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Invaders cancel home season

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David Rocha File Photo Roswell Invaders’ Austin Maltby (40) hit a home run and is congratulated at home plate by Matt Paciello (12) during a game last season at Joe Bauman Stadium.

First spring sports are canceled and maybe graduation will be next. One has to wonder, what next? Well, for all the Roswell Invaders baseball fans eagerly counting down to opening day at Joe Bauman Stadium, Roswell’s opening day will be against White Sands Pupfish on May 27, 2021.

“There is no way we can play in Roswell as the Invaders this year,” Pecos League Commissioner Andrew Dunn said. “No way, we are running out of time, and with what is happening in Gallup and the Indian Reservation, there is no way.”

This will be the Invaders’ first year out of Roswell since coming here in 2010. The Invaders played their first game in 2011. What the Invaders will lose will be a place to gather — sponsor night.

The league has produced major league players in White Sands Pupfish pitcher Chris Smith, who pitched for the Pupfish in 2011 and made it to the majors in 2016 for the Toronto Blue Jays. The other is Yermin Mercedes, who is currently with the Chicago White Sox.

Former Invader masher Brian Portelli led the league in home runs with 32 and had 114 RBIs in 2018. He is currently in AA at Ottawa.

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Dunn has decided to play baseball with five teams: The Invaders, Trinidad, Tucson, Santa Fe and Garden City in Houston, Texas, starting July 1 through Aug. 16, with the playoffs starting in California Sept. 16. It will be an abbreviated 36-game season. The games will not be open to the public, but the games will be streamed online for $6 a game.

Dunn has modeled this season after the Korean baseball league, which can be seen on ESPN. Dunn is trying to get a complete season in and does not see it as a viable option with a team in Santa Fe. For his league to be successful, they must be able to play baseball in June and July with the playoffs starting in August.

Another factor in Dunn’s decision to cancel the league was because they could only find 11 host families in Roswell and they need at least 25 according to George Swenson. He is also having problems finding host families around the league, as well.

“If we have no host families,” Dunn said, “we have no season.”

The Swensons who have been involved with Invaders baseball since 2014, feel bad for the players that cannot come to Roswell this summer. Both he and his wife, Patty agree Dunn made the right decision. Swenson thinks about what if a player contracted the virus while traveling and gave it to the family.

“As hard of a decision as it was for the commissioner,” Swenson said, “I think he (Dunn) made the right one. I support the decision.”

The league has sold more merchandise in the last week than they have since the history of the league. Dunn says they have sold mostly Tucson, Santa Fe, Bakersfield and Roswell.

Dunn thinks it is a logo thing about the merchandise. People see it and think how stylish and cool it looks. In Roswell, Dunn thinks people want to be an alien.

“Ever since the coronavirus,” Dunn said. “we have sold more merchandise online. People love the hat and the jersey. We want to play baseball and the people of southeastern New Mexico want to see their Invaders.”

For the league, it is important to have a season and be able to connect the chain of a 2019-2020-2021 season and say the league had a champion in 2020.

To accomplish this, there will be 36 games in 45 days, with a lot of doubleheaders with single games mixed in. The players cannot be put up in hotels, they will be staying with friends, relatives and however they can make accommodations.

The league will play their games in three fields and will play in Coastal Baseball Park and McGregor. Dunn is testing his players with the temperature reader when they come into the park and at the end of the game.

When Roswell takes the field again, there will be an old friend handing in the lineup card in Brian Kloppe. He managed the Invaders in the 2016-2017 season, leading the Invaders to the Pecos League Championship Series in 2017.

“We are saddened,” Kloppe said, “that the Invader family won’t be able to come together this summer, but we are looking forward to the 2021 season.”

He was also a player for the Invaders in 2014-15, winning a championship as a pitcher before taking the helm as manager. This will be Kloppe’s fifth season as a manager and he also manages in Australia in the winter.

The financial impact is still to be felt by the community. The lost revenue will affect the hotel industry and restaurants, as well as other businesses such as barbershops and a host of other revenue-producing businesses. At each home game, there was a group night scheduled.

The loss of income includes five teams coming from California, one team in Arizona, Texas, Colorado, and one in Kansas. Ruidoso was coming back into the league, as they added lights.

“I’m sorry for this,” Dunn said. “It is sad for me. We are going to miss being in Roswell, we have been there for 10 years. It has been great being in Roswell, the people have been great to us. We’ve always won here in Roswell and the host families have been great.”

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.