Officials optimistic about pro baseball for Clovis

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

An effort to place a professional baseball team in Clovis seems ahead early in the count.

Officials with the city and the Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs, set to open play in May 2011, reported a positive meeting Friday afternoon.

Andrew Dunn, the commissioner of the Pecos League, is trying to finalize teams by January for the league, which contains teams from the Continental Baseball League, which ceased operations in 2010 after a four-year run. Dunn owns the Las Cruces Vaqueros, a team he plans to bring from the CBL to the Pecos League.

“It makes sense,” Dunn said. “We’re going to try to make it happen.”

Officials in attendance included Parks and Recreation Director Bill Bizzell and Mayor Gayla Brumfield.

“I thought it was very positive and it’s something I’d like to see for the community if we could possibly get it,” Brumfield said. “I know there are a lot of baseball lovers. I think there’s some interest here.”

The team would play at Mike Harris Field, located off of Martin Luther King Boulevard, from May to August if accepted.

“I think it would be a good thing for our area,” Brumfield said. “We talked about maybe naming it the Pioneers, which would go back with the history of baseball in Clovis.”

The Clovis Pioneers enjoyed various affiliations with the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs and Cincinatti Reds through the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

Dunn had originally intended to name the team the Mountain Lions to create association with the high school’s Wildcat mascot, but he said city officials were “very clear” about linking the team to its professional baseball past.

There are nine proposals for teams in the league, a rookie-ball level independent league, and Dunn is aiming for an even number of teams to balance out the East and West divisions. Clovis would play in the West.

Other cities involved in dicussions include Alamogordo and Roswell in New Mexico, and Del Rio and El Paso in Texas. Dunn isn’t sure about the status of Alpine, Texas, which would be another transfer from the CBL.

Dunn said he was in talks with John Harris, a Clovis native, to manage the Pioneers. Harris, who played parts of three seasons with the California Angels and earned three All-American nods at Lubbock Christian, was the hitting coach this past season for the Shreveport-Bosser Captains.

Dunn figures he’d need a minimum of 220 fans per game to have a chance to turn a profit, but he wants to set the bar higher.

“You want it to be something that’s a main part of the community in the summer,” Dunn said. “You want to make it to where you don’t have enough room for people.”

The issue of alcohol sales, which Dunn is interested in to increase the chance to at least break even financially, is still up in the air. It was definitely off the table at Bell Park, which is owned by Clovis Municipal Schools, due to state alcohol laws on school-owned property.

Brumfield said city staff is more amenable to alcohol sales, but would need to talk to officials in Roswell and Alamogordo.