FARMINGTON − While soaring gas prices may not have a great impact during actual game play during next month’s Connie Mack World Series, the cost of getting there is proving to be a challenge for teams across the country.
As regional tournaments continue to be played, in particular this week in Joplin, Missouri and Pueblo, Colorado, the recent uptick in prices ranging on things from gas to lodging is hampering some teams ability to travel and compete for a chance to play in the prestigious events.
Last week’s regional tournament in Melissa, Texas, which crowned the Dallas Tigers as the latest team to earn a berth in the CMWS, was played in a location where the average price for a gallon of unleaded costs 4.66 according to AAA.
Prior to that, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where the Florida Legends worked their way into the CMWS after capturing the title in a regional tournament, the average cost for a gallon of gas hovers at $4.60.
“The costs are providing a challenge for a lot of teams to make those long hauls to regional tournaments,” according to American Amateur Baseball Congress senior vice president Shannon Enfield. “It affects a lot of regional tournaments as well as the bigger events in the younger age groups.”
The rising costs of gas in Pueblo, where the average gallon costs $4.96, have forced teams from the outer regions of that community to reconsider their plans for play-in tournaments for the CMWS, which will open play at Ricketts Park on Thursday, July 21 .
The same can be said for participation in the regional tournament in Joplin, where 23 teams are scheduled to play this week for the right to compete in Farmington’s annual event. The average gallon of gas in that location is $4.66, nearly $2 more per gallon than one year ago this week.
“The numbers of teams competing in these tournaments are fine, but the real problem is that team having to travel three hours or 200 miles away, those teams are having to make decisions they didn’t have to deal with before,” Enfield said. “What we’re starting to see is some of these teams simply not leave their local area. What’s happened is that some of these qualifiers have become tough for teams to travel a long way.”
And not only is the rising cost of essentials having an impact on the Connie Mack World Series, but tournaments like the Willie Mays World Series and the Roberto Clemente World Series, both played in Texas, are also feeling the pinch.
“With inflation and gas prices, families are getting hit hard everywhere,” said Richard Neely, president of the AABC. “It really had an impact on the younger tournaments and the ability to draw teams and spectators from across the country.”
Si Pettrow, head coach and general manager of the Southern California Renegades, one of the four automatic qualifiers for the CMWS, will be paying nearly twice as much to transport his team to Farmington from their home base in Huntington Beach.
“Last year, the cost to send our team on the bus was $12,000. This year’s cost was nearly $20,000,” Pettrow said. “And we had expensive to go through all channels to find that was our best option, because flying was too expensive and getting a van service was even more.”
The Renegades, along with Midland Baseball, from Ohio, the Dallas D-Bat United and the Albuquerque Baseball Academy all received automatic bids for next month’s World Series, but Pettrow worries the costs for teams from other parts of the country could be too much.
“I can’t imagine how they’re paying for this in Ohio or Florida,” said Pettrow. “It just happens to be a really bad year for travel, because of the cost and all the changes on travel restrictions because of the pandemic.”
Pettrow cited that the average cost for a gallon of gas in Orange County, California is $6.50. Despite the added expense this summer, Pettrow said he’s excited to be returning to Farmington.
“The AABC does an amazing job with the tournament and everything that comes with it,” Pettrow said. “We’ve got a really good team and we’re looking forward to being a par of it again.”
Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680.
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