All posts by IndyBallIsland

29. Baseball fan. I prefer indy ball and the minors over the majors. If it's summer, you can find me at a ballpark. The Washington Wild Things and the Pittsburgh Pirates are my "hometown" teams, but I'm always up for taking a baseball road trip! Follow me on Twitter: @kmthomp29

The Pecos League – The Commissioner (sort of) Replies

After my Pecos League Exposed article was seen by thousands of people worldwide, one manager let the Pecos League Commissioner, Andrew Dunn, know what was going on.  Dunn emailed me (on Christmas Eve) asking that I call to “straighten out” my stories and “incorrect facts.”  I promptly emailed him back declining a phone interview.  I asked if he could please email me his side of the story because I wanted a written record of everything that was said.

Four hours later he replied and picked apart the Exposed article to give his explanations. However, the explanations seemed generic and appeared as if they were copied and pasted from different things.  The font was different throughout the explanations with one even using names of people I never referenced.

To make sure I got everything completely straightened out, I sent follow up questions on almost everything he said.  I have been waiting patiently for a response, but as of now, I have yet to receive a reply.

But in the interest of fairness, I would like to tell the Commissioner’s side of the story.  Here is the exact email I received from the Pecos League Commissioner, Andrew Dunn, with some notes I made after reading the email.

Since the TV show has aired there have been many people like yourself who are attempting to sabotage the league.  You don’t know many of the success stories and you are attempting to contact players to get the worst possible stories.

Why don’t you interview players released by the frontier league, because no one cares about that league, the Pecos League is the league everyone loves to have on the bottom.   You are one of the few baseball people that have came out to be truly against the league…

It is amazing how many people are fascinated with details of the league.   You might different because of connection to Wild Things we used to send many players to Washington and got a lot of players from them. I haven’t seen your articles except one.

(Author Note: There have been seven players that came to the Washington Wild Things from the Pecos League. Only one of those players was not released later in their season, but that player, Chris Smith, had already been in the Frontier League before going to the Pecos League.)

The Frontier vs Pecos is a decision a lot of players have to make, it is very tough to make the Frontier League as a rookie.  Playing in the Pecos has helped a lot of players.

We have had 14 Frontier League All-Stars who played in the Pecos League. 

(Author Note: I baseball referenced every player that was on an All-Star roster in the Frontier League from 2011 to 2014 (the entire length of operation for the Pecos League) and found that only two players were both a Frontier League All-Star and a Pecos League player – Vincent Mejia and Michael Oros.)

These are the statements that are outright false and should be modified: 

The league knows exactly what they are doing to these players. They make promises to players that never come true. They stretch the truth about pay and promotion opportunities. As one player put it, “they like to twist stories to trick kids into going into the league.  Many had been given false promises. It was just a mess.”

They try to take advantage of players and their dreams, especially with the taxi squad players.  Making players pay to play isn’t what “professional” baseball is all about.  The league also started taking advantage of players by putting new rules into effect regarding other leagues.

“The league takes advantage of players because they know most guys won’t quit.  They have nowhere else to go.  They also make them ONLY go to winter or spring leagues run by the Pecos.  If they go to the California Winter League, for example, those players cannot be signed.  They want all those guys to spend money on THEIR league and nowhere else.”

They also do a good job of stacking some teams with better players and resources.  One team was managed by a guy who only had coaching experience in little league.

“He knew nothing on how to coach young and some older men.  During spring training, he would leave to watch little league games because he was ‘bored.’  And he was the only one that was a ‘coach’ and supposed to evaluate players.”

Another team’s manager was flat out told not to expect to win more than 13 games all year.  Their budget was well below any other teams’ in the league.  They had no baseball operations, no marketing and no staff to help the team compete fairly against other teams.  The manager compared the Pecos League to the WWE where everything is predetermined in the league’s mind, and if you go against it, you’re gone.  The team went on to win 20 games over their “projected” total. The manager and team are both no longer a part of the Pecos League.

Player promotions also seem to be controlled and delayed by the league as they see fit.  Players were not traded when they wanted, and some players could guess why.

“Our goal there was to get picked up by better leagues, and rumors circled around that the ownership was dodging calls from teams in other leagues trying to buy our contracts.  I was trying to get released so that I could play in the NBC World Series in Wichita, but [the owner] wouldn’t release me from my contract since he had a team playing there too. The team I was going to play with ended up taking his team down, and the next day I had a contract in the Frontier League.”

