Pecos League commissioner Andrew Dunn freely acknowledges the irony of Bakersfield hosting one of the league's All-Star Games on Wednesday night a year after the city lost its longtime California League franchise because no one wanted to go to the games.
"It's funny, because Bakersfield was always the eyesore in the Cal League, the worst spot in the league," Dunn said. "But for us, we're proud to call Sam Lynn (Ballpark) home. With geography and the number of hotels, it makes sense for us."
For the first time, the Pecos League is holding two All-Star Games; the Mountain Division game was Tuesday night in Garden City, Kan., and the Pacific Division game Wednesday at Sam Lynn.
Of course, the same challenges Sam Lynn faced in the Cal League still apply here; home plate faces the setting sun, so the game can't start until at least 7:45 p.m. Dunn said he hopes to have a home run derby, but he's not sure when it'll be possible to do that.
"It's just crazy, that facility," Dunn said. "It's so hot if you do at 4 p.m., and the sun is in your eyes if you do it at 7."
Another challenge is that the league squeezes just a two-day All-Star break in the middle of a condensed 64-game schedule, so players will be in and out of town quickly. Still, Dunn said it's important to him to have the exhibitions.
"For a lot of these guys, this is the end of the road, their last year of playing," he said. "So being an All-Star might be the end of their career, and it's just the right way to go."
There are only six teams in the Pacific Division, so each team has plenty of representation. That includes nine players from the hometown Train Robbers: pitchers Garrett Alvarez, Charles Davis, Scot Hoffman and Alexander Pearson; catcher Eric Schneider; shortstop Austin Hoffman; third baseman Willie Ethington; and outfielders Jay Stout and Lawrence Chavez.
A pregame ceremony will honor some longtime Sam Lynn workers who have stayed there during the transition from Cal League to Pecos League.
Train Robbers back for Year 2
Dunn said Bakersfield is confirmed as a Pecos League city again for the 2018 season, along with High Desert, California City and Monterey. He also hopes to have Tucson and Hollywood, which is a traveling team, back in the Pacific Division.
"We're running into the same problems the Blaze had; you've got your diehards, but it's kind of tough to get the casual fan because it's so hot and it's eight o'clock (at game time). But we're filling the void, and all in all, it's been a success."
Dunn said that for all the stadium's problems, he recognizes Bakersfield as a market with tremendous potential for minor league baseball.
"We're going to stay as long as we're welcome," Dunn said. "If you had a real stadium here, you'd have a Cal League team, no question. But for now, let's have fun and play ball. We're glad to be there."