Vaqueros benefit from CMWS experience

Matt Hollinshead,
A young Vaqueros fan gets an autograph on the back of his shirt Sunday at Farmington Sports Complex. The Vaqueros traveled from Puerto Rico for the Connie Mack World Series.

FARMINGTON – The Carolina Vaqueros may have flown back to their native Puerto Rico winning zero Connie Mack World Series games, but plenty of good came out of the experience.

They saw tough competition in their American counterparts, all while adjusting to a higher altitude. They recognized some things they could keep improving on. And they took heed to the intel they received from teams like the Florida Legends, which also featured some Puerto Rican players.

“It’s kind of a journey because in Puerto Rico, we don’t play that many games. Here, they play like eight games a week. Here in the U.S., they can do it,” said Vaqueros coach Miguel Mejias.

More:CMWS helps UNM-bound Sikes

Mejias said his players benefitted from the experience because they now understand how “real” the competition is in the United States.

“When you’re coming up in this tournament, you see what level of baseball it is,” Mejias said.

Despite getting shut out against the SoCal Renegades and the Nashville Knights, the Vaqueros engaged in a high-scoring battle with the Grand Rapids Diamonds.

“They’re getting their feet wet. They’re starting to pick up their steam,” Knights coach Eric Fruechtmeyer said.

Already depending more on pitching and defense to carry them through games, Mejias said he hoped squad would fix something with their hitting.

“In Puerto Rico, we’re trying to hit the ball hard out of the field. And it doesn’t work like that,” Mejias said, mentioning he wanted his squad to work more on their follow through swinging at the plate. “Most of them, they open their arms when they’re going to hit.”

More:Legends secure spot in CMWS bracket

Mejias also said his hitters worked on keeping their arms tucked together in the center of their torsos for extra strength when swinging.

On defense, Mejias said his team realized how important it is to make simple, easy plays. Pitching-wise, they worked more on attacking batters early in the count and limiting walks.

“You’re going to have more of a chance to get the inning done,” Mejias said. “If you don’t make those easy plays, it’s really hard to win a game.”

Mejias said his organization recently started a project where they’ll share their experiences with and teach youth ages 9-18 in Puerto Rico.

Back here in the United States, some are quite aware what baseball means to Puerto Rico.

“We know that people from Puerto Rico have a strong passion for the game of baseball,” Fruechtmeyer said.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.