Being new to the area, it’s hard to imagine a summer without a team called the Cowboys playing pro ball in historic Kokernot Field. From the moment Jennifer and I arrived in Alpine, it seems, the Cowboys’ red and green uniforms, along with the sounds of crowds cheering from the Kokernot Field stands, were a big part of the backdrop of our first summer in Alpine. The idea of those uniforms gathering dust somewhere next summer while the stands sit empty? Just doesn’t feel right.
But as many of us have learned the hard way, especially over the past few years, the economy is what it is.
Financial realities don’t bend for anyone — or any pastime. The folding in July of the Continental Baseball League, of which the Cowboys were a member, was one more cold reminder of that. The team was in the hunt for the league championship (which they eventually won at the end of an abbreviated season), fans were hyped, and Alpine itself seemed a livelier place. But the dollars weren’t flowing the way they needed to.
As outlined during a meeting at the Saddle Club in downtown Alpine Monday evening, for pro baseball to continue as part of the landscape here, something is going to have to change.
The plan laid out Monday, by Chamber president and former Big Bend Cowboys general manager J.R. Smith, seems to present an excellent opportunity — not only for the continuation of independent league baseball here, but for doing some good for youth sports as part of the deal.
There’s a template in place for what’s proposed — having a pro baseball team serve as the centerpiece of a nonprofit community baseball organization. That template: The Memphis Redbirds, the AAA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Most people probably didn’t realize that. I know I didn’t, and having just moved here from northwest Arkansas, squarely in the heart of Cardinals Country, I kept up with the team and watched a lot of their games. Still do. But I never realized the jewel of their feeder system was a nonprofit foundation aimed at bettering youth sports opportunities in the communities they serve.
It’s not the sort of thing followers of pro baseball, or any pro sport, are accustomed to hearing.
Most of the talk, where money is concerned, focuses on the harsh realities of the business end of the games we watch. Or mega-contracts. Rarely does one hear about a pro team set up to function in a nonprofit capacity.
In short, it’s a bit unusual. But the more I’ve heard about the process and the goals described, the more it makes sense, and seems like a good fit — especially here. Alpine, after all, is not the most conventional place in the world. And there are plenty of people here more than capable of thinking outside the box to make good things happen.
There’s a lot of potential here for that. The needs of youth sports that could be addressed by a nonprofit like the one being proposed are many — a few of them were touched on during Monday’s meeting, but there are no doubt more.
Now, the next step is seeking nonprofit status while outlining a cohesive vision for the new organization.
One of the keys will be presenting the new organization in a way that make it clear this is more than just a baseball team — it’s part of a far-reaching nonprofit effort to make good things happen in the community.
After the enthusiasm seen Monday evening, somehow I don’t think that part will be a problem.
John Dilmore is publisher and editor of the Alpine Avalanche. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.