Recently, Indy Ball Island introduced the Thoroughbred Baseball League. The league, based out of Lexington, KY, is looking to start for the 2017 season. Due to the recent failures of many startup independent baseball leagues, many readers and players were looking for answers.
Below is our Q & A interview with the owner/commissioner of the Thoroughbred League, Dallas Murphy. Murphy was prompt and detailed with his answers which is always a promising sign for a new league.
How did the idea of the Thoroughbred League come about?
The idea of the league came about by my vast experience in the game. I have managed or coach baseball at all levels up through college. I have also coached in the team USA NTIS program as well as conducted over 2600 tournament games from 8u- College. I have constructed 6 baseball complex fields as well as 2 baseball schools and developed the complex in its entirety from ground breaking through now where the Thoroughbred League will host all games. I usually make a business move when I see a need in a market. The need I see in the professional independent baseball market is that there are 1000s of great guys and great baseball players that never get a shot. I am tired of ” he’s too short, he’s too tall, he’s too slow, he’s too little, he didn’t go to the correct school, he doesn’t have PRO EXPERIENCE” and so on and so on the list is endless. There are guys that deserve a chance and I hope and believe that the Thoroughbred League is designed to either help guys get that first chance or even second or third chance, the opportunity to be better, get seen and move up. The key to my last statement is move up not sideways not back but up.
How many teams/players will be in the league?
There will be 6 teams in the league each with a 25 man roster. Therefore 150 total players. The drafting of how many players of each position and so forth are left to the discretion of the mangers.
Are all teams going to play at the same complex, and are you confident that the complex will be adequate for professional teams all season long – field upkeep, financial situation, contract for use, etc.?
The fields and complex will withstand the abuse to be taken by professional use. This complex was designed first with the fields and their playing surface in mind. The 2 fields in particular which the pro games will be held have artificial turf ( SPRINT TURF) Infields and a wonderful grass blend for all seasons on the outfields. The staff of the park not only deals with these 2 fields but 4 additional fields in the complex where youth tournaments are held as well as a full size Bermuda field which will be used by the league for BP and practice. The situation of finances for this park are not a issue as the park is held by my family with no payments of any type due for the next 18 months including taxes, or insurance which we have paid in advance prior to beginning this venture.
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?
I know a lot of leagues teams etc have went dark due to money issues which is why in my last answer we have taken care of major expenses before hand. Based on past experience basically the back side of or baseball softball operations more than fund any potential issues i.e I run one of the most experienced travel baseball/softball tournament venues in KY. The biggest thing we set out to do was help these guys and have made sure whatever we need to do the league was taken care of before we turned the website on.
What age and experience are you looking for with your players? Are there roster limits on age/experience?
Each team will have 25 rostered players, there is not an age limit or experience level required. However, I personally review all material gathered on each potential camp participant. I know its judgmental but if we don’t feel a potential camp participant has an opportunity to make a team their application will be denied. Thus far we have had to turn down to date 17 players and they were told that this doesn’t appear to be a good path for them. We have had applicants who have stated they have zero experience or only played high school baseball 10 years ago and no further experience. I WILL NOT intentionally accept these guys money. We are looking for guys who love the game and have a passion to experience this life. Guys who as stated before might have missed something or been overlooked. Something different about our league is that we by our bylaws must have 6 players per team with zero professional experience. I have watched many such tryouts and many different organizations only pay attention to guys with pro experience, I don’t feel this is fair, each guy should be evaluated fairly. having less than 60 pro at bats does not make you a rookie. You can be drafted by the MLB and go to rookie ball and have less than 60 pro at bats. Is that guy a rookie? I think not, a rookie is a rookie and this is one way we are different.
Your website lists tryout information and a training camp fee. Are all players who pay the fee guaranteed a spot on a team? Are all players going to be signed from the training camp, or will some be signed prior (and get to avoid the fee)?
All players no matter what are to attend training camp. All players even if they played for the NY Yankees on the main team will pay the $590 fee. There may be players on each roster who are pre camp protected by a manager, however a minimum of 18 players per team must be drafted from camp. Only 2 managers are taking advantage of this rule however, therefore 4 of the six teams will be completely drafted from camp, and each player whether a protect or not let me reiterate will pay the camp fee. This is only fair.
How exactly does the pay system work? Will there be varying pay for rookies and veterans, and what is the pay rate for each?
