By Karen Boehler
Pecos League writer
PECOS, Texas — Cities around the southwest have been wooing the Pecos League like ardent suitors its first few years, so much so that this year the league announced it would expand to 10 teams. Pecos, Texas, which has been discussing the possibility of joining since the league began, was set to become the ninth team in 2013, with Carlsbad rounding out the southern division as the 10th squad. (Unequal number of teams don’t work well for scheduling purposes.)
But then, on Jan. 25, league commission Andrew Dunn had to announce that the Bills would not join the team this year. The reason, he said, is because of a problem many cities around the country might like to have.
“Pecos is in the middle of an oil and natural gas rush that they’ve never seen,” Dunn said, with “roustabouts and roughnecks from all over the US making a fortune and while the rest of the United States economy is in bad shape, they can’t get enough people to Hobbs. They can’t get enough people to Midland. They can’t get enough people to Pecos, and that corridor, from Artesia to Lovington to Pecos and Midland, you can’t get housing. You can’t get hotels.”
And that, he said, is the rub.
The Reeves County Commissioners Counrt approved a motion in 2012 to move the fence at the county’s competitive softball field and outfit it with lights. That field, Dunn said, which seats 900, is “perfect for Pecos League.”
The funding was expected to be approved at a commission meeting in January, but newly-elected Precinct 3 commissioner Paul Conjeos raised what Dunn called “very valid” concerns about housing the visiting teams.
“Where are these guys going to stay? Before we put county money into a ball park, let’s find out where these guys are going to live, because paying $275/night for a hotel doesn’t make sense. So where are these guys going to go?”
After discussion, it was decided that most likely was a decision that couldn’t be made in time for the upcoming season, so the Bills were once again put on hold. But Dunn, who still expects to put a team in the Texas oil town, said it was a good decision.
“Looking at the situation, we could have fought it and taken a risk, but Carlsbad was just basically a nothing,” he said. “There’s nothing in Carlsbad. Nothing’s going to happen there. So you have 10 teams, and 10’s a tough number. The talent of the teams, across the board, going from six to 10, is a stretch. Your pitching is going to be hurt, and I think what you would have had is you would have had a very good level of teams, and then you’d have teams at the very bottom. You’d have five good teams and five very bad ones. And you’d have those five teams fighting for four spots. Now with eight teams, I think it balances this thing out. I think nobody knows who’s really going to win.”
Still, with one year with eight teams in the league, don’t count Pecos out.
“Putting a team there makes a lot of sense,” Dunn said. “They really wanted us to put a team there to give these guys entertainment and give their community entertainment, and it fits in out footprint between Roswell and Alpine.”
The housing problem, he said, has a simple but not inexpensive answer: build a compound for the visiting teams to stay in while they play in Pecos.
“The county is going to try to help us or we’ll get together and we’ll have to build a place to live, just like the oilfield guys did for temporary situations,” Dunn said. “Otherwise we’re not going to be able to have a team there.”
But he thinks that problem will be resolved, which means the league will again be looking for that 10th team. Dunn said if the San Diego Padres and city of El Paso, who are putting a AAA team in the border town, don’t buy the Diablos out, they may be interested in joining the Pecos League.
“They will not continue to play in the American Association,” he said. Of course, there’s always a possibility Las Cruces could return to the league, or another city also from the southern region of the league could field a team.
And that’s the key, Dunn said.
“Geography is important in the Pecos League, and that’s the way it goes.”