Q & A – The Desert League

Recently, I posted an article on the Desert League’s new staff additions.  After the post went public, I worked on getting an interview to answer any questions that potential players and fans had about this new independent league.

I had the opportunity to talk with John Guy, the Director of Marketing for the Desert League.

How did the idea of creating the Desert League come about?

Luke Powell, a former independent and Mexican Minor League pro, came up with the concept two years ago.

Who are the main Front Office/staff members of the league?

Luke Powell – President
John Guy – Marketing Director
Tim Tucker – Statistician
Heather Oliver – Asst. Director of Operations
Aaron Cooper – PR Director

What cities are your franchises in, and why did you choose those locations?

Southern Arizona and California is our first year geographical hub. We will have a franchise in San Luis, Arizona, Yuma, Arizona, a city in Imperial County, California TBA, and a travel team based out of Yuma, Arizona.

What are your expectations for fan attendance and community involvement?

Playing in late September through Thanksgiving gives us the snowbird population that flock to this area of the southwest. Our imaginative promotions will be getting national attention so that the people will know that we are there and mean business. Top ticket prices will be $5 so this will be an enjoyable, inexpensive experience. Our promotions will be among those never ever seen at this level of sports.

We’ve seen a lot of independent leagues go dark due to finances and lack of marketing. Do you have any worries about that or about how you are going to finance the league?

Absolutely none. With all teams within an hour of each other, we have eliminated motels, charter buses and meal money. Unlike the Pecos League, we will be paying our players a salary that makes sense – something they can actually live on. All of our players will be covered medically with no deductibles and coached by former professionals. We are keeping our budget low and realistic so that we will have 50% of our total budget in the bank before the first pitch is even thrown. Our attendance will be strong due to aggressive marketing, low prices and the influx of snowbirds and Canadians who populate this area in the fall and winter.

When does your season run and what does the schedule look like?

We will have opening day on September 22nd and be done prior to Thanksgiving. We play 48 season games after a five day training camp staffed with former major leaguers. The concept of this league is to make sure we are reaching those college players who were not drafted in June. 12 of the 23 players on each team’s roster must be rookies, and we will work to get them to higher levels within independent ball and with foreign teams in Mexico, Europe and Asia.

What age and experience are you looking for with your players? Are there overall roster limits on age/experience?

We are looking to have 12 players with little or no experience on our rosters. That will mean less than a certain number of at-bats (75) or innings pitched (50). The rest of the rosters can be filled with pros who need the off-season workout or those looking to attract attention of higher leagues than where they had been playing. I anticipate many Pecos League players will be looking to play in the their off season.

How exactly does the pay system work for players? Are they given host families? Transportation? Meals?

Players are going to be playing eight weeks. We will be paying $100-$120 a week, full medical, some meals and some housing. We will be looking for host families, but the travel team will have apartments in the Yuma area for shared player housing. Because of the proximity of the teams, the players can carpool to games since nothing is further than an hour away.

Do you expect the players to get a fair look from scouts with a chance to move up to affiliated ball?

Absolutely. We will have scouts from independent leagues along with the Mexican major and minor leagues and connections with scouts, agents and teams overseas. Our schedule is also at the same time as the major league’s Fall League in Phoenix so we are looking to have scouts drive the two hours to see some of our players on their days off. Our goal is to provide players with a foot in the door, and the tools to move higher up the baseball ladder.

What are you goals for this year and beyond?

You schedule the games. You play all of the games. Everyone is paid what they are promised. Players move up the baseball ladder. Most of all, everyone has fun because, after all, baseball is a game, not a job. Next season we will look to expand to more divisions of four located within an hour or so of each other. We are the only playing professional independent league to be playing during this part of the year. A player has a choice of paying $3,500 playing for a month in the California Winter League, or they can make money playing in our league. This should be a no-brainer for a ball player who is looking to advance himself or stay in the game.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers about the Desert League?

Unlike some leagues, players will be playing in front of enthusiastic crowds. Our promotions will be unique. Fans will have a chance to meet Jimmy Hoffa on Witness Relocation Night. Our travel team is named the Dprk H-Bombs and will represent North Korea. Fans will get a grain of rice for attending. We will show that North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un is actually Eric Cartman of South Park. There will be a Cheech and Chong medical marijuana night. We will be celebrating Animal House, Napoleon Dynamite, Kramer’s friend Bob Sacamano, and free Karen Carpenter concert tickets. There will also be special nights for “Breaking Bad” and “Cool Hand Luke.”

You can visit the Desert League’s official website HERE for more information.
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19 thoughts on “Q & A – The Desert League”

  1. Did you ask them if they have any stadium leases signed, or are they just throwing darts at a map at this point?

    John Guy’s previous baseball experience was as owner/GM of a team that folded after 3 weeks in the Arizona-Mexico League in 2003. That’s it. Looks like he spends more time thinking up stupid promotions than going out and selling tickets and sponsorships and doing the things that real GMs do.

