What is Going on with the Desert League?

There have been a lot of questions surrounding the start-up Desert League.  Readers of Indy Ball Island have been commenting asking what is going on, but up until now we have received very few answers.

I recently asked owner Luke Powell if he would be willing to address all of the issues that our readers have brought up in previous posts.

Below is the email that I received:

Where do I start? First of all, one of our workers has been fired because he stole money and did not do his job with the host families. We did not have host families. I had to rent 4 apartments and 3 houses for the players. I also have players living at the Howard Johnson hotel, and I have paid all of that. The houses reek of weed and have been trashed so I am sure I will lose deposits, and I may take that out of the player checks I mean, really?
I also housed and fed several players during spring training that did not have money. All players have food provided before or after games. We have had 5 players get hurt and go the the hospital and our insurance covered them. We have been current on all payrolls until yesterday. We were short yesterday so everyone got paid roughly half, some got all of their money. I have a wire coming that will be here Monday or Tuesday at the latest and the players will be all paid up. I told all the guys that were dead broke or starving to come see me, and I gave them money to get by on until our wire comes thru on Monday.
All the games in Imperial County were cancelled due to fire damage to one field and the city failed to get the other field ready… So I had 21 games cancelled. Those games were made up in Yuma with the 7 inning double headers. I promised the guys 48 games and that is what I intended to do. Imperial county did not return my money, and I had to pay Yuma for the extra games….so basically I had to pay double. All the sponsorships that were sold in Imperial County were returned to the sponsors since we had to cancel the games. We ended up have to play a ton of double headers to make up for that.
I also paid for the players to be transported to and from the field for our Mexico games in private taxis. Food was provided in Mexico as well. During the season, several players have came to me broke, and I gave them an advance or gave them a job so they could earn money to survive. We also gave them $6 all-you-can-eat cards for Golden Corral.
Umpires have been terrible. They too were paid upfront in advance ,and they have been late, showed up without a full crew, or failed to show up at all for some games. We have had to reschedule because of that too. We also paid them for 100 dozen baseballs since my Pecos League baseballs were stolen in training camp along with my pa sound equipment. Of the 100 dozen baseballs, we only received 75 but we are going to make it work. I also got a new pa system.
Kira Clark, from the Empire League is doing stats. She has them and the league leaders are posted as well as rosters…finally! She is trying her best. All of the stats will be uploaded on our website as well as sports engine. We have them….think about how would we know who the leaders were if we did not have the stats? Next year things will be a lot different…
It was the worker who got fired’s job to sell sponsorships and get people to the games. In the USA we have sold like 20 tickets all season….people paid for sponsorships and the money came up missing. So no fans and no sponsors means that I am losing money. But that’s okay because next year I will handle everything, and we will make a profit….no doubt.
All the players for the most part are happy except for the ones playing poorly or the ones that get released. There are a few that are complaining, but that’s everywhere right? We have got jobs for guys in affiliated ball, in Venezuela, the Mexican league and with Sioux Falls. People make fun of us for selling guys to mexico, but those contracts were for 36,000 US dollars and one for 66,000 US dollars…far more than anyone else makes in indy ball….
So players are housed, being paid and getting food, and I am doing this out of my own pocket because I got robbed of my attendance and sponsor money. I had to refinance some of my oilfield equipment to make this thing work. I am not mad, not sad, but I will just correct it and make it better and make a profit next year.
I just can’t believe with all the bullshit in indy league baseball from MRPBL to the Empire to Cummings and the North Coast League of whatever it was to the Ozark Heartland League…that I am getting heat. Our level of play is outstanding compared to Empire and Pecos. We are not going anywhere, and we are only gonna get better. Thanks for giving me a chance to tell my side…
As far as Juan working for us and being a felon, it is true. He did his time, and he finished his probation. One of coaches is Lester Douglas, ex-big leaguer and retired probation officer. John Guy is a retired sheriff. They will tell you Juan is a great baseball guy, and yeah he made a few mistakes and paid for them, but he is directly responsible for selling Hoffman to the Phillies and getting the other two guys to Mexico. He has done one hell of a job, and he is working extremely cheap. He even coached 3rd baseball in the Caribbean world series one year…So yeah, I guess you could say we have cops and cons working for us. One of our umpires is a local corrections officer and another one has a record, and they work on the same crew. We are all working together to help baseball players and the league……
The official website of the Desert League can be found HERE.

18 thoughts on “What is Going on with the Desert League?”

  1. Well Luke,

    Pretty good letter.

    Believe me, as a guy who sends kids to try-out to play indy ball, I’d like there to be more opportunities and more legit leagues. I think all people ask is that there’s no flat-out lies.

    You don’t need to answer these points, but it would be nice.

    1) The guys who went to the try-out in AZ said there were at least 400 and perhaps as many as 500 players there. What happened to the 200-registration limit? My guys signed-up and paid early thinking they had a one-in-3 chance of making a team. The position players said their try-outs consisted of 3 infield/outfield throws, 2 “swings” against live pitching, and 3-5 ABs in scrimmages. And many overheard other players stating that they were already rostered. So 80% of the guys at try-outs didn’t really have a chance but their money was good, right? Don’t lie about limiting the number of registrations next year.

