hat would a summer without baseball feel like? “For me,” says City Councilor Ron Trujillo, “empty.”
Trujillo is kind of synonymous with baseball Santa Fe. It's been his favorite way to bask in the glorious afternoon sun and the rising early moon since forever.
"It's always been part of my life. Growing up, a lot of my friends were always going camping in the summer, and as I got older, I always wondered why. Mom said, 'Ronnie, do you realize you were playing baseball all summer long?"
The season sees Santa Fe parks filled with hundreds of kids and adults who swing the bat and run the bases practically every night of the week. And this year, Trujillo is behind an effort—albeit a low-key one—to bring sportsmanship back to the stands.
At his request, the City Parks and Recreation Division has installed about 20 signs at city ballfields featuring "Reminders from Your Child."
"I'm just a kid," the signs read. "It's just a game. My coach is a volunteer. The officials are humans. No college scholarships will be handed out today."
"Don't get me wrong," says Trujillo. "Your kid is out there, and you are rooting for them, and you want them to do good, but at the same time, too, I have seen far too many times at the game, parents out there cussing and saying things very derogatory about umpires and coaches."
The longtime coach and player says learning how to both win and lose gracefully is key.
"That's a big priority. Of course you want to teach them basics, but at the same time you want them to see that part of the fundamentals are good sportsmanship," he says. "It goes off the field. It's how you treat people, how you treat your fellow man. If you have good sportsmanship playing a game, and this is for fun, it's going to carry over into life and in your job."
The city's youth baseball leagues are run by two organizations, the American Amateur Baseball Congress and the Santa Fe National Little League. While a recent column in the New Mexican lamented the death of its popularity overall, AABC President Tommy Martinez tells SFR that youth baseball is alive and well in his city.
The local affiliate of the AABC has been seeing a surge lately, now up to almost 800 players, compared to about 600 last year. That means the group is fielding 60 teams, including four from Pecos, with T-ball for kids as young as 3 years old and baseball and softball for boys up to age 12 and girls up to 15.
"We are thriving, and we are very happy," Martinez says on a recent day when temperatures finally crept back up after a cold snap in mid-May that caused rescheduling of a handful of games.
Watch for the AABC games at Ragle Park on Monday through Thursday nights. Today's youth athletes get the weekends off so they can still camp some summer weekends. Youth who compete in the Little League play at Alto, Franklin Miles and Salvador Perez parks.
"I think that baseball is the great American pastime, and people love the opportunity to be out at the ballpark in the summer," he says. "It's just a normal thing when parents and families together can come around and have a good time."
This Team Is on Fuego!
For a long time, Santa Fe's summer sports scene was all about recreation leagues. Kids playing baseball or soccer. Their dads playing softball. Maybe a little pickleball or racquetball or tennis for kicks.
But if you wanted to see a big team, you had to travel to Albuquerque or Las Cruces for college games. We had a semi-pro hockey team that played at the Chavez Center for a minute. But no pro football team would look our way. No NBA hoops. No Major League Baseball. And when a baseball league began calling itself the Pecos Baseball League (and not "our" Pecos, mind you, but the river flowing into West Texas), Santafesinos were skeptical. Some of them were downright hostile: A baseball team? Playing on a baseball field? With beer for sale? And hot dogs? We can't have that.
Well, they were wrong. This week marked the home opener for the fifth season of the Santa Fe Fuego, which draws the biggest crowds in the league to the historic Fort Marcy ballfield (you know, that place where you stand for hours before they burn Old Man Gloom). And with more than 50 scheduled home games, the team will be showing up nearly every night between now and the end of July, clad in their new turquoise uniforms.
"Here in Santa Fe, we all root for a specific team," says Ron Trujillo, city councilor and big-time baseball fan. "You are either a Demon, a Horseman or a Griffin, and we also are rooting for the UNM Lobos or we are rooting for the New Mexico State Aggies. … But Santa Fe really didn't have a team that we could pretty much call our own, that everybody can rally around, and that is what the Santa Fe Fuego is all about. It has become Santa Fe's team. For something that people thought was a bad idea, it turns out to be one heck of a good idea."
Returning fans will have to learn some new names. Coach Bill Moore made a dramatic departure before the end of last season, and the team traded away favored heavy hitter and first baseman Chevas "Chevy" Numata. But new coach Keith Wood and a whole new roster of players are ready to take a swing at things. Watch for pitcher Ryan Harper, the only former Fuego to stay on the team this year.
Admission is $6. Most games begin at 6 pm. See santafefuego.com for the schedule. If you only attend a single game this season, make it SFR night on Wednesday, June 29.
Or, take a baseball player home. The team is still looking for host families for the season. Contact Yvonne Sanchez at 204-2093.