BASEBALL IS MORE THAN A GAME on New Mexico’s pueblos. There’s something almost sacred in the gathering of teams and the community around a playing field etched into the earth.

“Baseball is a part of our culture and tradition,” says Dave Chalan (Cochiti), construction manager at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC). We’re walking through IPCC’s exhibition, Pueblo Baseball: Stitching Our Community Together, which features photos, videos, interviews, and memorabilia that tell the story of what baseball means to the state’s 19 pueblos. It opens with a life-size Margaret McKittrick image from the 1930s, a batter in mid-swing, the catcher poised on a dusty Tesuque Pueblo field.

“Baseball on the rez is played in dirt,” says Chalan, the 63-year-old player-manager of the Cochiti Braves. “Everything we do on the reservation, whether it’s kick-the-can or whatever, is on dirt. It just fits.”

We come to a recent wide-angle photo of the Laguna Pueblo Field. Its well-manicured grass is framed against a blue sky and surrounding hills. Cars reverently ring the backstop. The game, which began on the pueblos more than 100 years ago, still brings multiple generations together with games each weekend between teams in the Northern Pueblos League and Southern Pueblos League. The two divisions meet in an annual championship game.

Toward the end of the exhibition, which runs through October 27, a dirty ball with a neatly written inscription, “Northern Río Grande Champs ’61–’62,” sits in a display case. Gabriel Trujillo (Ohkay Owingeh), who played on the St. Catherine’s Indian School squad that defeated Taos 16-1 that day, donated the memento and contributed a simple quote about its significance: “It’s an innate gift to be able to play.”

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