FARMINGTON – The road to the 2023 Connie Mack World Series begins this week at Ricketts Park, where six teams will open play in city league competition as they vie to become the latest team to host the annual national event.
The 505 Panthers, which represented Farmington in the Connie Mack World Series last summer, are one of six teams which will take part in a 10-game season, followed by a postseason tournament in which the winning team earns the title of home team for the Connie Mack World Series, which opens play at Ricketts Park on July 23.
The Panthers, coached by John Kuhn, features several players from Piedra Vista High School, which advanced to the Class 5A semifinals in last month’s New Mexico Activities Association’s state high school baseball tournament. The Panthers won last year’s city league postseason tournament and advanced to the CMWS before being eliminated by the Florida Panthers.
“We’ve got 10 returning players from last year’s team and three players that already have a year of college baseball under their belt,” Kuhn said. “I’ve coached and been around these kids since they were young and you can never count them out.”
Among those scheduled to play again for the Panthers will be Taylon Laxson, a left-handed pitcher and recent commit to Seminole State College in Central Florida. Laxson, a recent high school graduate from Oklahoma City will add depth to the Panthers pitching pitching rotation.
Laxson appeared in the CMWS last year for the Panthers, picking up a win in the opening round of the World Series over the Albuquerque Baseball Academy.
Tanner Coddington, who batted .302 with 14 runs batted in last season for Durango High, will also be added to the Panthers roster for the city league season. Coddington was also one of the Demons leading pitchers last season, with 43 strikeouts in more than 39 innings of work.
“If this team plays like they can, they’ll be tough to beat,” Kuhn said. “We hope to qualify again and make our hometown proud.”
The Panthers roster is even more special for Kuhn, who will be joined on the bench by his oldest son Alex, who will be part of the coaching staff, as well as his youngest son Jacob, who will once again be on the field as a player.
Kuhn, who played in the CMWS in 1990 as part of the Advertising Ideas Mets coached by Ralph Trotter, is confident this season’s roster can advance to the CMWS.
“It’s a real special thing for me and for the team,” Kuhn said.
In addition to the 505 Panthers, the Frackers, composed of several players from Aztec High School and coached by Aztec High baseball coach Eli Wyatt, are also expected to make a push to advance to the Connie Mack World Series.
Last year, the Frackers finished atop the standings in the city league regular season before losing in the city league tournament championship to the Panthers.
The Frackers will also have several players from across the region, including A.J. Folk from Durango High, who batted .339 with 24 RBI for the Demons last season. Folk, a multi-sport athlete who also excelled at football and basketball, had six extra-base hits last season for the Demons and was successful on all three of his stolen base attempts.
Also on the roster for the Frackers will be Alex Gilliam, who led the Valley High baseball team with a .400 batting average and 33 runs batted in. Gilliam also went 9-0 last season as a pitcher with a 1.54 earned run average and 86 strikeouts.
“I believe our roster is an exceptional representation of the Four Corners,” Wyatt said. “We’re very excited about the summer and our run to the World Series.”
The opening game of the 2023 city league season will be held Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Ricketts Park when the Panthers face the Frackers. For more information about teams, rosters and schedules of games, log on to the Farmington Amateur Baseball Congress website at FABC.us.