By Marty Mayfield
It boils down to money and getting a fair shake from the league. According to Andrew Dunn of the Pecos League it takes about $25,000 to $35,000 per team to make a really good run for the season. Where the money comes from is probably the biggest issue and the surprise.
The money to run the team comes from the community the team is in. Ticket sales, sponsorships, donations and where ever else money can be found is what supports the team. The city of Raton graciously ponied up $13,000 in lodger’s tax dollars to support the team this year to make up part of that needed $25,000. The year before it was $20,000 from the city. But how long is the city willing to pony up that kind of money to support the team, especially in such tight economic times?
In a phone conversation with Dunn he indicated that ticket sales were down in Raton as well as sponsorships. Dunn also noted that he knew everyone in Trinidad associated with the Triggers but didn’t know anyone in Raton. He also indicated that he was in Raton for five games, that was last year’s games. During that time did he make the rounds to see the business owners who could help support the team or who could promote the team? The answer to that question is no. Randy Rubin of Sports Arena had contacted Dunn to sell Osos merchandise but Dunn never followed through so the only place to get Osos merchandise this year was at the game.
Who is responsible for getting sponsorships for the Osos? Most of the responsibility fell to Jared Chatterly, Parks and Recreation Director, who is a city employee. He is not eligible to be paid to do that job like Kim Shultz does in Trinidad. In an email Chatterly sent out he explained that in his opinion what is required by the Pecos League to host a team is too much for a town our size. He also added that if anyone wanted to take on those responsibilities, which include finding host families, finding visiting team lodging, raising funds and securing sponsorships, organizing game day promotions, operating/organizing concessions, finding and managing game day staff (ticket taker, stats, announcers, field prep and stadium cleanup), managing game balls and merchandize, organizing beer sales, he would be happy to handle the MOU with the city and organizing the use of the field.
Among those responsibilities that came up during the season was the task of finding umpires after schedule changes left Raton with none or only one umpire for the game. Raton was then forced to contact the local high school umpires to see if they would fill in.
In that conversation Dunn indicated that he was not happy with Las Vegas and the way things were run there and was planning to pull the team from Las Vegas until Raton pulled out. So the team will stay in Las Vegas for now.
Trigger’s coach JD Droddy noted in a story in the Trinidad Chronicle that fan attendance was down a lot in Trinidad but Dunn said it was great much better than in Raton. Six dollars was the ticket price in Raton and some felt that was a bit high. Along with that Dunn indicated that Raton refused to sell beer also saying that the Pecos League had a beer license in several places in the state. To sell beer in Raton would require security and a way to restrict access. Gabriele Field is just across the street from a school, granted it is out of session during the summer but not when the Pecos League starts play. Since the ball park is also city property the security would likely come from the city police department which is already understaffed and could be hard pressed to provide an officer especially for free.
Based on comments this reporter has heard and seen on facebook the Osos were a positive for Raton and it will be sad to see them go. Dunn noted that he has had a large number of phone calls and emails from Ratonians about the loss of the Osos.
Below is a response, update, explanation of the Raton Osos by Jared Chatterly. Jared is the Parks and Recs director and has had the closest contact with the Pecos League.
I guess over the last couple days there has been a lot of conversation about the Osos. Just so everyone is on the same page and operating under the same understanding I thought I would weigh in and give the background of Raton Osos and what I know or think I now about their operations.
Originally Andrew Dunn, commissioner of the Pecos League, approached City Manager Condry to inquire if the city was interested in hosting a baseball team in 2012. Mr. Condry told him the city wasn’t interested at which point Andrew Dunn approached Trinidad and that is how in 2012 Trinidad got the Triggers. Since their first season there has always been conflict between TSJC, the City of Trinidad and the Pecos League over who has use/priority of the field in Trinidad. By the fall of 2012 Mr. Dunn was fed up with trying to work with TSJC and the City of Trinidad and was looking for a new home for the Triggers. In January he again approached the City of Raton to see if we were interested in hosting a team. At this time we were in between city managers and Mr. Dunn’s inquiries were forwarded to me. Over the course of several weeks and several discussions it was decided that the triggers would come to Raton as the Raton-Trinidad Triggers. When the citizens of Trinidad got word that the Mr. Dunn was serious about moving the Triggers to Raton they rallied and convince the City of Trinidad that they wanted the team and with some serious lobbying on the part of the Trinidad Coach, JD Drody, and Kim Shultz with the Pecos League to keep the team in Trinidad, Mr. Dunn agreed to give Trinidad another chance. It looked like Raton was out of a team when Mr, Dunn suggested that Raton have its own team independent of Trinidad and so the Raton Osos were born taking the name of the Ruidoso Osos, another Pecos League Team which had folded.
