CONNIE MACK

Final preparations in place for Connie Mack World Series

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON − Connie Mack World Series tournament chairman Mark Varley is keenly aware of the pressure he's under as the city of Farmington prepares to play host once again to the Connie Mack World Series this week.

Varley, who's serving the first of a two-year stint as general chairman for the tournament, is reminded of that pressure every day.

"The volume of phone calls and inquiries about the event is staggering," Varley said. "And in some ways, it can be overwhelming but it also reminds me how important an event the series is for so many people."

Varley, who owns Digital Communications, a locally-based telecommunications equipment supplier, took over as general chairman of the tournament after Tyson Snyder's run ended with the conclusion of the 2021 series. Among the most important tasks Varley finds himself most occupied with these days are ticket sales and those fans who are hoping to be first in line.

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"We're still working out the bugs in the online system," Varley admitted. "But we're in good shape and everyone who wants a ticket can rest assured they'll get them."

Varley has played and coached baseball for much of his life. His professional resume includes coaching jobs at Santa Rita High School in Tucson, Arizona, as well as the University of Arizona. His personal experience with the Connie Mack World Series goes back to his days as a runner for the concession stands during tournament games.

The field at Ricketts Park getting ready for play during a break between games of the Connie Mack World Series on Tuesday, July 27, 2021.

"I've been around baseball since I was a kid," Varley said. "I love the game and have been involved with the FABC for a number of years, including helping out on the runners committee helping find kids who would be runners for games."

From there, Varley was called upon to do more based on his experience in the field of telecommunications.

"I was approached about going to work in the press box to upgrade the technology for the series," Varley said. "That included updating the streaming, the online scoring, finding ways to get more and more people involved."

Ricketts Park, which went through a massive series of renovations both before and after the pandemic, has become a hotspot for even more technological advances. With the addition of fiber optic cabling, which was installed during the renovation, the stadium is well-suited to link with telecommunication centers around the world.

"A lot of people don't know that Ricketts Park has a fiber-optic backbone, so the chances of it ever being outdated technology-wise are slim to none," Varley said. "That's the reason we're able to get the exposure that we've been looking for."

Midland Baseball's Kevin Hilton is greeted at home plate by teammate Coldon Kiser (11) as he scores a run during a tournament game against the Hawaii Tigers, June 28, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Now, with the CMWS championship game set to be aired live by the CBS Sports Network when it is played on Saturday, July 30, Varley knows the added technology will come in handy.

"We exceeded the standards that CBS required from us in order to make the broadcast possible," Varley said. "We got a really good idea the last couple of years just how big this tournament really is," Varley said. "We saw there were people watching and getting updates on games from Europe and South America, so there's definitely a need for the game to go live on national television."

One of the pressing challenges for the upcoming tournament is the ongoing need for foster families. Earlier this year, the Connie Mack World Series Committee announced a $250 incentive for local families hosting participants in the series.

"Every year, it's always a challenge, but the high cost of everything has made this year even more challenging," Varley said. "We offered the incentive, and even though it's only a small bit of help for those willing to volunteer their homes, we knew it was something that needed to be done."

Connie Mack World Series tournament General Chairman Mark Varley

Varley indicated that even with days to go before the start of the series, people can still sign up to participate in the foster family program.

"We'll take families up until the last minute," Varley said. "There's already so many people around the community that have opened their arms and their homes for these kids, and that's very encouraging."

As for the games itself, Varley noted the impressive number of teams from the southwest corner of the country. Five teams will represent the state of Texas, while four more teams hail from New Mexico and California. Only the Midland Baseball team from Ohio and the Florida Legends are making the road trip to Farmington from east of the Mississippi River, while the Elite Squad Gulf South team is coming in from Hammond, Louisiana.

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"This is baseball country right here," Varley said. "Sure we would have liked another team from another part of the country, but these are the areas that are focusing on getting into our tournament and that's why they're here. They take the time and focus their efforts in our direction."

The 505 Panthers, who earned the title of host team for the CMWS by winning the City League tournament last week, are scheduled to play twice on Friday to open pool play competition. According to the tournament schedule posted on their website, The Panthers will play an opponent still to be determined at 1:30 p.m. at the Farmington Sports Complex. Following that game, the Panthers will host Dallas' D-Bat United at 7 p.m. at Ricketts Park.

Teams are scheduled to arrive at the Farmington Civic Center throughout the day on Wednesday, with the annual Connie Mack World Series Parade set to begin in downtown Farmington on Thursday at 10 a.m. For more schedules and updated brackets on the tournament, check out the official website at CMWS.org.