May 21—Cannabis is here to stay, and its impact on America's pastime will be apparent every time you take a look at the Santa Fe Fuego this summer.
The Pecos League baseball team has partnered with Best Daze Cannabis Dispensary, giving it a primary sponsor through the end of the 2022 season. Best Daze is locally owned and has more than half a dozen shops in Santa Fe; Las Vegas, N.M.; Española; and Albuquerque.
As part of the agreement, the company will have a banner draped over the outfield fence and have its logo embroidered onto the team's cap. The team will promote the dispensary at every turn, including in-game announcements and the occasional promotional night.
Like most dispensaries, Best Daze's business has been booming since the state legalized cannabis on April 1. When approached about the idea of adding his name to the Fuego brand, Best Daze co-owner Eli Goodman said his only hesitation had to do with the team's target audience.
"Is it appropriate for us to be there?" Goodman asked. "I was told the majority of their tickets went to adults, with 70 percent being 21 and over. From that point were very excited."
Goodman's assistant, Emilio Nava, was the linchpin in the deal. Before entering the cannabis industry, he spent one year as the Fuego's public address announcer. Between his time as a casual fan to the many nights he did a little bit of everything while working behind the scenes, he knew and understood the Fuego's struggle from the team's inception.
He was even there when the team's ill-conceived "Beer Garden" idea became such a talking point in 2012. That's when the team was given the green light by city officials to sell beer at home games at Fort Marcy Ballpark — so long as fans purchasing and consuming the drinks stayed behind a makeshift chainlink fence that segregated them from the rest of the nondrinking crowd.
Fans often referred to it as "beer prison."
"You'd see kids sitting by the fence next to the parents on the other side," Nava said with a laugh.
There are no plans to sell cannabis at Fuego games, Goodman said. The only ties to the team are the banners, the caps and the occasional promotional appearance a player might make outside the ballpark.
Fuego general manager Yvonne Encinias said it's a win-win for the team and Best Daze. That Best Daze is locally owned and motivated to help the city's one and only professional sports franchise is what it's all about.
"We have the same issues come up every year, like finding host families and getting little things done here and there," she said. "To get a sponsorship like this is big for us."
The Fuego season opener is less than two weeks away, with players scheduled to report for preseason camp on Monday. The first game is June 1 against Roswell.
Santa Fe is the first team in the Pecos League to land a cannabis sponsorship but not the first professional sports club to do so. The United Soccer League's franchise in Las Vegas, Nev., landed a deal four years ago that had a dispensary selling team jerseys in its establishment in exchange for a large banner in the club's stadium.
The USL then inked a deal in 2020 with a company that produces hemp oil. The MLS followed suit by opening its doors for CBD sponsorships. Others, ranging from eSports to the UFC and even the PGA, have allowed such deals.
"Me, personally, I think it's great for sports recovery," Nava said. "We have a lot of products that are great for sports recovery, and if we could do something like that, it opens up a whole new market for a lot of stuff."