Like any first time events the 2013 inaugural season of Raton Osos was pretty rough. Although game attendance was pretty good the team only won 7 games all season long and there were a lot of issues between the coach and players. The majority of the funding (the Pecos League looks for its host community to come up with approximately $30,000 in funding to host a team) for the first season came from lodger’s tax with some additional support from a couple sponsors but because no one had heard of the Osos or understood what the Pecos League was sponsors were hard to come by.
That first year the Pecos League paid $1500 as part of the MOU to use Gabreile, the City also received $1500 for the used of the Rec bus for the season. The Pecos League also paid the city roughly $900 for providing the stats person, announcers and score keepers. With that approximately $3900 the city contracted with the RHS Hitting Club and the Raton Summer Baseball League to provide field maintenance before, during, and after the game, game day set up (filling water coolers, striping the field, manning the street barricades) doing the game stats, manning the announcer’s booth and operating the scoreboard, cleaning the stands and parking lot and emptying the trash after the games. Each organization got $1500 for this service. The remaining funds were used to purchase filed pain and other field maintenance supplies.
Along with finding sponsors finding host families (families that will take in a player for the season) was extremely difficult. If it wasn’t for the generosity of Sally Chavez most of the players wouldn’t have had a place to stay. Along with hosting the majority of the Osos players Sally also hosted the visiting teams (for Raton and Trinidad). The Pecos League paid $700 a week for her lodging services. Because of schedule confusions and the fact that every player that got released from another team was told by their coach to come to Raton because we were an expansion team and had to be in need of players there was never enough room for everyone at Sally’s or at any of the few families who did volunteer to be a host. At one time I had 4 players staying in my house.
I had approached several organizations to do the concessions stand. First Raton Little League, then the various clubs at the high school, finally the Lion’s Club volunteered (thank the good Lord). The Lion’s Club did an awesome job and I think did very well for themselves that first season.
When all was said and done I ended up being the ticket taker at all the home games and my wife sold the merchandise. Although the Pecos League offers to pay those who take tickets and sell merchandise at their home games I refused any type of compensation for taking tickets and encouraged my wife to do the same (although she eventually did accept some payment for spending 3 plus hrs a night for 25+ nights at the ball field) because the last thing I wanted was for someone to accuse me of doing this for some sort of personal gain.
The 2013 season ended with a lot of speculations as to whether or not there would be another season.
The 2014 season started in February with my desire to form an Osos committee so that the responsibilities of bringing the Osos to town would be shared with others and to get more community buy in. One of the goals of the committee was to make the Osos viable and self sustaining. We were never able to find a way for that to happen.
At the end of the 2013 season Mr. Dunn mentioned that he would try to find an intern to help with game day operations if there was to be a 2014 season. I told him that the there was no way that I or my family could commit to being involved as much as we were in 2013. Two weeks into the 2014 season Nina Zimmerman arrived and took over game day operations.
Although this was the second season many of the first year challenges were still an issue. Finding host families was a tremendous challenge and if it wasn’t for the the generosity of the Holiday in Express a 1/3 of the Osos players wouldn’t have had a place to stay. The Microtel agreed to be the host Hotel for the Trinidad and Raton visiting teams. Without them there would have been no 2014 Osos. As it was there were several issues with Pecos League teams staying there. Microtel committed 10 rooms per night (for visting teams and umpires) for 10 weeks for which the Pecos League paid them $750 per week. (keep in mind that the going rate for one room at the Microtel is about $90/night).
This first year the Pecos League paid $3000 as part of the MOU to use Gabreile, the City also received $1500 for the used of the Rec bus for the season. The Pecos League also paid roughly $675 for providing the stats person(s), announcers and score keepers (this time directly to the RHS Hitting club). With that approximately $4500 the city contracted with the RHS Hitting club and the Raton Summer Baseball league to provide field maintenance before, during, and after the game, game day set up (filling water coolers, striping the field, manning the street barricades) doing the game stats, manning the announcer’s booth and operating the scoreboard, cleaning the stands and parking and emptying the trash after the games. The Raton Summer Baseball League got $1500 for this service. The RHS Hitting Club got $825 for its service. The remaining funds were used to purchase field paint and other field maintenance supplies and as revenue for the city.
The Lion’s Club again volunteered to operate the concession stand and this year took on the responsibility of selling merchandise. The Independent Rider’s volunteered to be ticket takers for the season for which they were paid roughly $1200 by the Pecos League.
