Category Archives: Independent Ball

“The Shit Show” – The Pecos League and Reality TV

The Pecos League, an independent baseball league located in the desert mountain regions of New Mexico, Arizona, Southern Colorado, and West Texas, gained some exposure through its reality TV show on Fox Sports 1 earlier this year.  The league, created in 2010, is at the bottom of the independent league ladder.

The players in the Pecos League play a very difficult and condensed schedule (70 games in 72 days) while battling harsh playing conditions and having less than ideal travel and sleeping arrangements.  They do all of this for $50 a week (which breaks down to $1.19 an hour), the opportunity to keep playing the game that they love, and a chance to be noticed by a better team or organization.  Essentially, they are in “The Shit Show” (as players affectionately call it), trying to get to “The Big Show.”  Only one player, Jon Edwards, has ever played in the Pecos League and made it to the major leagues. However, Jon only played 2 games in the Pecos League while in between playing time with 2 professional organizations.

The six episode Fox Sports 1 reality show, The Pecos League, follows the 2013 Trinidad Triggers on their quest for a championship.  Viewers are introduced to a whole cast of characters including manager JD, a Harvard Law graduate, former lawyer and musical theatre writer with no professional baseball experience, who quit it all to manage the Triggers.  The show also focuses on players Tony Smith, Sam DiMatteo, Jacob Fabry, Frank Florio, John Sullivan, Richie Serritella, and Andrew Azzopardi.

The Pecos League opens up with a look at the city of Trinidad, CO and the funeral home in town where “Triggers TV” is recorded in the basement garage.  The reality show focuses on the real part of independent league baseball, the type of stuff that casual fans aren’t aware of.  After making the team, the players are introduced to their host families. Most players just cannot afford to live on their own on $50 a week paychecks. These host families willingly open their homes to complete strangers and let them have a place to sleep, eat, and live while in Trinidad for the season.  Players grow close to their families, often times becoming big brothers to the kids.  They go to their little league practices, make them bat boys, and become a true member of the family. They know that even if they are only playing in the Pecos League, these kids still look up to them as role models.

The show does a great job showing that life is anything but glamorous in the Pecos League.  The Triggers travel on a cramped school bus for road trips that last 7 to 8 hours only to end up sleeping in fleabag hotels or places that were old rehab and homeless shelters.  Players are also responsible for maintaining their playing field. They are shown running a 4 wheeler to turn over the infield dirt before the game, as well as placing small “tarps” on the field and raking the dirt even during rain delays.

Often times, crowds are in the low hundreds at best.  Even when the team was in first place, one player counted only 37 people in the stands. The players endure listening to terrible fight songs and national anthems performed by Captain America while watching 90 year old ladies and nuns throw out the first pitch.  The league is full of poor officiating, umpires who seemed to have never opened a rule book, and scoreboards that don’t even show the correct inning or score.

So why would these guys play in the Pecos League if this is what they have to go through?  To them, the answer is simple:  They love baseball, and they love each other. Obviously here it is not about the money or fame.  It is about true heart and dedication to the sport that they have loved since they were young.  This single dream brings every player together as one.  Over those 72 days, the players become a family.  The one word that is said in every episode is “brotherhood.”  From the clips of the guys partying, hanging out, chasing mule deer, and trying to swim in a reservoir on their only off day, the viewers can see the true bond these guys have with each other. Throughout the season, the guys go through a lot of ups and downs, but they are all in it together.  Even though this reality show is about baseball, it is about so much more than just a game.

Pitcher John Sullivan wrote a song during the season that was featured on the show;  I think he says it best: 2014-10-15 13.17.55q

Listen to the full song here:

We can make fun of the Pecos League all we want, but we’re still playing professional baseball.” – Frank Florio

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I had the pleasure to watch 2 of these guys in the Frontier League this year.  Tony Smith pitched for the championship winning Schaumburg Boomers, and Frank Florio played for the Frontier Greys (the team that I had “adopted” during the season.)  This show takes a great look at a special group of guys. I encourage every baseball fan, especially fans of independent ball, to check it out! Even though the show has already aired, the episodes are available On Demand.

*Update* See where these players are now in this post:

Pirates Sign Chris Peacock from the American Association

The Pirates recently signed pitcher Chris Peacock from the American Association. This league just so happens to be the same one that John Holdzkom was found in during the season.  So… a pitcher from the independent American Association signed by the Pirates? Sounds like the beginnings of a familiar story, but that is where the similarities stop.

John Holdzkom was in the independent ranks to REVIVE his career after a few chances in affiliated ball. On the other hand, Chris Peacock was in the independent ranks to HAVE a career.  He has never been drafted or played in any level of affiliated ball.  That is what makes the signing of Peacock so interesting. It is a signing that may be surprising to most, but it is very low risk with high potential. This is exactly what teams are trying to accomplish when scouting independent leagues.

Chris Peacock’s baseball resume takes a trip through four different independent leagues with six different teams in a span of only three seasons. If this blog had a poster boy for Independent League travels, Chris would be it.
He started his college career at Faulkner State CC then transferred to the University of Mobile. After graduating from the University of Mobile in 2011, he started his professional baseball career in 2012 with the now defunct North American Baseball League. His first stop was with the Abilene Prairie Dogs. After only two appearances, he was traded to the San Angelo Colts. But after two shaky performances with the Colts, he was released.

After his short stint in the North American Baseball League, Chris turned to the Pecos League where he landed with the Las Cruces Vaqueros to finish out the 2012 season. He made 10 appearances (9 Starts including 1 Complete Game) for the Vaqueros while compiling a 4.31 ERA. Next season, he stayed in the Pecos league for the entire season, but this time with the White Sands Pupfish. He appeared in 19 games, 9 of them starts, with a record of 4-2 and a 7.65 ERA.

Chris started 2014 in the United League with the Rio Grande Valley White Wings. Here he turned his career around while working strictly out of the bullpen on his way to two championship rings. In 30 appearances, he compiled a 5-2 record and a 2.27 ERA for the ULB champions. This was enough to get him noticed by the American Association. Chris joined the Wichita Wingnuts at the height of their post season push in August. He finished out the regular season with 6 appearances in relief and a 2-0 record. In the post season, he pitched in four of the six playoff games with a 2.70 ERA for the AA Championship winning team.

On October 11th, Chris finally left Indy Ball Island when the Pittsburgh Pirates purchased his contract. He is the third pitcher that the Pirates have signed from the American Association this year. John Holdzkom (who finished the season with the big league team) and Matt Nevarez (who finished in AA Altoona) also had their contracts purchased.

Will Chris build off his 2014 season and make the most of his first shot at affiliated ball? Can he pitch well enough to stay off of Indy Ball Island? Only time will tell, but it should be an interesting story to follow!