For baseball players looking to make it into the big leagues, Taos is now a stepping stone where they can keep their dreams alive.
The Taos Blizzard is one of three expansion teams that will play in the Pecos League this summer. The Blizzard, along with the Las Vegas (N.M.) Train Robbers and the Ratón Osos, will join the Santa Fe Fuego (an expansion team last season), the Roswell Invaders, the White Sands Pupfish, the Trinidad (Colo.) Triggers and the Alpine (Texas) Cowboys.
The professional, independent league, now in its third season, has already proven to be a place where the dream of making it into the bigs lives on. The majority of the league's top players have been drafted or moved to higher leagues after their performances.
Similarly, the Blizzard's inaugural roster has plenty of potential: It's a mix of former college players and seasoned professionals — and they're all looking to prove themselves on the diamond.
"We're very pleased with the players we have so far — a mixture of veterans and top rookies," Blizzard manager Jay Acton said. "Many of the experienced players have either played for us in other leagues or played against us. The rookies, for the most part, are from local Northeast tryouts or have been recommended by coaches or scouts that we trust." The Blizzard were also set to host tryouts in Indianapolis and Santa Fe before the season to complete its roster.
After a short spring training, May 5-13, the Blizzard's season will be a sprint to the finish as the team will play 69 games in 71 days, from May 15 through July 24.
The Blizzard will play 14 home day games during their inaugural season at Taos High School, roughly one a week. Four of Blizzard's rivals in the north, however, are located within 117 miles of Taos. With the limited amount of home games, the Blizzard will get the last at-bat half of the time their on the road to even the playing field.
With an elevation of 6,969 feet, the thin air in Taos should also fuel the league's high-powered offenses. Taos' elevation, however, is the norm, not the exception in the Pecos League. Five of the league's teams play at an elevation over 6,000 feet and the average elevation for the league is 4,870 feet.
The eight teams is also the most the league has had to date. In its first two seasons, six teams competed in the league. A few of those teams, however, are no longer in existence which means the Blizzard won't only playing to win games, they'll be playing to ensure the team has a future in Taos.
"The Pecos League will be extremely competitive this season and we are putting our team together accordingly," Acton said. "Commissioner Andrew Dunn has ratcheted up the stakes for this season and we want to be ready to answer the bell."