Salina Stockade baseball shine as home team at historic McDonald Stadium
EL DORADO—There has been a lot of history at McDonald Stadium in El Dorado and playing professional baseball there is just another check in the hall of fame for the town and stadium.
For the Salina Stockade, their ability to get wins were at a premium this season but at McDonald Stadium, while they didn't come easy, they came in waves. For as bad as the season has been for the Stockade, McDonald Stadium and Brad Long Field was a baseball sanctuary at the right time.
"We've had our ups and downs this season but having people cheer for you and they aren't there to boo you," pitcher Mario Alston said. "That really made a difference for us this week."
This week wasn't easy. There were four games where they were decided by a combined five runs, with the Stockade coming out on the victorious side in three of the four games.
It was a city-wide effort, too. Misfit Kitchen came out to help by selling food at their truck. The City of El Dorado Parks & Rec department kept the stadium spotless and spent hours getting the field ready despite the days and hours of rain delays.
The Mayor, Bill Young, and the City Manager, David Dilliner, both did public address announcers for games. It was a team effort and for that, it paid off. The players loved the atmosphere and the fans appeared to be enjoying the product.
If you look at a lot of the "raw" numbers, there was approximately 350 people that came out for the three-day event. From the talks around town, Thursday night's game would have been a warmly attended game had it not been for the rain. The city brought out Injoy Fountain, a contestant from NBC's the Voice and the Stockade provided a solid game, despite the loss. There were approximately 97 in attendance on Wednesday. There were approximately 60 on both Saturday. When accounting for the double header on Sunday, there were 40 counted in the fifth inning of Game 1 and 48 spectators in Game 2.
"We're really gracious of what El Dorado has done for us," Player-manager Tom Fitzpatrick said. "We've really enjoyed playing in front of these fans."
The cheering is infectious. It fueled a final inning rally in Game 1 against Trinidad on Sunday. The Stockade scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh with no outs to get their walk-off win of the season. It's their first because they haven't had a place to call home.
"That means a lot to us," Alston said. "My mom was here and we just picked each other up."
It rolled over to Game 2 despite the deficit early, Alston pitched and was able to keep the Stockade afloat as they made their come back.
"It always helps when they're cheering for you and not against you," Alston said.
Even Enrique Batista agreed.
"Playing here gave us more confidence," Batista said. "It gave us more time to relax because being on the road all season is just hectic and then having some fans that actually support us give us some energy."
Batista used that energy to help the Stockade get the sweep on Sunday.
It's unknown what the future holds for the city of El Dorado and the Pecos League baseball. Since the league is a professional league, making some sort of money is a necessity and draining money into a team it's tough. They're not like Major League Baseball where they have revenue sharing and can survive a bad year or two. A bad year or two could push the league on the edge of collapse.
So, the financial ramifications of a team in El Dorado is first and foremost at the heart of the discussion for the league. Can they make enough money to make El Dorado make sense? This starts with charging a gate admission and if they can cover enough to cover a facility fee the city has said they would charge if they charged a gate admission.
We already know the city can and would support a team in McDonald Stadium. With the citizens of El Dorado, they'll give you their support as long as you're giving it your best and you're honest with them.
While there are names floating around already — and some are pretty amazing — it has to be the right fit for both parties and not only because everyone loves baseball.
One way the teams make a little cash to help their players who can make any where from $50-100 a week, is to pass down their knowledge in a baseball camp. So, the Stockade are going to put on on for El Dorado on their final day in town.
"We love our camps," Fitzpatrick said. "It's how we give back and we love to hang out with the kids, teaching them the game of baseball."
If you are from the ages of 5-18 and want to pick up some tricks of the trade from professionals, you can attend on Saturday, July 24 at 12 p.m. at McDonald Stadium for only $5. Then, come back to the stadium at 6:35 p.m. to watch the Stockade knock off the Garden City Wind.
One thing neither Trinidad or the Stockade were ready for was the altitude change in the game. El Dorado (1,328 feet) has the lowest elevation of any team outside of California in the Pecos league and that was on show during this four-game series.
In this series there were only five home runs hit, with two coming for Trinidad and three for the Stockade. Compare that to the previous series in Trinidad, there were 16 total home runs hit in only a three game series.
"I think the altitude definitely played into it," Alston said. "You can see who can really hit the ball here, compared to other parks."
Fields where Trinidad play is 385' to center. Santa Fe is only 355' to center with a significant rise in elevation to give you an idea.
When asking the Trinidad players about whether or not warning track fly balls would be gone at their park, one player said "oh yeah, gone."
Not done yet
The Stockade now take their show on the road after winning three of four "home" games. They are in Garden City for a three-game series before coming back to finish the series with the Wind for two at McDonald on Friday, July 23 and Saturday, July 24. Both first pitches are scheduled at 6:35 p.m.
While the Stockade are officially eliminated from postseason play, and with 16 games remaining in the season, it doesn't mean they're giving up on the season.
"We showed what we can do this week," Batista said. "We just need to be ready to make any play that we need to make sure we get the "W" at the end of the day."