea of an all-star team representing not only Farmington, but the state of New Mexico in the CMWS is a compelling one. No local team has ever won the series, but considering how well an all-star team fared in winning a regional qualifier and competing against some of the best amateurs in America is appealing.
"I think we can have both," King said about having a local team and a statewide all-star team." There's enough talent around here and enough people who could be working towards a common goal. It doesn't need to be just a Farmington thing, but there's no question it creates a lot of buzz as a community event."
Wyatt believes that local or host teams should be comprised of players from around the region, and should compete at regional tournaments around the country because having exposure to other players makes overall performances better.
"Getting to see other players, getting to see how different some players and teams are, makes you better or more competitive," Wyatt said. "Some of our kids who played at that regional level, I think made us play a lot more competitive baseball."
King looked back at the run through the tournament with a great sense of pride in what the Sting were able to accomplish under the most unique of circumstances.
"We came in knowing what the dreams and aspirations were for the team, and we wanted to compete," King said. "And we had our moments. I think we can all take satisfaction from that."
Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680