Alpine brings consistency to Pecos League
By Karen Boehler
Pecos League writer
ALPINE, Texas — When you think of consistency in the Pecos League, one team comes to mind immediately: the Alpine Cowboys.
The cornerstone franchise, the Cowboys were the first team to join the fledgling league after the Continental Baseball League folded in 2009. Las Cruces also made the move, but with the Vaqueros no longer part of the Pecos League, that leaves Alpine the longest sitting team.
But Alpine's baseball history goes back much farther than that, starting in 1946 when rancher Herbert L. Kokernot, Jr., turned the former Alpine Cats into the Cowboys — using the ranch's "06" brand as their logo.
In 1947, Kokernot built a smaller version of Wrigley Field in the far south-Texas town, and that field, described by "Texas Monthly" as "the Yankee Stadium of Texas," is still being used today with a strong fan base supporting the team.
Another consistency is the Cowboy's management. Manager Ryan Stevens has been with the team since their time in the CBL, guiding the team to the CBL league championship in its final year, and repeating that honor in 2012 in the Pecos League, establishing what Stevens called "a winning tradition."
After falling to Roswell in the semifinals in 2011, Stevens said it was exciting to take home the trophy in 2012.
"It was an exciting summer and good group of guys and a community organization effort that made it possible," he said.
And it was a goal he never wavered from all year, telling anyone who asked that Alpine was the team to beat.
"No. Not for one second (did I think otherwise)," Stevens said. "Even in Roswell, the most difficult police to play on the read. By the end of the year, by the time we were clicking at the right time, we were coming into Roswell and other pl;aces and winning series and sweeping them, and it just says volumes about the quality of my boys put together."
Although it's still early in the season — there are a lot of slots still left to fill — Stevens is hoping to repeat in 2013. While many of last years players moved up to higher levels, he'll be bringing a few back and said he has "a handful of new guys who are going to be some pretty impact ballplayers."
Asked how Pecos League play compared to CBL, Stevens said it was tougher in the new league.
"I believe it was," he said. "The talent in the league is pretty quality, and the teams you had to get through in order to win the championship, at the end of the day, they're pretty quality ballplayers, and a lot of them moved on to Frontier League level teams along with other high-level teams. From the last three or four teams in the league, when all the smoke cleared, there's a lot of really quality ball players out there."
And this year there could be even more quality, as the league expands to 10 teams. But it's something the Alpine coach is looking forward to.
"I think it's pretty exciting," Stevens said. "It's going to bring more cities into the mix and just brings a lot of excitement to southwest professional baseball."
Will it help the Cowboys to have a few more teams down south?
"I think so. It'll keep us closer to home more often, and predominantly in the past, we've always been a pretty good home team, home-town team. And we're going to be a championship caliber team coming into this season as well."
For more information visit Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs LLC. http://www.PecosLeague.com 575-680-2212