Taed Heydinger and Zane Phelps thought they had played their final game at famed Ricketts Park in Farmington. The two college baseball players from Bayfield aren't done yet.
The 2016 graduates of Bayfield High School continued their playing career at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona. After completing their freshman seasons, both were looking for an opportunity to play more innings in the summer, as they did their entire high school careers in the American Amateur Baseball Congress Connie Mack summer league in Farmington.
The AABC, which bases its national offices out of Farmington, had an idea to bring more summer baseball to Ricketts Park, the annual host site of the Connie Mack World Series. The organization created a new collegiate league team under its Stan Musial division for players of all ages. Farmington named its team the Frackers, and the Frackers will play 35 home games beginning June 8 and ending July 9. The Frackers also will receive an automatic bid into the 2017 Stan Musial World Series, which will be held July 22-29 in Seattle.
"Another summer at Ricketts," Heydinger said. "I've played there the last three summers, and there's nothing like the atmosphere in Farmington. It's such a baseball-oriented town, and it's good thing they brought in a college team to it. It brings even more hype to the town."
The Frackers currently boast a 25-man roster with three players from the Farmington area as well as the Bayfield boys to help encourage local fan support. Heydinger and Phelps will join Logan Klunder, Matthew Martin and Beamer Wick to form the Four Corners contingent.
The team will be coached by Jared Holley, a former University of New Mexico player who is now a graduate assistant under Ray Birmingham on the Lobos' coaching staff. He has experience in collegiate summer ball in the West Coast League, which features teams from the Pacific Northwest.
Former Farmington High standout and current student assistant for the New Mexico State Aggies, Brycen Campbell, also will serve on the coaching staff. Campbell graduated Farmington High in 2012 and played at Eastern Arizona College before joining the Aggies team for one year in 2015.
Heydinger said he called Campbell, one of his former Connie Mack league coaches, when he heard about the team and asked for a roster spot.
Players payed a $500 fee to join the team. Players are coming from Division I colleges such as New Mexico and University of Houston, all the way down to junior college programs.
"There are a lot of big-school kids there," Phelps said. "Me coming from a small school, I'll see how it plays out because that's something I want to do. Maybe this opportunity can help get me somewhere through all this."
Heydinger plans to pitch and play the outfield when opportunities arise. Phelps will man the infield and look to improve upon his numbers at the plate from his freshman season with the Artichokes.
Phelps played in 44 games for Scottsdale Community College in 2017, when the team finished 27-28 overall. He hit for a .214 average with three home runs, 26 runs batted in, 20 runs scored and five stolen bases.
"I started out doing all right, but I hit a lump and definitely didn't finish as well as I wanted to," Phelps said. "I feel like I can get a lot better this summer and get back to Scottsdale next season having improved."
Heydinger pitched in 16 games for the Artichokes. It was his first experience working out of the bullpen after a sparkling career as a starter at BHS. He finished with a 1-0 record in 23 1-3 innings pitched. He sported a tough 11.57 earned-run average with 24 walks and 16 strikeouts.
"It was a rough adjustment for me at first coming out of the bullpen," he said. "I developed greatly over the course of the season. I'm hoping to get a lot of innings this summer on the mound and go out there and showcase what I've got."
The Frackers will open the season at 7 p.m. Thursday with a six-game series against the California Jays-Montano. The Nevada Jays will roll into town June 15. Teams from around the west will visit Ricketts Park before the Frackers play their final homestand July 13-16 against the SoCal Bandits at Farmington's Worley Field.
Adding to the atmosphere of the collegiate league will be a small section of Ricketts Park featuring a beer garden. General admission tickets for single games will cost $6, and box seats not reserved by season-ticket holders will cost $10 per game. Season ticket packages are available through the team's website.
Heydinger and Phelps said they know their families and friends back in town for the summer will be there to cheer them on, and they hope to put on a good show during the 35-game schedule.
"We've got a lot of good ballplayers on the roster," Heydinger said. "Bayfield is always so supportive, and I'll be trying hard to get friends down there to see what it's all about. Zane and I love to rep for Bayfield in our (junior college) league, and it's great to show out for our small town. I know other Bayfield athletes feel the same way everywhere they go.
"We're going to play good ball and get to Seattle at the end of the summer and make a name for ourselves. It will be good for Farmington and the Frackers organization."