New Milford’s Lavallee ignites pro baseball career in Pecos League
Published 7:15 pm, Thursday, August 31, 2017
The Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs is well stocked with ballplayers who have refused to allow their big-league dreams wither and die, not even in the sun-baked swelter of New Mexico in summertime.
Former New Milford High School standout Gavin Lavallee is one of those players.
Lavallee, a 2010 New Milford High graduate who went on to play four seasons at Division III power Eastern Connecticut, has played the past two summers in the 12-team independent league with the Roswell (N.M.) Invaders. Roswell is, of course, famous for the legend of the alien spacecraft which supposedly crashed there in 1947 — the Invaders’ uniforms are navy-blue and alien-green, and their logo features a bug-eyed, gray alien — although Lavallee would like to make Roswell famous as a launching pad to a career in pro ball.
The Pecos League has teams scattered across the Southwest from Kansas to California. The players are paid, but very little, and they drive themselves to road games. It’s a tough way to carve out a living, no doubt, but the opportunity is priceless.
“It’s not as glamorous as some of these other leagues, but it’s a great opportunity to get moved up,” Lavallee said. “That’s what we’re all doing it for, just trying to play well in front of the right people and get a chance to keep moving up.”
The next step up from the Pecos League could be a contract with a minor-league team with a major-league affiliate.
“Sometimes, you get moved up and you don’t always stick with that organization, , but you got your chance,” Lavallee said. “That’s all we can really ask for is an opportunity. Other guys we had got moved up and never came back.”
Lavallee earned All-Colonial Division honors in the South-West Conference his senior year as New Milford High’s third baseman. He went on to play four seasons at Eastern, primarily as a first baseman. As a senior in 2014, he batted .325 (50-for-154) with three home runs and 22 runs batted in.
After college, Lavallee had been playing for a barnstorming team in New Jersey which traveled around the country playing against independent-league teams with the hope that some of the players would land tryouts with those independent-league teams. Early in the 2016 regular season, the Invaders were in the market for a slugging corner infielder, and Lavallee — who had just been cut by the Trinidad (Colo.) Triggers of the Pecos League in spring training — was just the guy they were looking for. He played the rest of the 2016 season with the Invaders, primarily as a pinch-hitter, and made enough of an impression that the team wanted him back again in 2017.
As a more regular contributor at third base this past season, Lavallee batted .333 (27-for-81) with two home runs and 16 runs batted in.