FARMINGTON – The Connie Mack World Series returned to Farmington after taking a reprieve during the first summer of COVID-19, but not without the usual fanfare that the area has grown accustomed to having when baseball comes to town.
Last summer was the first year since 1965 that the tournament was canceled, said Tyson Snyder, general chairman of the Connie Mack World Series Committee.
“Coming out of COVID we knew that the expectation was that we had to be bigger and better than previous years,” Snyder said Tuesday.
At the end of the 2019 series, the committee agreed on a project to renovate the field, including a completely new playing surface and a large seating renovation, Snyder said. That renovation was unveiled this year at the 2021 Connie Mack World Series.
The tournament is made up of 12 teams, each with a 24-man roster aged 16 to 18. Snyder said that every year the list of Major League Baseball players who play in the Connie Mack World Series grows. The series brought attendees from at least 20 different states, and more than 60,000 tickets were sold for the 10-day tournament.
“We have a long tradition at this tournament to house the players with families in the community,” Snyder said. “These families take pride in showing these players all that the Four Corners area has to offer.”
The committee works with volunteer families around town to be host or foster families to traveling players who need a place to stay during the tournament. This year, 90 families, approved by a background check, signed up to host anywhere from two to six players at their home.
Kacy Snyder, head of foster families for the Connie Mack World Series, said her family hosts four boys each year.
“Families do it for the community,” said Kacy, who is Tyson Snyder’s wife. “One of the best parts about this tournament is having foster families. Getting to know these other boys in your home, from anywhere between five to 11 days and how close you become to the players that it’s like, ‘How in the world could I become so attached to these players?’”
Kacy said the host families become the players’ families and even become the players’ own cheering section made up of “12 to 25 other parents and siblings and kids yelling for them that they didn’t have before.”
While Connie Mack does not help foster families fund their players, Kacy said the experience far outweighs the cost.
“You can’t explain to people what it’s really like because it’s an experience in your home, and you just can’t explain because they’re not your own kids, but when they leave, you’re sad like they are your own kids,” Kacy said.
She added that once foster families get a taste, they are hooked and usually volunteer to host again the next year. She anticipates there will be a waitlist next year for families wanting to house players.
“Part of the tradition and part of the reason this tournament is so special is because of how this community steps up,” Kacy said.
This year, the winning team was the Enid Majors from Oklahoma, but Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett said the community also comes out a winner.
“The history of Connie Mack and Farmington is one of those treasured reflections that I think every person who has grown up here has,” Duckett said. “Whether it’s been the high school baseball player trying to play in the Connie Mack World Series, or a host family, hosting players from all over the country, or a coach or a committee member, it’s really ingrained in the fabric of what makes Farmington a special place.”
Shana Reeves, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, said Connie Mack is one of the “heartbeats” of Farmington.
“From the time kids have the opportunity to join a youth baseball team they dream of playing in the Connie Mack World Series,” Reeves said. “Our community kids have the amazing experience of the tournament being hosted in their own backyards.”
Reeves said the tournament is nostalgic for different reasons.
“For some, it’s the highlight of their baseball career,” Reeves said. “For some, it’s the player from out of town that they’ve hosted and watched grow with their family. For others, it marks the end of summer and the start of a new academic year. Whatever Connie Mack means to a community member here in Farmington, it leaves a lasting impact.”
Reeves said those who arrived as visitors often return years later.
Farmington Chamber of Commerce CEO Jamie Church said the series is not only loved but also an important event in the community.
“I was thrilled to see the return of the CMWS as it gave our community the opportunity to celebrate the return of a very special event and also to show off what makes our community so awesome,” Church said. “The players and their families bring important economic dollars to our community through hotels, restaurants, retail and shopping centers.”
Church also said the host families are “our best ambassadors” and said she knows that “Farmington is always ready to roll out the welcome mat to these players and their families.”
Duckett said he’s glad the series is back and has seen it boost the economy and collective morale.
“Just to see Ricketts Park jam packed with people, the restaurants filled, and the streets are busy and it feels good,” Duckett said. “The city ... expends an enormous amount of manpower, whether it’s parks and recreation or law enforcement and other city services that are supporting this tournament, so there is definitely a cost associated with it, but I believe it is offset by the amount of commerce that happens during the tournament, the number of people who come from all over the Four Corners here, and the families who travel with players who stay in hotels. So it definitely has an economic and emotional benefit.”
One of Kacy Snyder’s co-workers who hosted some players approached Kacy to tell her that hosting was one of the best experiences she’d ever had, however she was a little upset.
Kacy recalled what her coworker said: “You never told me how this experience was going to be, but it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever done. But what you didn’t tell me is that when they leave, how I would feel like I lost my own child. You didn’t tell me I would be crying when they left.”
And that is what Kacy said is the coolest part of hosting – seeing the impact both the players and the families have on each other. Much like how the Connie Mack World Series impacts the Farmington community.