5/20/2015 *UPDATE* The ECBL will not be going on as planned. Read all about it HERE – The East Coast Baseball League Ends Before Ever Playing a Game.
The independent baseball world will have two new leagues looking to start up for the 2015 season. One, the MRPBL, has previously been covered on this blog. The other, the East Coast Baseball League, is being featured in this post.
The East Coast Baseball League (ECBL) will play in both the United States and Canada. Currently there are four teams established, but the league is looking to add two more before the season begins in May.
I recently had the pleasure of asking the owner and league director, Colin Cummins, some questions about the league and his expectations.
What made you want to start your own independent league?
We actually looked to start out, as a single team, in the CanAm League. The CanAm thought that our area was too small, and we were turned down. So the thought of building a league was the next venture. I actually thought we were CRAZY and now look where we are.
What cities are your franchises in? And why did you choose those locations?
Niagara Wild (Welland, ON), Waterloo Whiskey Jacks (Waterloo, ON), Newburgh Newts (Newburgh, NY) and Watertown (Watertown, NY).
We are looking to add 2 more teams by the end of next week. All of our current cities, with the exception of Waterloo, have had professional baseball before.
These cities deserve to have professional baseball in their communities. Waterloo is new to everything, but they are a baseball/sports community. I believe we can make this work.
What are your expectations for fan attendance and community involvement?
My expectations aren’t too lofty. I truly believe for our first year that if we average around 300 fans a game, we will break even. We need something to build on each year. The on field product and in game entertainment will be another decision maker for individuals, groups, families and corporate fans. It’s a building and awareness year for us.
Starting a league, finding stadiums/cities and sponsors, as well as paying players and employees seems like it could come with a hefty price tag during the beginning. We’ve seen a lot of independent leagues go dark due to finances, plus keeping professional baseball in Canada seems to be a struggle as well. Do you have any worries about that or about how you are going to finance the league?
If I said No, I would be lying. You try to come up with a strategy and run with it. I have my concerns. We are not the main users at some fields, waiting for schedules, not having control over certain aspects and lastly, not having the right finances for it all. With this being a building year, I hope to have the right people in the right places. I have some silent investors above me. We talk all the time. We don’t want to lose any money, but we understand that it takes money to make money.
Do you foresee any problems running a new independent league that operates in two countries?
I don’t know right now! We hope that everyone has a clean background. We hope that everyone is able to get a passport and can travel to and from. It’s hard to foresee things. We just have to be better than good. Even our umpires will be under that scrutiny.
How exactly does the pay system work for players? Are they given host families, transportation, and meals?
Our pay scale is $500 for rookies to $850 for a veteran. We are looking for host families. We are talking to charter bus lines or looking to purchase a bus and each player and coach will receive a $25 stipend per away game.
Do you expect the players to get a fair look from scouts with a chance to move up to affiliated ball?
I think we will assemble a product that MLB and other indy leagues will like. I expect our coaching staffs to try and move players who deserve the opportunity and showcase the up and comers.
Have you taken any ideas/structures/rules from any other independent league when creating the ECBL?
Yes I have! These guys have helped build successful brands and leagues. I would be stupid not to take a little from here and there.
A lot of people on independent league message boards have concerns with a league owning every franchise. Do you see this as a problem now or even further down the road?
I don’t want to own every team. I would like to have an owner for every team. But if that is not possible right away, then the league will help out until we can find a potential owner. We are looking for owners, and we have had talks with a variety of potentials. It comes down to the right fit. You don’t just give ownerships away because there is money. The right fit needs to be involved.
The track record for new independent leagues isn’t very good. What are you doing to ensure that your league sticks around for the long run?
Hopefully, not follow the same path. Find successful ownerships, (the right fits), let the communities know we are there for them, market the brand properly, advertise properly and know your demographics. LISTEN and LEARN.
I know that you have been working with the Myrtle Beach Winter League. Can you tell me how that is going? Are you planning on signing players from that league for the ECBL?
I put on the Myrtle Beach Winter League. We offered 16 contracts to players and offered 10 spring training invites. It was a learning experience for me. I made mistakes and will look back and say: I did it and I learned.
Is there anything else that you would like the readers to know about you and the ECBL?
Come and catch a game or two. We hope to surprise you!! Good eats, good treats, affordable and fun.