    2) I see Tim Tucker listed on your website’s page as “statistician”. What happened to him? In terms of the presence of “leaders” at your website as proving that stats are being taken … um, nope. Manager “guestimates” could just as easily have been the source of the leaders listing. Stats – I think people will believe it when they see it. I’m sure the players performing well would like it even more.

    3) That sucks about the money-stealer. Why not name him, like others who call-out Cummins, or Tony Hutchinson, or Art Wilkinson, or Mike Greene, etc. etc. etc. so you can educate players and their families about who to stay away from?

    4) What’s this crazy-talk about “wired money” that’s coming soon? Puhleazzzzze. Are we talking drugs, or scams, or both? Or, should we believe what John Guy wrote on October 6th that “a former major leaguer purchase(d) a franchise for close to six figures (yup, the wire transfer went through)”. So you guys received $80K-$90K two weeks ago on top of $160,000+ from try-outs plus $4,500 “key deposits” from players and you’re still “losing money”? Come on.

    5) You’re a little inconsistent with your criticism and your praise. You claim the umpires suck, but you boast about having a corrections officer and ex-con as umpires. You brag about the caliber of play being “outstanding” and above other low-tier indy leagues yet a good chunk of the rosters are players from those leagues. You make snide comments about the Empire League yet the person responsible for collecting all of the stats (you know, the still-invisible stats) as being from the Empire league, as if that lends some credibility to the equation. You claim to have insurance for injured players but you don’t get insurance against theft and/or breach of contracts, as in the case of Imperial County not providing field time and not returning pre-paid monies?

    All of this is a little hard to believe, in my opinion.

    But, on the off-chance that your league was the victim of a “perfect storm” of several unforeseen circumstances, I’d suggest that you’d be a lot less boastful and more transparent with your marketing efforts to players and their families next year.


  2. Two and a half years ago, Luke Powell was invited on the request of a former Fall league potential owner to a meeting to discuss his role and investment in a Fall league. So the “brainchild” or “concept” that he takes credit for is false. The idea has been around for at least ten years or more. The idea to form the league with all funds up front so it would not have financial problems at any point was its basis. As by what is going on presently with the Desert league makes my point. I read his reply to Kayla and it appears he is playing the victim and everyone else is at fault. There is to much “I” in his statements. Here are a couple of questions that need to be addressed.
    1. As far as the stealing that happened twice, was a police report filed? If so, with which departments? Are charges going to be pressed?
    2. As far as the houses being trashed and reeking of weed, wasn’t these dwellings ever checked on and did the league have a drug policy or testing?
    3. The league was supposed to be two months with 48 games. Why was it shortened and 7 inning doubleheaders implemented? My guess is lack of funds.
    4. I talked with a few players and they were living 20 players in a 4 bedroom house. Why did they have to buy their own air matteress to sleep on?
    All of this should have been addressed before they threw one pitch. Joseph, i agree that all players should be aware and leary of anything that this league puts out in the future, but that is my opinion.


  3. Desert League brought many players to Arizona and never delivered on the contracts that were signed or information on website was misleading.
    500 players at tryouts, not 200 as stated.
    Players weren’t paid or fed and many fended for themselves. Paying for food, lodging and transportation after being rostered.
    They were fed lies day after day, more players were brought in who were paying 300 dollars to play and getting one or two games.
    Games were cancelled because of no funds and then reduced number of games.
    Total shambles of a league…more like a Ponzi scheme….


  4. Thank you, Kayla, for posting the email. Thank you, Joseph, JT, and BS for your input. I feel better knowing I wasn’t the “crazy mom” thinking, feeling and “seeing” that something was really wrong with this “league”.


  5. they’re playing on fields that are 310 to CF & don’t have a grass infield…

    There are a lot of negative stories surrounding this Juan person and his fickle/shady character. A fair share of players & employees from that league aren’t pleased with his lack of professionalism and conduct as a man…yet he’s still associated with that league.

    A player that left on his own because of the conditions of the league was able to hook up with an affiliated club and gave the coordinator a full rundown from ‘training camp’ to the 12 back-to-back double headers with 5 fans. Bottom feeder leagues are a cesspool of slimy individuals posing as “baseball people”.


  6. BEWARE of all things to do with the Ozark league. They do not pay their bills. They will promise you your dream but….. Sound familiar? They want big bucks from you and promise contracts….sound familiar? They are just like the Desert league, using tryout funds to totally finance their league, sound familiar? Do your research before forking over $$$$. Players should not have to finance the league.