(Author Note: I have highlighted this section in my Exposed article to let readers know that Dunn does not agree with any of these statements. However, each of these stories were confirmed by more than one player or manager during my interviews.)

 WHO IS GIVING FALSE PROMISES?  We have never given a false promise about promotion of a player or pay of a player.  The altitude averages 5400 feet of course it is a hitters league. 

The NBC World Series does not want players who played in a professional league within the season, but we released over 30 players to play in the NBC.  It is an amateur tournament.

The league has never held back a player… Players are naturally going to want to goto better teams within the Pecos League… All players would rather play in Santa Fe vs being in Raton. 

I haven’t sent a team there since 2009 so that guy is confused.  Totally unfactual statement..every team is given same payroll. 

2 pecos league managers are now managing in American Association

3 staff members are now working in MLB teams

213 players have been promoted to higher level leagues since inception.

(Author Note: The Official Pecos League website lists and says “187 players have been signed to higher level leagues.”)

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Taxi Players

The Pecos League inherited some principles and teams from the CBL which folded in 2010. Taxi players were required by CBL as a source of revenue…

They were eliminated in the Pecos League in 2013…Players paid to be on the team.

Many times taxi players turned out to be problems because they never got playing time.

My first goal of the league was to eliminate Taxi Players, I feel it not professional baseball.  As of the 2013 season Taxi Players were eliminated.    Walter McGowan was a taxi player and didn’t have the skill to play so Ryan didn’t play him. It is obvious he wrote the article… Ryan didn’t like Taxi players and want them…  there are no more taxi players.

(Author Note: I have absolutely no idea who Walter McGowan or Ryan are. I have never spoken to or about anyone with those names.)

Teams the league has not operated

Taos Blizzard 2013- ran by New York State League carried 40 players paid 22 of them…

I have heard a lot of complaining like in your article.

Ruidoso Osos 2011-worst situation ever, had private owner who turned on to be convicted murder…took all sponsorship money and left the tema with nothing

(Author Note: Yes. He went into a business deal with a person who was charged with voluntary manslaughter. Here is an article on the former owner, Clyde Woods: http://www.ruidosonews.com/ci_18940176)

Carlsbad Bats 2011-Unpaid Team with Taxi Players from the New York State League 

Pay

-We pay 22 players a set rate of money per week via direct deposit.

In 2014 There were 3 players that made over $5000 in salary and hat money from fans…

So all of your comments about players being unpaid are by players released or the players are lying… 90% of the players that say they weren’t paid were players that were released or the managers weren’t being honest by having them on the payroll….  We have implemented policies that clearly defines who is on the payroll and who isn’t…Some of the managers can’t add 22 players and don’t have the guts to release players and that is why that issue comes up…

All players in the history of the league were paid except for these two exceptions:

-In the 2014 Season Raton including July 4th… City of Raton decided not to charge admission for games including game that had 1000 people for one week so their players weren’t paid that week….

-In 2013 Season Las Vegas Train Robbers manager gave the keys to the travel bus to person that was helping the team to go and get food…. She crashed the bus in the parking lot… she was a canadian citizen and it was voided on insurance policy.. Team and league immediately paid for damage to other persons car out of pocket…  Manager tried to scapegoat around the problem and not pay the bill… His salaries were frozen until the bill was paid… the city stood behind  the team and league for doing the correct thing.  The bill was $3600

No player on Santa Fe Fuego, Trinidad Triggers, Roswell Invaders, Las Cruces Vaqueros, Raton Osos, Douglas Diablos, Las Vegas Train Robbers,  Bisbee Blue, Taos Blizzard, White Sands Pupfish, Alpine Cowboys…. Has not been paid what the payroll says they are owed

(Author Note: From my research, there were many players on these teams that were not paid; all confirmed by MULTIPLE players and managers.)

No staff member or employee has not been paid what the league has committed to pay them.

A lot of these no pay stories are what I would like to see, which player didn’t get paid on what team and what year, send player name team and year and pay period and we will look it up…

Most likely you will have a lot of situations where players were released or not on pay period…

We did not operate Ruidoso in 2011, Taos in 2013 or Carlsbad in 2011 so I have no idea what happened there…

You should have written a story on the 2011 Osos, it would have been much worse and much more detailed than what you had… and the team played well.  Those guys had a lot of stories to say.

