A pair of familiar teams are coming to the White Mountain Athletic Complex baseball field this Sunday, and at least one person is hoping this is the beginning of a new relationship with Ruidoso.
Pecos League teams White Sands Pupfish and Roswell Invaders will play a spring training game, May 21, starting at 2 p.m., the first time either team has set foot on the Ruidoso field since the end of the league’s inaugural season in 2011.
That year, White Sands fell to the Ruidoso Osos in the league semifinal series, while the Roswell Invaders beat the Osos in the best-of-three championship series to claim the first crown.
It was the only year the Osos played professional ball in Ruidoso, and this is the first time any professional team has graced White Mountain since then.
In fact, the Osos don’t exist in any form any more. After moving to Raton for the 2012 season, the team folded.
But Pecos League Commissioner Andrew Dunn said he’s never given up on Ruidoso, which is why he’s scheduled this and one regular game between the teams on July 16.
Tickets can be purchased at the gate or at the league’s website at pecosleague.com. Tickets for Sunday’s game are $6 apiece, while the price for the regular season game is $12.
“These are just two, nothing more, but we’d like to have a future in Ruidoso. I just don’t know right now,” Dunn said. “There’s only a few places the league can expand, and I’ve always looked at Ruidoso. I think on a limited basis, it could work.”
While the 2011 Osos may have challenged for a league championship, the season was anything from perfect. The team went through three different managers and had an agreement with the general manager fall through.
By the time Ruidoso was in that championship series with Roswell, none of the players had been paid for two weeks. They were playing because they wanted to.
Adding to the team’s problems were the absence of lights at White Mountain – meaning no night games – and the resistance to alcohol sales on a field that is used by high school and youth teams.
However, since the Osos’ singular season, Ruidoso and Lincoln County have experienced a surge of popularity for the sport.
Ruidoso’s high school team has since been in the State championship twice, while the Capitan Tigers recently appeared in their fourth championship game, having won two State titles.
Additionally, USSSA and club teams have popped up all over Ruidoso, many of them playing in the local King of the Mountain tournament every Memorial Day weekend.
Dunn said no lights and no alcohol are formidable obstacles, which is why he’s not looking at a full 32-game home season should he reconstitute the Osos.
“This is really a chance to see if we’re even wanted in Ruidoso,” Dunn said. “We’ve moved forward so much that we can honestly say we have a lot to offer that we didn’t before.”
Roswell, White Sands and the Cowboys of Alpine, Texas, are the only teams left in the league from that first year. The Pecos League has since expanded to 12 teams in two divisions, stretching from Bakersfield, Calif., to Garden City, Kansas.
There’s four teams in California alone, giving the league a bit more stability.
Due to its location on Highway 70, Dunn thinks Ruidoso is the perfect place to restart the regional rivalry the Osos had with both White Sands and Roswell.
“If I could do it all over again, I’d have run the team directly,” Dunn said of the Osos’ only season in Ruidoso. “It helped both White Sands and Roswell to have a team there. I hope this can work for the future. The economy is brutal right now, but it’s worth a try.”