    Also, $100 per week is “something [players] can actually live on”? Really?

    Oh, and their web site hasn’t been updated since May. FFS, why do people keep trying to do this when they don’t know what they’re doing…just go away, already.

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    1. Training Camp lease has been signed. We’ve received approval from three ballparks already for regular season and are now plugging in dates. My experience in minor league/semi-pro sports spans three decades. Our team in the Arizona-Mexico League did not fold-the league itself folded from under us. We sold EVERY outfield sign, 200 season tickets and averaged 70% capacity for 12 home games. We were the only team in the league with a trainer, a scorer, a game program (56 pages worth full of ads), souvenirs, etc. We offer our players $400 a month, discounts on food and we will attempt to obtain free or reduced cost housing during the season. Our players will receive medical coverage and our teams will have trainers. Please compare that to the Pecos League. Of course, a player could always PAY $3,000 to play 15 games in one of the western winter leagues and not have to worry about housing. We’re thinking that this would be a pretty good alternative (especially since I just watched several AWL games and they have 2 players over the age of 45 playing. Keep watching this space, as they say, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what we are doing.

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  2. Hey John Guy … nice job “commenting” several separate photo shoots on The Desert League Facebook page to bump-off the commenters asking “where’s the rosters/stats?!”

    Now that’s slick marketing.

    How’s those wacky promotions in front of “enthusiastic crowds” working out?

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  3. Well Joseph, let’s deal with your questions.
    The Desert League had their first All Star game last night and tied the Los Mochis Caneros 3-3 (the Caneros featured many AAA and AA players). Our web broadcast had 33,000 viewers. Two of our players have signed contracts and we are looking at moving another dozen up the ladder in the next 3 weeks. ALL our players have housing, all have zero-deductable medical and rehab, ALL received paychecks today (everyone was paid in cash-no bounced checks like other leagues), we just had a former major leaguer purchase a franchise for close to six figures (yup, the wire transfer went through), another franchise for 2017 will be sold in Mexico for the same amount, we have had as many as 5 OB scouts at a single game and I happily invite you to our Witness Relocation Night on October 22nd where you can meet and get the autograph of Jimmy Hoffa. If that doesn’t work for you then maybe you can sit next to Elvis on October 29th in Yuma. Oh, our players are fed by our Booster Club at EVERY Yuma game and can eat at Golden Corral for $6 anytime they want. Despite the bumps of a first-year independent league, the Desert League WILL return for Season 2. Why do I know that? Because just like this year everyt2will be paid UP FRONT and again we will have payroll in the bank before the first pitch is thrown. Of course, I know that doesn’t come close to the Empire, Pecos, Ozark, Mount Ranier or Pacific leagues but hopefully one day we can be as good as the aforementioned leagues and meet your expectations.

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    1. John,

      Let’s be clear — I want indy leagues to prosper, not fail.

      However, the big issue is whether there are verifiable stats by a reputable recording entity that scouts can reference when a player is trying to move-up the ladder. People have been asking that for the past 2 weeks.

      Also, I have no doubt that based on an overbooked training camp where players paid several hundred dollars each, the league was essentially financed for the entire year without needing to worry about sponsors or paid attendance.

      I have some other issues as well (like what exactly does “all players have housing” mean? … why did the schedule go from 60 games to 48 games to 43 games … what happened to the early limitation of 200 players max admitted to training camp, etc.), but let’s keep it simple since you’re in a talkative mood.

      Where’s the stats?

      Thanks,
      Joseph

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      1. Get em Joseph! also failed to mention the GM’s Name on the staff Juan alvarado. His real name is Juan Ubinas, google search his name and the first thing that comes up is hos mugshot for when he was convicted for grand theft . He is a Felon who is running the league

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  4. “We’re only going to let 200 guys register so everyone gets a fair chance at the tryout”, – Luke Powell, President. My son, who attended the tryout, described the amount of prospects there like a mass exodus of people trying to leave a country at war. A vast majority of the players received minimal at bats and minimal field time.
    My son also said one of the coaches had a scam going on to register the prospects for $200. “Meet me at my room and you’ll only have to pay $200.”
    There is a player who is on the spectrum of Autism playing on a team for free. I am a special needs advocate, but at this level of baseball is this fair to the special needs player or the prospective player who didn’t get a roster spot?
    It also pays to be the son of the coach. Regardless of your ability, you will always make the team.
    “We had an off-the-field incident and we need you to come be on the Snow Bird practice team. We will be releasing 20 players and I guarantee you will be playing.” -Luke Powell, President. My son met with “Juan” Alvarado or Ubinas, the convicted felon, who barely speaks English. In order to receive a key to the house, he had to pay $300. He only gave half of the money because he wasn’t sure if this was a legitimate offer. The league scammed 15 players into rushing to Arizona to fill roster spots, but in reality they really only wanted the money. 15x$300=$4500 for a rented house that will rent for $1000. Search Zillow.com for 3000 S Rainbow Ave,Yuma, AZ 85365.
    Why did they play double-headers for 16 days in a row, at the beginning of the season? Did they know they would run out of money? How many games have been canceled because the umpires refused to show up for non-payment? Why did the umpires have to buy/bring balls to the games?
    Why did Luke Powell always seem to need a ride to all the games?No car? Why were Luke Powell and Juan Alvarado Ubinas at the strip clubs most nights?