Markets/Stadiums Playing Conditions moving forward

We are constantly trying to improve our playing conditions, markets and stadiums.  They need improvement and this has been addressed

Going into 2015 We have removed Bisbee, Douglas, Raton and Taos.

Those are all towns of 7000 or smaller in high school stadiums at best.

They are all high school fields with majorly unstable city governments and housing issues for players… Sponsorships get leaner each year.

We have replaced them with Las Cruces and Garden City KS

Garden City has a Frontier League quality playing surface with brand new field turf locker rooms and seating for 1100 in a historic ballpark.

Las Cruces had the best surface in the league in 2011-2012 and is in process of getting locker rooms and a population of over 100,000 that wants its pecos league team back.

Managers

We look to have our best crop of field managers in 2015 ever which is important in the Pecos League.

We are working a regular basis with 11 major league baseball teams and they are sending us players with intentions of having them on their radar and possibly signing them as they did this past year.

They love our league and like the fact that players will go there if they want to play ball…

___________________________________________________________________________________________

We are sorry that you do not like our league, we aren’t the Frontier League they have been around 20 years this will be our 5th year…  Even if we paid the same as Frontier League players would choose the Frontier League because of better markets, we will always be the league under the frontier league… all of these new leagues that are attempting to play will realize at some point how hard it is to play… They are all attempting to copy the Pecos League model and improve it.

As stated above, I have sent follow up questions to his email without a response.  Some things I asked included:

  • Questions about a story in the Garden City Telegram in Garden City, Kansas dated on December 21, 2014 that stated the following: “In a telephone interview late Friday, Dunn said that most teams in the league have an average budget of between $160,000 and $240,000 per season. Players, who usually are aged 25 and under, are paid between $300 and $500 per month.
    • How is $300 the lowest when $50 a week is league minimum? If the budgets per team are really that high, why is transportation, living, and food such an issue?  He told me that each team has the exact same budget, but right here it says they do not.
  • Why did he enter into a business agreement with a private owner who was a convicted murderer? Even a Google search will give information on the charges against the owner. Does he not do any background checking?
  • He stated that 3 players made over $5000 in salary and hat money. Does he incorporate the “hat money” into a player’s salary? That is not a salary paid by the league. And how does he know how much players are receiving? Is it officially accounted for by the league?
  • What measures are being taken to ensure that the mangers adhere to the rules about rosters and payroll? Is there new hiring criteria to hire the best managers for the 2015 season?
  • If the city of Raton decided not to charge for a game, how can he, as the commissioner, just decide not to pay the players their agreed upon salary. It isn’t on the city to pay the players, and it isn’t the players fault the city didn’t charge admission.
  • Same with the Train Robbers.  Even if the manager made a bad judgement call and something costly occurred, how can the league punish all the players that had nothing to do with it? Why not just get rid of the manager or stop his salary?
  • I asked for specific examples (dates, locations, who he met with…) of how the league is trying to improve their playing conditions, markets and stadiums. I also asked if he could name the 11 MLB teams he claims to be working with regularly.
  • Finally, I refused his inquiry to disclose the players’ names who claimed not to be paid. I suggested the solution would be for him to release his payroll records. He should be the one to publicly clear up these issues with his players.

It has been a week with no response to clear up any of these issues.  Meanwhile, I am continuing to receive messages from players who want to tell their stories.  Before I post more of those, I wanted to show Andrew Dunn’s side of the story, or at least the side he would answer questions about.

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The Pecos League – MY Opinion

The Pecos League reality series was just shown in its entirety as a marathon on Fox Sports 1.  I was asked by someone if my opinion on the league that I’ve written about a few times would change if I watched the show again. So I decided to watch the marathon and ultimately give my own opinion on the Pecos League.

You can read all my posts about the league here:

The Shit Show – Reality TV 

Where Are They Now

Rookie Experience 

Pecos League Exposed 

But here are my TRUE thoughts and opinions on the league and the guys who play in the “Wild West of Baseball” after watching the series again.  I had a bit of a different perspective going into it this time.  I know a lot of the players on the show and from the teams who played the Triggers that season (2013). I’ve talked to A LOT of players and staff especially while composing my “Pecos League Exposed” post over the last couple of months, so I probably have a more in-depth understanding than the average viewer of the reality show.