Payroll and insurance: The payroll is a major issue to me, these guys have told me story after story, and this is so important to all involved in this process. The payroll is to be ran differently by us than most places. Web are using ADP a nationwide payroll processing company whom we use for our regular employees. ADP will issue every coach as well as player a payroll visa card and as we do our weekly payroll players will have their money deposited automatically. I have also worked a situation with 2 local banks that the guys can use their atm’s free of charge. This way there is no hunting, begging , pleading to get paid. Additionally, and this one is big WE HAVE ALL EMPLOYEES INCLUDING PLAYERS COVERED BY WORKER’S COMPENSATION, this is the LAW of Kentucky. I know this is a major part of caring for my guys and one of the first things done. Players pay range from 400-600 per month and is based on manger recommendation, each team has a budget and all team budgets are based on parody within the league.
What does the housing situation look like? Will housing and/or host families be provided for players, or will they have to find and pay for their own?
Host families who are pre-screened are provided, some of the guys have indicated that they do not want to stay with a family they don’t know therefore I have worked deals with local hotels at a greatly discounted rate for guys to pair up. If they don’t want a host family they will be charged themselves for the discounted hotels. I am telling everyone now though these guys are not staying in crack houses, these guys are not sleeping in cars, these guys are not on their own. I have children of my own, I can’t I won’t put these men in a situation that I would not put my own child in. That comment may not carry any weight but I take this very serious. I mean if you are hungry, if you are tired, if you are stressed about your money how can you be expected to perform at your best. This point is very important for us all and this will not be a problem here.
Will players stats be posted on a reputable website (Baseball Reference, PointStreak, etc.)?
Another issue is that our guys stats will be posted via Point Streak. These guys need the stats and need them kept correctly otherwise why do this. Stats stats stats, that’s what gets you moved. Your consistent performance, is all important to coaches and owners. Using a reliable source for our stats was also a very important part of building a successful league. Next our stats will be tracked per pitch and per at bat. Live stats and game tracking will occur every game every time without exception. You can’t help guys move up if the stats are 3 weeks behind or never occur at all.
Do you expect the players to get a fair look from scouts with a chance to move up to affiliated ball?
Why come here if you won’t be seen. Well Central KY is a hot bed for baseball talent, additionally, there are 3-4 signing scouts which live locally and 14, as far as I can identify affiliate scouts. I have been assured that the way we are running the league will make it convenient for their regular attendance. Some of our Mangers and coaches currently have guys they have coached in the big leagues as well as several who are former players their contacts alone dwarf most leagues scouting potential. The men we have chosen to manage and coach have not only the experience but the contacts to not just get our players seen but seen consistently. This level of baseball is not about just playing but moving up, that’s all our goals. The managers in this league have been instructed to coach not watch games, they have been instructed to help guys train, fix problems and move up. Not all players will get a shot at a level above us but it will not be for lack of effort on everyone in this organizations part.
What are your expectations for fan attendance and community involvement?
The fun part of this league will be seeing the kids fans and families at the park watching these guys perform at the game they love. I’ve been told some indy ball games might have 25 patrons including the fans pets who tag along. This is one thing that will not be the case here. Our normal back side of the park tournaments range from 900-1500 fans per day. This year we have been able to create excitement by combining the normal tournament fees or tickets with a ticket to our pro games. The schedule basically works out to where the youth are finishing each day in time to come up front and watch our guys get after it. Also this doesn’t include the fact that based on a preliminary impact study we are expected to have an average attendance initially of 800-1000 regular fans based on market survey. I think the guys are going to become part of a wonderful community setting and all will be well received.
Is there anything else you want the readers to know about yourself and the Thoroughbred Baseball League?
I don’t know what else to say. Everyone involved in the League, believes we have cared first for the guys and their welfare., Next we are providing great instruction in a wonderful environment. The things we have witnessed improper is not the way a pro league should be ran, we believe we have fixed before the web site was turned on. I and all of us take this extremely seriously, I will not cost these men a season! Every guy who comes here has a clock ticking, time is short to make it. For some its too late. We are here to give those who choose to try with us what we believe is the best situation to excel.
I want to thank Dallas Murphy for answering all of my questions and giving readers as well as potential players an inside look at the league! For more information on the league or to sign up for training camp – check out their official website HERE.