    Such a disappointment…this is NOT for the love of baseball, it’s for the love of money.

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  5. Hello Jake & yo_mommascrazy,

    I’d love to get word of this over at Facebook’s Independent Baseball Chat Group, but that j#cka$$ moderator Bob May has a problem with my Facebook presence. Apparently, I can’t keep some semblance of anonymity but he’ll allow friggin’ posts about crap products or videos of middle school kids or grandpas playing ball over there.

    So if either of you are part of that group, it would be nice to get a discussion going about WTF is going on at Desert League. Not a single stat except “leaders” displayed from 5 days ago and long stretches where games aren’t being played at all (thanks, yo_momma for clue-ing some of us in as to why that is).

    And for all John Guy’s bluster about the Witness Relocation Night promotion in 2 days, there’s nothing on the website about that — I wonder what happened?

    Their “advancements” link is working, however. 4 guys — 3 with contracts to some Mexican league. Big whoop.

    Joseph

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  6. I have commented on this semi pro league, at best, on q and a on indy ball island. You should go to the comments about, what is going on in the desert league?, and read them all. Players please do alot of research on what happened last year before committing any finances to this project. Luke Powell will trash your dreams and 7 inning games is not Pro ball. 27 players living in one house is not Pro ball. Driving yourself to all games is not Pro ball. Playing on a make shift softball field where 310 is the deepest please part of the park is not Pro ball. On their website they show fields with big crowds, talk to last year’s players about attendence. The first few games maybe 50. On the last day of the season players went to Luke Powell room and demanded to be paid. Do your research!!!

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  7. I posted a question to Luke Powell on the Desert League FB page asking why he speaks so negatively of other leagues, when his first year was a disaster? He did not respond to my questions and has blocked me from making a comment. I have asked to join The Independent Baseball Chat Group on FB for the last 10 months and have not been accepted. Thank you, Kayla for allowing us to post the truth here.

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  8. I do NOT speak for Luke Powell but I do speak for the league. We will be back for a second season. We are obtaining sponsorship money as we speak in Yuma County and have fields ready for the upcoming season in January. ALL our players were paid last year as were our coaches. We moved 77 players into pro contracts and 8 players signed AAA contracts with the Mexican League. Our guys are currently playing in the American Association, the Atlantic League, Frontier League and 6 foreign countries. This year we will be expanding our reach into Europe and Japan. Sorry you’re offended by us housing 13-15 players in a house but this was a first-year minor league operation. We now have players playing in the Angels and Mets organizations. I’m pretty sure that the experience of living with 12 other guys for 6 weeks is a pretty nice trade-off for playing in the South Atlantic League. You see, the bottom line for an independent baseball league is not how many are living in a house but how many are moved along the baseball ladder. No other independent league can make the claim that nearly 70% of its players have moved along. Did we make money? Nope. We lost tens of thousands of dollars personally and yet we are back to play again. If you honestly think that we are in this for the money, you are clearly wrong. Will there be naysayers this season? Yup. How about disappointed players and moms and dads? Yup. You need to understand that players and family don’t always have realistic expectations regarding their talents. Guess what? If your kid has been suspended by major league baseball TWICE as a minor leaguer…it doesn’t matter how fast you can throw. Your kid is a druggie and no OB organization is going to take a gamble on him. Bottom line: we are in this FOR the players are try our damnedest to make their journey as comfortable as we can (within our pocket books). If you don’t want to believe me, that’s fine. I’d be more than happy to provide player’s names and addresses so you can have a fair picture.
    JOHN GUY, Operations Director

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  9. I couldn’t have been more stoked to play professional baseball in Mexico with the 2009 New York Yankee World Series Champion Alfredo Aceves! Looking forward to next time we have a game in Mexico! 

    Brian Pfund, Desert League Alum

    I just want to thank The Desert League, Ivan Villaescusa, Toño Villaescusa, and Lester Douglas for giving me my first shot at professional baseball. I enjoyed my time here in Arizona, met some amazing people, and saw some incredible places along the way. I developed so much as a pitcher here, and I can’t wait to see what’s down the road for me in this game. Thanks again to everyone who had confidence in me!

    Adam Falcon, Desert League Alum

    I was blessed with the opportunity these past few months to play my first professional season in Arizona in the Desert League. It was filled with long stretches of fun, laughter, aches, discouragements, pain, memories, and smiles. I’m truly thankful for it all and I can’t wait to see where God leads me next in my professional career. First chapter in my book has closed but I’m ready to start chapter 2.

    Demetrius Moorer, Desert League Alum

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