Although the Osos played better this year willing 20+ games attendance was poor at most of the games. I have yet to determine why there was such a drop in attendance. The majority of the funding this season came again from lodger’s tax season however they only committed half of what they committed last year. And although there was in little more interest in sponsors the city was only able to come up with roughly $18000. I had anticpated that this season being the second season would run smoother than the first season there were many of the same issues as last year. And as the season began to unravel I came to the realization that this was standard operating procedue for the Pecos League and as the coach and Nina said, nothing was going to get better next year.
It was the fiasco of the 4th of July game that was the straw that broke the camel’s back and it was then that I text Mr. Dunn and told him as far as I was concerned the Osos were done in Raton.
Here are some things I know as fact:
- Gate receipts and merchandise sales go back to Pecos League. This year we collected roughly $6000 in combined ticket and merchandise sales which breaks down to about $200 a game.
- Unbeknownst to me at the time, Coach Hancock, through player recruiting to the Pecos League’s summer league in Houston, brought $14,000 to the Osos. With the city’s contribution, the Osos (by Dunn’s report to Hancock) were starting the season with the most money of any team in the league.
- Nina never got paid all though she was led to believe she would get paid the same as the players ($50/week).
- At the end of the season there were Osos players who were not paid.
- While other coaches would get paid regularly, our coach would go weeks without getting paid.
- Our coach was told to go and pay for housing for the Taos team with his own money because Taos had been ban from the Microtel. He had to repay himself from gate receipts because he did not get reimbursed by the Pecos League for the rooms he rented.
- We had to find umpires for our games, at times with only minutes before the game was to start.
- We held all the games ball for Trinidad, Taos, and Santa Fe because the Pecos League didn’t trust any of those teams with their own game balls.
- The league set the ticket prices. I tried to get it changed to $5 just for the sake of making change but no luck.
- There was favoritism among teams including the enforcement of league rules. Raton always seemed to get the raw end of the deal.
- Although the League will say that the money given to the team by the city goes to marketing and promotion, the money actually goes to run the team, pay coaches and players, pay for lodging and gas (if you are lucky enough) when on the road, pay umpires etc.
Here are some things I believe but don’t know as fact:
- Our funds were used to support other teams (Las Vegas and Taos). This would explain how we started well funded and ended up broke.
- Umpires were pulled from our games because the Pecos League knew that through the RHS baseball connections we could/would find umpires to call our own games.
- There is no intent for Raton to be competitive. Raton exists to make the league work shortening the travel distance for teams like Trinidad and Santa Fe. As Nina said, we are the Washington Generals for the Harlem Globetrotters. There is no desire by the league to build the Raton Osos but only have them exist to feed other teams that have better attendance and recognition (Santa Fe, Trinidad)
- Although it was advertized that host family didn’t have to feed players. It was a expected by players and coaches that host families feed their players.
- Because of the rumor that Osos players don’t get paid it was difficult to recruit better players to come to Raton, opting to go to other teams who’s players not only got paid regularly but got incentives for good game performance (passing the hat, freebies, etc)
- Double standard among teams. While other teams would receive gas money from the league for travel expenses. Raton received none. Other cities received money for field paint, clay, etc. Raton received none. While Raton was scheduled to travel to Arizona to play games other teams weren’t scheduled to travel that far for games. Some communities, besides having a coach, has a promotions person who is paid by the league to raise funds, find sponsors and organize game day promotions.
- Pecos League liked working with Raton because we were easy to work with, and to be honest, were push overs doing whatever needed to be done to make the team and league work without asking questions or causing problems.
- I believe we were/are the redheaded, step child of the league. And that we have been taken advantage of because of our desire to have a team and make the league work.
When it comes down to it I feel that if the Pecos League is providing a product and we, as the customer, are paying the Pecos League for that product it isn’t worth what we have to pay (in time, money and effort) for it.
As Nina aptly put it, the Pecos League has burned all the bridge’s but still wants to cross the river.
I think if the Osos were to come back and be successful several things would need to happen:
- the league would need to provide and pay for a local person to raise funds, find sponsors and organize game day promotions starting now in preparation for the 2015 season.
- The community would need to find some sort of group lodging (barracks, dormitory, vacant hotel, etc) to host all the Osos player so finding host families isn’t an issue and players can come and go as they are traded, released, promoted, etc.
- The visiting team host hotel should only host the Osos visiting teams. Trinidad can find their own visiting team host hotel.
- The league would need to revisit is fee structure making it more affordable to come to games on a regular basis.
- The League would need to treat all teams equally not favoring one team over the other.
- The league would need to let the local folks have more say/input as to how the Osos are run.
That’s about it. If anyone has any questions don’t hesitate to ask.