Flat Bill Ducks hope to surprise in City League

Aztec-based team brings confidence into City League following successful high school season

Jake Newby
jnewby@pnj.com
  • All but two Flat Bill players are eligible to compete in City League next season.
  • The Ducks will be coached by Brett Alexander, who took the 4C-Clubsox to the CMWS last year.

FARMINGTON — Though their primary focus during the Connie Mack City League is to develop younger players for next year's high school baseball season, the Flat Bill Ducks think they have the pieces in place to surprise a few teams come tournament time.

Beau Crawford of Flat Bill bunts during a game against Strike Zone on Wednesday at Ricketts Park in Farmington.

Comprised mostly of — but not limited to — current and former Aztec High School players, Flat Bill comes into City League play with a bit of momentum, as the Tigers won 20 games last high school season, their highest win total so far this decade.

Sophomore Zack Taylor said he thinks Flat Bill can take some teams by surprise, just like his Tigers did during the spring.

"It's the same thing as our high school season — I don't think anybody is going to expect us to be good," Taylor said. "But I think we can prove some teams wrong."

Brett Alexander, who coached Aztec from 2014-2015, led the 4-Corners Clubsox into the Connie Mack World Series last summer as New Mexico's representative. He's said he's busier than he was a year ago, but he still jumped at the opportunity to coach many of the same kids he guided at the high school level.

"I live in the community, and I like to help out the kids here as much as I can. I mean, I bleed orange," Alexander said. "There's a lot of talent out there at Aztec, and I think it's been kind of mishandled in the past summers. I don't want to see that school go one season with 20 wins and then kind of fall off again."

Taylor, junior Cody Smith and recently graduated Beau Crawford figure to make up the middle of Flat Bill's batting order. Current Tigers Spencer Heyden, Derek Jung, Sebastian McNeil and Kyler Duggins are also on this year's roster.

Farmington senior Keaton Christy will play for the Ducks and has already seen some at-bats from the leadoff position. Alexander said he doesn't want the opposition, or the public, to think his roster is reserved strictly for Aztec kids.

"There were some coaches in the community who kind of bad-mouthed us, saying things like, 'Don't go play for them, it's an all-Aztec team,' and that's not the truth," Alexander said. "We got a catcher coming in from Santa Fe, we got a kid from Raton and two or three more arms, all from New Mexico, coming up here."

All but two members of the Flat Bill roster are eligible to play in City League next year, so Alexander and the players feel like they have a chance to build a solid off-season program.

Alexander expects Taylor, Smith and McNeil to pitch a lot this summer, as the loss of graduate and former starter Bradly Maestas from the high school team leaves plenty of innings up for grabs next season.

Taylor manned second base for much of last year, pitching in only one game. But Alexander said he always envisioned Taylor becoming a pitcher as he got older, and that grooming process starts now in the City League.

Zack Taylor of the Flat Bill Ducks waits on the ball in a tag-out attempt of Strike Zone's Dan Duran of Strike Zone on Wednesday at Ricketts Park in Farmington.

Flat Bill doesn't boast the most experienced roster of the nine teams competing to make it to the CMWS, but Alexander said he hates the misconception that it's a lost summer if your team doesn't win the City League. What he loves is the parity of the tournament and how the game has changed over time.

"All it takes is to get hot, play really good defense and then have a couple of pitchers," Alexander said. "This league and high school have all changed, simply due to the fact that we use wood bats, and I love it. It gives undersized kids the chance to compete because you don't be a kid that can hit a ball 400 (feet). I think a lot of people get bored with it, but coming from a pitching coach, I love it."

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.