Alpine Cowboys by Doug Catanzarite
The Pecos League is still in its infant stages of existence. Only two years have taken place since its inaugural season, but one team has begun to consistently stand out above the rest.
The Alpine Cowboys, led by manager Ryan Stevens are quickly becoming the powerhouse organization in a league that continues to send players to higher levels of professional baseball. In the two years since the league first formed, the Cowboys have reached the playoffs both years and most recently won the Pecos League Championship. Not to mention they won the Continental League Championship the year before joining the Pecos League.
In a league that quite possibly has the quickest turnover of players from season to season of any league in professional baseball, the feat becomes all that more impressive. Most players that participate in the Pecos League are looking to use it as a springboard to a higher level of play, which causes the high turnover. To have consistent success year after year when the majority of the players from any team change more often then the average person changes their clothes, requires phenomenal coaching, scouting, player development, and management.
“Its difficult to go through so many players,” said Stevens. “You have to keep a set foundation with a style of play and the type of players that you bring in and out of here to be successful.”
Under the direction of Stevens, who also scouts for the Washington Nationals, the Cowboys have continued to help players reach their goal of moving up the ranks, while still succeeding on the field.
The Cowboys are coming off a season in which they were 45-24, the best record in the league, and had home field advantage throughout the postseason as the league’s number one seed. Alpine went 4-1 in the playoffs to win the Pecos League Championship over the Las Cruces Vaqueros in an exciting and action packed series. The only thing more impressive than Alpine’s regular season and playoff record is the fact that they only lost six total games at home all year.
If you ask any of the Cowboys players or coaches why they had such success at home they will immediately point to the city of Alpine and its great fans.
“Alpine is a great baseball town,” said Cowboys All Star closer Alfredo Caballero. “The Cowboys are the best team to play for in the Pecos league. We have the best field, the players are paid the best, and we have by far the best fan support in the league. They people in the city treat you great; why wouldn’t you want to play for the Cowboys?”
Said Stevens: “It’s special because the community is very involved in everything we do. Alpine is the smallest pro ball market in the country and it’s special when you can hold an organization together with such a strong tradition. The expectations are to win every year.”
Part of that rich tradition comes in the form of the team’s stadium, Kokernot Field. The General Manger of the team, Kristen Cavness, is a descendent of the original Cowboys owner, Herbert Kokernot, and is very involved in the day-to-day activity of the team.
“Kristen did a great job all year as the GM and holding everything together for us,” said Stevens. “She did a great job with the game day operations and everything. She really made it a community effort and got a lot of people to volunteer.”
During spring training the team spent some time training at the Kokernot o6 Ranch and were able to take away positive things from the environment.
“When all the players got here they all got put up together at the o6 ranch and they stayed there with no internet, television, or cell phone service and they had nothing to do but spend time with each other,” said Stevens. “They learned a lot about themselves and relied on each other. I’d like to think doing that helped them form the bond and traditions that allowed us to be successful.”
There is no question that chemistry played one of the biggest roles in the Cowboys success this past season. Just by watching a game it was evident that it was a special group of guys playing for each other in a Cowboys uniform.
“I think us winning the championship meant a lot to the city of Alpine,” said Caballero. “We showed all year long we were a good team and took care of business in the playoffs. The guys on the team will always continue to be my friends, I still keep in touch with all of them.”
It didn’t take long for the success on the field to draw attention not only from the city of Alpine and the rest of the Pecos League, but also from the higher ranks of independent league baseball and affiliated organizations.
Just this last year the Cowboys had a player signed by the Washington Nationals and sent around 10 total players to higher levels of professional baseball. In total, Stevens and the Cowboys have now sent over 25 players to a higher league and had three signed to affiliated organizations in the last three seasons.
As the winning continued for the Cowboys, Pecos League accolades began to trickle in for the team as well. Ten Cowboys players were named to the Pecos League All Star Team, which happened to be coached by Stevens who was thrilled to receive the offer to coach the team.
“It’s always nice to win personal accolades but that is not what it’s about,” said Stevens. “I kept talking to the team about how all stars and personal awards don’t matter unless you win the championship at the end of the year. The goal is to always win a championship.”
Some end of the season awards were handed out to people in the Cowboys organization as well, including Brett Kennedy, who won Pitcher of the Year and Stevens who was named Manager of the Year. Stevens eclipsed the century mark in career wins this past season and now has an overall record of 114-67. Most people would be happy with personal accomplishments and attention, but Stevens refuses to let anything he does overshadow the players on the field.
“I don’t think about the personal success, I just think about doing things the right way and helping these kids out and winning championships,” said Stevens. “Our reputation and consistency has allowed many of our players to gain recognition and coaches of other teams want the guys we have.”
With all of that being said, Stevens couldn’t be happier with the way this past season and the director of the Alpine Cowboys organization is going.
“Its definitely up there,” said Stevens. “You have a vision of how you want things to go and where you want to bring an organization, and this was the direction I wanted to take them.”
“The tradition, community, stadium, and the entire atmosphere are what make the organization so special. If you want to be a part of winning organization, you want to be a Cowboy.”
For more information visit Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs LLC. http://www.PecosLeague.com 575-680-2212