By Brian Paglia
They come from a place out West nicknamed "Baseball Town U.S.A.," for no other town has as many baseball teams per capita, or so they say.
They come from a place surrounded on three sides by Native American reservations. A place where the strong waters of the San Juan, Animas and La Plata rivers collide. A place that is home to the American Amateur Baseball Congress, the affiliated league of the Roberto Clemente World Series that the Farmington Fuel feel far more prepared to win this year.
Traveling 1,673 miles from Farmington, N.M., the Farmington Fuel make their second consecutive appearance at this week's AABC Roberto Clemente World Series that starts today.
And they are a microcosm of the diversity of their home.
"We've very diverse," Fuel coach Kim Carpenter said. "We have four Navajo ballplayers. It's a diverse group. Hispanics, Navajos and Anglos.
"The culture is very diverse."
Look at a map of Farmington. See it tucked peacefully in the northwest corner of New Mexico on the Colorado Plateau. West of it is the Navajo Nation reservation. North from there is the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation. East from there is the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. It attracts plenty of tourism and contains a plethora of natural resources.
But in New Mexico, and much of the Southwest, Farmington is known for its baseball.
There one can find AABC headquarters and the Connie Mack World Series for the top 17- and 18-year-old ballplayers. Farmington High School's baseball team has won the past four state championships in the state's highest classification. According to Carpenter, the city's baseball facilities are unmatched.
And according to Carpenter, his team reflects its hometown.
"We've got a bunch of characters," Carpenter said. "We would like to play a lot of good small ball. There's nothing fancy about us. We're scrappy."
Last year, the Fuel came to McDonough on four days notice. The South Plains qualifier couldn't attend, so the Fuel came with a thin roster of mostly 7-year-olds. They were swiftly eliminated after just two games.
But Carpenter says this is a much different team. Only three players return from last year's World Series team. They have better catching and a more powerful lineup. Nearly their entire roster is comprised of 8-year-olds, something that has portended success for teams in this tournament in the past.
So now, the team from "Baseball Town U.S.A" feels more prepared to live up to its moniker.
"We saw what we needed to do to compete last year," Carpenter said. "It was really good preparation for us."