All winter there were questions surrounding a newly formed independent baseball league, the East Coast Baseball League (ECBL). Questions ranged from the obvious – where would the teams play and how would the league be funded – to hard hitting questions about the owner (and then commissioner), Colin Cummins.
Cummins was often seen as a poor business man, who has caused a lot of problems among indy ball employees, managers, and players. The winter league he ran in Myrtle Beach this past off season was unprofessional and did not live up to the expectations of the coaches or the players.
As spring training grew closer, there seemed to be more questions surrounding the league than answers. Advertising and marketing for the teams were practically nonexistent in each town. Rumors of Cummins not paying for the spring training facility started circling on social media.
When players showed up to spring training, they learned that all of the players would be competing for spots on the six different teams. Even though some guys were put onto a “protected list”, the original contracts specifically stating which team the player was to be on were not upheld. Many left on the first day after hearing this information. For the tryouts (spring training), players were split up into different teams and games were played over a couple days before a league-wide draft was to be held. Some players who felt as if they weren’t getting a fair shot even left in the middle of a game.
With so many problems and so much confusion surrounding the league, the Watertown Bucks (the only team not owned by the league) decided to pull out of the ECBL. As the only independently owned team, the Bucks and their owner, Bruce Zicari, are trying to bring other teams along with them to form a new league separate from Cummins and the ECBL.
According to the Watertown Daily Times, three additional teams have currently pulled out of the league as well – Newburgh, Old Orchard Beach, and a traveling team.
While most players were sent home and told to wait for more news and information, the Bucks’ manager and players are in Watertown practicing. “The team is here and we have everything set, it’s just that we don’t have a league,” Zicari told the Daily Times.
The odds are against Watertown and the other three teams that pulled out of the ECBL. Chances are high that they will never play a game, let alone an entire season. With only one team individually owned, and the previous affiliation with the tainted ECBL, there is a long road ahead to get the financial and community support needed to create a new league in a matter of weeks. However, it does appear that they are going to give it a try as the North Country Baseball League.
The ECBL no longer exists as it did during the off season, but that hasn’t stopped Colin Cummins from holding out hope that he could still make it work. In an article from The Waterloo Region Record, Cummins says that he is still trying to make the season work, and that any reports of the league officially folding are false. Although, this is all news to the Waterloo GM, Andrew Hendriks, who has not been contacted by Cummins or any one else associated with the ECBL.