Dill looking for explosive offense from Train Robbers
By Karen Boehler
Pecos League writer
LAS VEGAS, N.M. — When someone says “Las Vegas,” the first place that springs to mind for most people is the Nevada gambling mecca. Which makes it a little difficult for Train Robbers manager Casey Dill when he’s telling people about his new gig with the Las Vegas, New Mexico, Train Robbers.
“Everyone goes, ‘Oh, Las Vegas has a new team?’ And I have to say, ‘No, it’s Las Vegas, New Mexico. It’s a little bit different than Las Vegas, Nev.’ People are starting to figure it out, but it’s definitely one of the first things people are aware of when I’m talking to them about it.”
But, he hopes, by the end of the 2013 Pecos League season, Las Vegas, New Mexico, will be much better known.
“I’m completely planning on having one of the best teams in the league again, and promoting my players at the end of the season again,” Dill said.
The former Las Cruces manager sent 14 players to higher-level ball in 2012 after losing the league championship to Alpine in a close, three-game series, including his entire starting lineup, two non-starters and three pitchers.
“Every one of my starters is now playing in the Frontier League and Jimmy Parque is playing with the St Louis Cardinals,” Dill said, which means he has somewhat of an unusual problem in building a team for the expansion Robbers.
“I’m having to build a roster completely from scratch,” Dill said. “We want to have as much success as we had last year, so it’s quite the challenge.”
Dill is bringing in three players from his former Vaquero squad — two pitchers and a catcher — but other than that, he’s busy recruiting talent.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do still, and I’m just going to keep on talking to scouts and to coaches and try to keep on seeing as many players as I can,” the manager said. “I’ve got three months to put together the best team I can.”
But with only 11 players on the roster so far, Dill is going out on a limb with a prediction.
“I’ll make my early pick for the Pecos League MVP right now. It’s going to be Matt Grosso,” he said. Dill called the starting center fielder from the University of Notre Dame, “One of the best hitters I’ve ever seen in my life, so he’s my early pick for Pecos League MVP.”
Even at the second-lowest elevation in the league, the thing the Vaqueros were known for last year was their hitting, and as he’s putting together the Las Vegas roster — with a ball park at almost 6,900 feet — Dill is keeping that in mind.
“With the Vaqueros last summer, the first half of the season, we averaged 16 runs a game, which was a record for the league and probably a record, I would imagine, for any professional team anywhere,” Dill said. “Sixteen runs a game is a lot. I’m planning on having just as offensive a team this year as I did last year, and in that elevation, all the time, I think it’s going to be possible we can do something very similar with this team. We’ve going to be a very offensive team. I expect our lineup to be dangerous, one through nine.”
Dill will also be bringing back assistant coach Dustin Woodard, who he’s worked with the past seven years.
“We work very well together,” the manager said. “We’ve had a lot of success working together, so I'm very happy to have a guy like that who I’ve worked with so well for so long.”
The Train Robbers will play on the Luna Community College campus, where the NJCAA Rough Riders compete in the WJCAC. And while Dill hasn’t had a chance to check out the field himself, he has friends both with the Rough Riders and Highlands University Cowboys who’ve given him glowing reviews of the facility and community.
‘I know a lot of people who have been there and played baseball there and that kind of stuff. They say the facilities are very nice and they think the community is going to be very supportive of us,” he said. “I’ve only heard very good things about what’s going on in Las Vegas, with the facility. With the support from the city. It sounds like all around, things are looking great there.”
That will be a change from Las Cruces, which had a tough time drawing despite the Vaquero success
“I think the support there is going to be great, and I think we’re going to have one of the strongest teams in the league, not only on the field, but as an entire organization off the field as well.”
Another difference Dill will see from his first year in the Pecos League is a lot less travel, with the other four northern teams all less than two hours away.
“I think it’s great, because it means we don’t have to travel as far very often,” he said. “There’s definitely going to be a lot of rivalry. We’re going to be on the field with each other a lot of times, and there’s going to be a lot of rivalry between all the teams in both divisions. I do think it’s a good thing. I couldn’t be happier that (league commissioner) Andrew (Dunn) was able to expand the league to eight teams. I think that’s great for everybody. The two division format, I think, will work out great.”
And while he said he’s not sure which team will become the Train Robber’s natural rival, he’s sure that will happen, but is more concerned with a southern division team.
“Right now, Alpine’s the best team in the league. We lost to them in Game 3 of the championship. Right now, my focus is 100 percent on them,” Dill said. “They’re the team to beat and I know we don’t play them as often as some of the other teams, but I fully plan to be back in the championship game. Alpine has done a phenomenal job in building a great baseball program down there, and they’re who I have my eyes set on right now. I’ll always take it one game at a time, because we’re trying to win every game, every time we step on the field no matter who it is.”
For more information visit Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs LLC. http://www.PecosLeague.com 575-680-2212