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Connie Mack World Series has been success across the board

Tournament officials praise community and level of competition
The 2023 Connie Mack World Series kicked off Friday with an hourlong parade down Farmingtons Main Street. Games in the series began Friday afternoon and continue all week. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

FARMINGTON – There are a number of ways to gauge the success of almost any annual event.

In the case of the 2023 Connie Mack World Series, which wraps up this weekend, both the involvement of the community and the level of competition on the field, has made this year’s event a captivating one indeed.

As play continued on the field at Ricketts Park this week, the tournament has featured some top-quality game action, with both of the team’s from last year’s title game facing elimination after opening round losses.

The success of newcomers to the CMWS from teams like the Mississauga Tigers from Ontario, Canada, as well as a pair of teams from Oklahoma, the level of competition has been taken up a notch.

“When you have two of the best amateur teams fighting to stay in the series, that says a lot about the level of play from everyone,” said Kim Stradling, part of the CMWS executive committee and former general chairman of the tournament from 2006 to 2008.

Stands are full of spectators at one of the tournament games at Ricketts Park during the Connie Mack World Series. (Courtesy of Tyson Snyder)

“What makes the Connie Mack World Series such a success as opposed to other national events is that we have teams, not just individuals playing on teams,” Stradling said.

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From the planning and logistical phase of putting on an event of this scope every year, this year’s tournament has also been special, according to Richard Neely, president of the American Amateur Baseball Congress.

“The support from the community has been outstanding,” Neely said. “Every year, we see the fans braving the late night games and coming out to see some great baseball and to cheer on their favorite teams, whoever they might be.”

From increased exposure to the CMWS both locally and across the country, thanks to broadcasting rights and the added ability of streaming games on the internet, the tournament has grown a great deal in popularity.

“Thanks to our involvement with television, we’re getting a lot more viewers to the event,” Neely said. “The added exposure has helped a great deal in getting more people to see the games and the talent on the field.”

The level of competition from teams from traditional powerhouses like the Midland Redskins and the Southern California Renegades has been evident this week as well.

Even after Midland, which has won the Connie Mack World Series 17 times, suffered a loss in Sunday’s opening round action of the tournament to the Tulsa Sandlot, the team has come back strong and will be one of the final teams to still be playing when weekend action continues at Ricketts Park.

Tulsa Sandlot's Austin Lemon hits the ball to center field for a double in the bottom of the eighth inning during Game 2 of Connie Mack World Series bracket play on Sunday at Ricketts Park. (Curtis Ray Benally/Turkeyboy Photography)

The Southern California Renegades, a team which received an automatic bid to the tournament, have yet to lose a game this week and has outscored its opponents by a combined margin of 45-15.

But it’s been the newcomers, including the Tulsa Sandlot and the Oklahoma Express, which have also been in the spotlight this week as they make their respective debuts in the World Series.

The success of the two Oklahoma teams is not a surprise, considering the Enid Majors, who also made their debut in the event in 2021, completed a perfect summer season by winning the Connie Mack World Series, defeating the Dallas-based D-Bat United.

Part of the reason for the success of amateur traveling teams in recent years from Oklahoma at the CMWS has as much to do with the competition they’re exposed to during the summer, as well as an emphasis on the series from prep coaches and traveling team coaches across the state.

Oklahoma Express pitcher Austin Barela winds up to throw the ball to a Albuquerque Baseball Academy batter in the top of the second inning during pool play of the Connie Mack World Series at Ricketts Park on Saturday. (Curtis Ray Benally/Turkeyboy Photography)

“Oklahoma is a small state, and so the high school teams are your recruiting base,” said AABC vice president Shannon Enfield. “There are seldom more than eight quality teams in any given year. Bigger states like Texas are a completely different animal.”

Enfield believes that other smaller states, including New Mexico, could easily follow that same pattern of success.

“There’s no reason New Mexico can’t have six to eight quality 18-and-under teams, but you have to give up the idea of recruiting players only from a 30-mile radius of your home base,” Enfield said. “Then you could have a state tournament and supplement the winners with other players from the other teams in the state.”

Neely said that the excitement generated by the recent success of the Enid Majors has given baseball a boost in popularity across the state.

“There’s already a whole group of young teams across the state now, and it’s so exciting to see what’s happening there,” Neely said. “Most of these teams that are here now and were here recently are already building young teams for the future.”

Head coach Gunner Glad, who led the Tulsa Sandlot into the fourth round of the tournament after beating their in-state rival Oklahoma Express on Wednesday, said that there’s a greater emphasis on the sport thanks to businesses and parents alike.

“It’s not just mom and dad that are partnering with these teams around the state anymore,” Glad said. “We’ve got people wanting to see the sport really become the next big thing here.”

The AABC, which is one of several entities hosting amateur baseball tournaments across the country, has done well in competing with those other events, and in some areas, has partnered with organizations like Five Tool and Perfect Game, which host regional and national tournaments throughout the year.

“In the case of a Perfect Game tournament, a lot of those are showcase events for individuals, so it’s a completely different ballgame than what you see here,” Stradling said.

Perfect Game, as indicated in the organization’s mission statement, is designed to promote the game of baseball now and in the future by hosting the highest quality amateur events while providing meaningful opportunities and information to players, families, MLB organizations, college coaches and fans.

Five Tool hosts over 200 events annually, and according to their website, is helping regionalize the game of baseball in order to help athletes achieve their dreams of playing at the next level.

The AABC conducts state, regional and national competition in seven age divisions, starting at the 8-and-younger age group through the age 19-and-older. Additionally, five national competitions are held in single age divisions.

AABC, which was founded in Chicago in 1935, has one of the largest contingents of Major League players, currently approaching 1,000 players in the history of the organization.

“Five Tool does a lot of events like us, so we’re excited to be partnering with them and so we can do a lot of events like those together in the future,” Neely said.

The tournament will wrap up either Friday or Saturday night at Ricketts Park depending on how the games play out. The CMWS is played in a double-elimination format, meaning teams have to lose twice before being knocked out of the tournament.

For more information on the tournament, visit the official website at CMWS.org