Baseball is a sport that has deep roots in Kern County.
Bakersfield has fielded a professional baseball team in one form or another, with a couple of short interruptions, since 1941.
Three years ago, the local pro baseball landscape shifted dramatically when Kern County’s Cal League team, the Bakersfield Blaze, was sold and moved to the Carolina League.
The void left by the departure of the Blaze was quickly filled by the Pecos League, which established teams in Bakersfield and California City prior to the 2017 season.
This year, the Pecos League, an independent professional league founded in 2010, added a third Kern County based team, the Wasco Reserves.
Currently the Bakersfield Train Robbers, California City Whiptails and the Reserves are three of five Pecos League teams stationed in California.
The league’s initial venture into Kern County in 2017 was challenging, but most of the kinks in establishing the Train Robbers and Whiptails have now been ironed out according to Pecos League Commissioner Andrew Dunn.
“The first year was really tough,” Dunn said. “The second year was better, but the third year has been, by far, the best because the people that are out there want to be out there now. Everybody was so set in the Blaze and the (High Desert) Mavericks. … That was all we dealt with. Now, we’re finally past hearing the Blaze and the Mavericks. Finally, people aren’t saying are you the Blaze? Are you the Mavericks? You can only take that so much. Now we’re the Train Robbers and we’re the Yardbirds.”
The Train Robbers, which play their home games at historic Sam Lynn Ballpark, won the league championship last year.
This season, they are once again one of the better teams in the 12-team league.
The biggest issues for the Train Robbers are the same ones that plagued the Blaze, Bakersfield’s stifling summer heat and a home stadium that faces the wrong direction, causing start times to be pushed back until nearly 8 p.m. so the sun won’t be in batters’ eyes.
“That’s always going to be tough no matter how you cut the deck,” Dunn said. “Bakersfield is a wonderful city. If they had a venue where you could start at 7 o’clock, that would help immensely.”
An advantageous ballpark situation is one of the reason Dunn decided to put a team in Wasco.
“Wasco is perfect for what we’re doing,” Dunn said. “The people are wonderful. The park is wonderful. … It’s a great place.”
Whether it be in Bakersfield, Wasco or Cal City, Dunn believes the Pecos League provides a great way for Kern County baseball fans to get their baseball fix.
Bakersfield home games on Mondays feature $1 tickets to the game along with $1 hot dogs and $1 beers.
“It’s close, it’s good baseball, it’s affordable and it’s convenient,” Dunn said. “The baseball is good. It’s worth watching. It’s not the Cal League but it’s still good baseball.”
Notes: Two former Pecos League players Jon Edwards (2014, Texas Rangers) and Chris Smith (2017, Toronto Blue Jays) have gone on to play in the major leagues.
Two other former Pecos League players have played in MLB spring training games.
Currently, two former Pecos League players Josh Tols (Philadelphia Phillies) and Eric Yardley (Sand Diego Padres) are playing in Triple-A.