If you’re caught off guard by that meddlesome All-Star Game scheduled for Saturday night right around the corner in Santa Fe’s Fort Marcy Ballpark, don’t beat yourself up.
The usual buildup to baseball’s mid-summer classic has been sorely lacking in the Pecos League.
And that’s OK. Fans of the league wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Santa Fe Fuego have been selected to play host to this year’s game, scheduled for a 6 p.m. first pitch on the field most tour books know only as the place where Old Man Gloom goes up in smoke.
Having survived well into its second year of existence in what has been described as the lowest level of professional baseball in America, the Fuego are steadily earning their keep in the league. The wins are up, the mistakes are down and, honestly, they’re starting to deserve a spot in the collective consciousness of a town not known for embracing professional sports.
So, if you’re debating whether or not to head out to the ballpark for the big game, consider the following to help get you there:
No. 1: Improvement. With Thursday’s 10-8 win over visiting Taos, the Fuego have already surpassed their win total from all of last season.
Better pitching, much better defense and an offense that still produces the fireworks yet doesn’t rely solely on the long ball.
No. 2: Middle infield. There was a moment earlier this season when a picture-perfect 4-6-3 double play was turned after the second baseman, Kyle Zimmerman, made a lunging stop in the hole, spun and delivered a knee-high throw to the bag that was tossed to first for the inning-ending gem.
“And that’s why we’re better,” said Bill Moore, Fuego manager, as the players came off the field. “That play isn’t made last year.”
Together, Zimmerman, shortstop Charlie Calamia and corner infielders James Maxwell, Michael Lange and Evan Mansell make defense a fashionable thing at Fort Marcy. Who knew?
No. 3: Amenities. A fresh coat of paint on the press box, grandstand box seats and dugouts aren’t the only upgrades this summer. The lights on the new scoreboard actually work, the new sound system allows each player to have a walk-up song and the new mascot, McGee, is a genetic leap over the Elmo puppet used last year.
Besides, McGee lets every kid beat him around the bases even though there is a strict no-pass policy. Fan friendly. Gotta love it.
No. 4: Pride. No, it’s not the Final Four or college bowl game, but the Pecos League All-Star Game is a shot in the arm to a sports community that usually relies on self-satisfaction when it comes to getting outside (re: golf, hiking, biking, jogging, etc.).
This game gives this town a chance to showcase this league’s biggest event despite the fact that there’s not a lot of time to savor the build-up.
No. 5: Shaggers. The favorite for the home run derby is none other than Fuego third baseman James Maxwell, the league’s best player and the one hitter capable of breaking multiple windshields at the nearby fire station.