  7. With everything that has been said and done in the past 7 wks this has been one of the most unprofessional leagues in the independent baseball associations. We were all told that if you were good enough that you would be seen by Scouts, Scouts were few and far between or null. We have heard things such as lies, thievery, and some of the most unprofessional coaches out there. If I was a young baseball player I would never go apply and go play with The Desert League. This league does not promote any baseball player unless they are a favorite to someone in the so call management. To anyone out there that has dreams of making the farm league or MLB you will not get that with The Desert League. Yes, the boys have had to fend for themselves and work together to get places with one or two vehicles. Thank goodness my son drove his truck from Georgia to Arizona or his team mates may not have made it to the games. Picture this……12 guys in one truck. They all were sleeping in a two bedroom apartment on air mattresses that they had to go purchase. Also, no internet. They were told they would have internet within two to three days after arrival. NEVER HAPPENED. Some guys are still in college and are trying to finish online courses. They were having to find local places for FREE WIFI. Also, the boys were told today that The Desert League is TAPPED OUT!!!! NO MONEY, SO NO PAYMENT. This has been a real JOKE!!!
    I feel sorry for my son and the boys that are out there trying to move forward with their baseball career. They have wasted 7 wks in Arizona when they might have been able to go elsewhere and have a chance of doing so. So call TOP management and coaches, you should be ashamed of yourself for taking advantage of all of these families. If you would like to call me concerning my comments my # 404-791-3667 or 770-947-8578


    – (In anticipation of views by next year’s suckers and to save face) The newest homepage for Desert League says they offer “36 games”. So it went from 60 to 48 to 42 to 36 games by the time it was all said and done.

    – Still no stats except for one team … for half the games. Brutal.

    – Congratulations to the fall version of the Empire League who won the whole shebang in the Desert. The manager and roster for the Yuma Maple Leafs are Empire leaguers. You know, the league that Luke slammed for having lesser talent. And some how, the fall version of the Empire League throttled the other 3 talent-laden teams. (chuckle)

    – All the huffin’-and-puffin’ about being fully-financed so players don’t have to worry about getting paid seems to have been just a buncha hot air BS.


  9. Where did the finances really go? Oops i mean whose pocket. This league was semi pro at best. The players paid to tryout. The players paid to go to a BS spring training. The players paid to get to games. The players paid for their own insurance out of their meger salary. The players paid for their own bedding. Geez, sounds an awlful lot like a pay for play league, sometjing luke powell said they would never be.
    On another note, the ozark winter league that was supposed to take place in November is not going to happen either, so i heard. Players, and I’ll say it again and over and over, do your research on the Winter leagues before sending any $$$. Good luck to the players who were collateral damage of the desert league of. pay for play baseball.


    1. RE: Ozark League Canceling Their Winter Pay-to-Play League

      I hope your information is correct, JT. The Ozark organizers are unbelievably incompetent and amateurish. A junior college coach thinks he has credibility in independent baseball because why? Especially after last year’s disaster?!

      BTW, where the heck is Flordia? (ha, ha … look at all of the Ozark web sites … these jokers don’t even know how to spell Florida)


    1. JTL,

      Well, the “Winter League” posts are taken down at Ozarks Facebook page. And the “payment” buttons for their winter league at their main website don’t work.

      So it appears that Ozarks has abandoned their money-making try for a pretend winter league, even though they claimed to have a “solid plan in place that’s too good to fail”.

      Thank goodness.

      Next up, their “solid plan” that’s “too good to fail” for summer professional (chuckle) baseball — blah.


  10. Really, a 2017 desert league season! A meeting in Tucson on 12/5. All players beware of anything they put out after what occurred 2016. There are plenty of pay for pay leagues out there that will take better care of you than this group. The players should not finance their league , that is not how it is done. Do not let them take advantage of your dreams with false promises. Do your reasearch!


  11. Honestly, now that a few months has passed since I came back from the Desert League 3000$ poorer (not counting travel to and from AZ), I got spit in the face by Juan just after he admitted to stealing cash out of my wallet that I was clumpsy enough to forget to bring my wallet to the dugout one time and Luke kept me from pressing charges for that and promised me my money back but kept saying tomorrow before disappearing, he didn’t even attend the finals. The one thing that kept me from going nuts and on a killing spree was my fellow teammates and the other players, I was repeatedly told by Luke and the others that the guy fired for stealing (he was the one who recruited me) fukked me over and I did not get paid and denied to sign a contract and not to starve I had my dad wire me money more than once…


  12. See the latest desert league promotion? They changed from the fall to competing with winter pay to plays to start their season. You are still paying to get into their league via their pay for spring training. Before any player sends money to their league, make sure they have a legit sked, all fields paid for in full, and rhe money to back this. Otherwise it will fail like last season. The statement, we signef 100 players to their 1st pro contracts is false. Do your research!!!


  13. JT, I tried to communicate with Luke Powell on the Desert League FB page because it bothers me that he speaks so negatively of other leagues yet his league was a disaster. He deleted my comments and now I can not post comments. I posted this link from Indyballisland.com and it was deleted. Why deny what happened? Why not accept responsibility of a bad season, instead of bad-mouthing others?
    Thank you, Kayla.


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