TEXARKANA GUNSLINGERS… SOME COMPETITION FOR THE COWBOYS?!?
Professional baseball is officially here in Alpine!
As most people know, the Continental Baseball League has been attempting to bring professional baseball here to Alpine, Texas. The Cowboys (a nod to Herbert Kokernots original team) would play in Kokernot Field.
A schedule of games is listed here. May 14th has us up against the Pipeliners.
You can find the Continental Baseball League’s homepage here.
This press release finalizes this long process:
Alpine, TX, April 17, 2009 — It’s been awhile since it was last played in Alpine, back when the Boston Red Sox had an affiliate team here in the 1960s, but today pro baseball has returned to the Big Bend Region. An official announcement will be made on Monday at 10 a.m. at Kokernot Field, an appropriate venue since it was the late Herbert L. Kokernot, Jr. who sparked pro baseball in these parts many years ago.
The Continental Baseball League (www.CBLproball.com) announced it will add the Big Bend Cowboys franchise to its third year independent pro baseball league, joining the Alexandria (LA) Aces, the Dallas Aviators, Bay Area Toros (Texas City), Texarkana Gunslingers and the South Louisiana Pipe Fighters (travel team).
“The CBL is honored to bring pro baseball back to Alpine and the Big Bend Region created by Herbert Kokernot, Jr. many years ago,” said Baron. “The Big Bend team will be the centerpiece for family friendly evening entertainment this summer for towns throughout the region, including Alpine, Marfa, Fort Davis, Marathon, Fort Stockton and others. We anticipate the players and coaches conducting baseball clinics throughout the region during our off days each week, Monday through Wednesday.”
Bob Ibach, a former Chicago Cubs front office executive and the CBL’s director of league operations, added that “our league was founded on offering fans family style entertainment at affordable prices. I’m pleased to see the Cowboys and their ownership group support that concept as well. We have seen the players in our league become hometown heroes over the past two seasons, working hard within the community to ensure that local youngsters really get involved and enjoy pro baseball year round.”
The CBL features a 60-game regular season schedule, with most games played Thursday through Sunday each week, followed by a post-season championship playoff series. Regular season play begins on May 14. The Bay Area Toros are the defending league champions. The CBL championship trophy is named after Ferguson Jenkins, an outstanding Hall of Fame pitcher who spent several years starring with the Texas Rangers.
The history of pro baseball in the Big Bend area goes back over 60 years. In 1946, the late Herbert L. Kokernot, Jr., a rich, handsome, quiet and debonair West Texan picked up a ragtag semi-pro team called the Alpine Cats and renamed them the Alpine Cowboys, where they soon became the most successful team in the region. A year later, Kokernot Field was opened and it became the envy of other local teams and baseball fans. The ballpark reportedly cost more than $1.5 million, and many considered it one of the finest facilities in the country at that time, a stadium that included individual and numbered folding seats, a rose garden entrance and trophy cases that were soon were filled with memorable championships.
“Mr. Herbert,” as Kokernot was known, left nothing to chance, and his promise of a “second to none” facility included a 10-foot granite wall around the stadium and the importing of world class infield dirt purchased in Georgia and brought to Alpine by train. Every component of the park was made by hand, including lamps topped with handmade baseballs. It was an unbelievable sight for a city in those days that numbered less than 5,000 folks.
From 1947 through 1958, the Alpine Cowboys fielded the best in semi-professional baseball, winning a dozen regional titles and were the runners-up to the national championship. Almost two dozen of the players went directly to professional baseball, including one as a general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and another as a Hall of Fame inductee. Another player, Tom Chandler, went on to become the baseball coach at Texas A&M for 26 years.
The grandson of Herbert Kokernot, Chris Lacy, is thrilled to see the return of pro baseball to the area. “I think the availability of professional sports is certainly an asset to the Big Bend area to enhance a youngster’s interest in their sports endeavors, and to further their own level of excellence in athletics,” said Lacy.
J.R. Smith, the manager of the Alpine Chamber of Commerce, added, “Kokernot Field has been a Field of Dreams since 1947. The entire Big Bend area is excited as it awaits the return of pro ball and the new Big Bend Cowboys.”
The Big Bend Cowboys ownership group includes Professor Frank Snyder, a former Washington, D.C. lawyer who now teaches at the Texas Wesleyan Law School in Fort Worth. “I’ve been a baseball fan since my dad started taking me to see the Dodgers play in the L.A. Coliseum when I was six years old,” related Snyder. “I love taking my own boys to baseball games. Baseball is a sport where families can shape summertime memories that last for a lifetime, and our goal here is to deliver that kind of fun and excitement to the citizens of this community.”
Both Baron and Ibach are both proud of the level of play offered by the CBL, as well as its fan-friendly atmosphere. Said Ibach: “We have had six of our ballplayers sign with affiliated teams in recent months, and I anticipate that number to continue to grow as more of the big league teams and their scouts become familiar with our league and the caliber of play. Our group has some great relationships with many of the big league teams and their scouting directors and general managers, and we are always keeping in contact with them about our ballplayers.”
Jay Johnstone, who won four World Series titles during his big league career, is the CBL’s director of player relations. Curtis Wilkerson, who played in the majors for many years, including with the Rangers, is the manager of the Dallas Aviators. Former CBL managers with big league experience include Steve Trout and Tom Goodwin.
Baron, who like Ibach was raised in New York City, and went to Mets games as a youngster, said, “one of the reasons I got involved with the CBL was to bring affordable baseball to families, with an emphasis on creating a fun time at the ballpark for youngsters of all ages. Ticket prices at the major league level have climbed dramatically. It can cost as much as $300 for a family of four to attend a game. In our league, a family of four can come to a game for under $50.”
The Cowboys will open the season with a double header on Sunday, May 17 against the South Louisiana Pipe Fighters. Information on season and individual game ticket packages will be released shortly.. Local sponsorship plans are being formalized and will be announced soon by the Cowboys.
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