First and foremost, the guys who play in the Pecos League LOVE baseball. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that every guy is there for the love of the game. It is one thing that I cannot stress enough. They have such heart and dedication to baseball. The brotherhood that comes from playing in the Pecos League is so strong and unique. They go through so much together just to keep playing the game that they love.

These guys deserve to be recognized. They make the most out of pretty terrible conditions. Having fun and doing what you love is what it is all about for them.  The players give up so much just for that slim chance that they will be able to advance their career, delay the real world, and keep playing a child’s game for a little bit longer.

Towns that embrace their teams also deserve credit.  It takes a special family or person to open their homes to players as a host family.  Providing a safe place to live (rent free), home cooked meals, and support can go a long way.  Having fans in the stands supporting the team is also huge.  Not every town in the Pecos League is behind the guys. That is obviously hard from a financial standpoint as well.

To the players, (most) managers and staff, and fans, I have the utmost respect for all of you.

With that being said, if the Pecos League is going to call themselves a “professional” baseball league, then they need to start acting like it. They owe that to their players, managers, and staff.

If you promise the players $50 a week, every player should be receiving a paycheck weekly.  There are way too many stories of players who never got paid or went weeks without a paycheck just to find that they’re short half the money. That is unacceptable in my opinion.  No, it’s not about the money for the players, but you also can’t just fail to pay players what they deserve.

Having “taxi players” that can pay the league just for a spot on a team’s roster isn’t professional baseball either. Professional baseball should be only for guys who earned a shot, not for a player who has paid their way onto a team. For the most part, those players get minimal playing time anyway. The only reason that there are taxi players is basically to provide another source of money to help fund the league.  I understand that the league is strapped for cash, but taking advantage of guys trying to live out their dream isn’t very “professional.”

Travel is another huge concern.  While there are teams that have buses or vans to transport the players, there are other teams that are forced to drive their own personal vehicles to away games.  They even have to pay for their own gas to get there.  Every team should be able to provide transportation for their entire team. Professional baseball players have to cram five guys into a car and drive sometimes 10 hours to away games.  That is just ridiculous.

The food situation is a bit poor as well. Not being able to provide any food before/after games to players makes the league look bad in my eyes.  Why not try to get local restaurants to sponsor nights and provide meals for the players? Maybe they do try, but every player I’ve interviewed or spoken with have said that they rarely are given meals and are forced to buy their own food with the little money that they (may) receive.

Not every player is given a host family.  That means that not every player has the chance to get a nice home cooked meal for free.  It also means that not every player has a place to stay rent free either.  Many players have to take up residence in a hotel and pay for the entire stay themselves. One team did pay to rent out a house for their players. Bt one house for around 30 guys, that’s crazy.

The fields and facilities are poor; most looking worse than high school or even some little league fields.  If there isn’t the support of the city, or a field that is adequate enough for a professional baseball team, why continue to play there?  If the league cannot find better facilities for these teams, is it really worth it to play at all?

When the league does get money, where does it go? It doesn’t appear to be going back into the league the right way. There are so many rumors swirling around among players about where the money actually goes and how the league is ran.  When all your players have doubts, you are doing something wrong.

And finally, the umpires and statisticians can be terrible and often know little about baseball.  That is just plain unprofessional. The Pecos League talks about their goal of getting players promoted, but stats are what players rely on to get out of the league.

Higher leagues often look down on Pecos League players because their stats are often skewed or incorrect. That isn’t helping a player advance at all. It is actually hurting them in the long run.  The majority of the players that I have spoken to that have advanced from the Pecos League to a higher level of baseball say the same thing – they have to work that much harder because of their Pecos League label.  It’s harder for teams to take them seriously after playing there. I have spoken to managers in higher leagues, and they all confirmed these statements.

All in all, I think the Pecos League is a great concept.  There are many talented guys that deserve a chance to play baseball and get a shot at advancing their career.  It gives these guys something special.  But it can be done so much better.  If the league wants to continue to be a professional baseball organization, they really need to start acting as such.  If there just isn’t enough funds to keep the league running at a professional level, then maybe it is time to fold and stop taking advantage of players’ dreams.

*Note* Any players that still want to tell their story and their experience in the Pecos League, you are more than welcome to email me: kaymthompson52@gmail.com or find me on Twitter or Facebook (links are in my “About Me” page.