Tag Archives: Baseball Winter Leagues

The Desert League and CWL Reach An Agreement

On December 8th, the Desert League officially announced an agreement with the California Winter League (CWL).  The post, which was put on Facebook, stated:

Important! After reaching an agreement with the California Winter League the Desert League has cancelled the 2018 season.  We have negotiated an agreement with the California Winter League for all of our players to attend the CWL at a discounted rate. The number for the CWL is 760 778 4487. We are also refunding money that has been paid for the 5 day tryout camp and the Developmental League. For more details and instructions on getting your refund processed please visit us at http://www.desertleague.com

I reached out to both Luke Powell, owner of the Desert League, and Andrew Starke, president of the CWL, to find out just what the agreement means for players.

Luke Powell:

*Luke stated that he could not go into detail about how the agreement came about, but answered all my other questions.*

  1. Why did you think it was in your best interest to make a deal?


The Desert League is played in Arizona but I live in North Dakota. John Guy is my right-hand man in Arizona and takes care of all the leg work for the Desert League. This year John has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and battled several other health problems. It’s been very hard for him to get done with a lot of things that we needed to get done. He is the only person I trust to do the job and without him we can’t operate this year.  I made the deal with the CWL because I didn’t want the players to have a bad experience like they have had in so many other indy leagues. I wanted to do it the right way or no way.


  1. The Desert League always made a big deal about the fact that it paid their players and wasn’t a pay to play league, why are you now encouraging players to go that route?


There are no other indy leagues that pay baseball players in January. If a player wants to play that time of the year, then they have to do a pay to play league, and if they’re going to pay to play baseball… I’m going to recommend the best pay-for-play league there is, and that’s hands down the CWL.


  1. What do you think the benefits will be for these players who take the chance at the CWL?


The players that attend the CWL will have a chance to play daily in front of tons of scouts from both MLB and multiple Indy organizations. And unlike the AWL (Arizona Winter League), the CWL has an official affiliation with the Frontier League. A player will get more expose in the CWL than any other winter league.

Andrew Starke:

1. How did the idea for the deal come about, and what was the final deal that was made?

Back in October, Luke Powell was driving through Palm Springs from LA to Phoenix. We sat down with him in our office to clear the air and talk about the industry in general. We had some questions about what made Luke so upset with the CWL and he had some questions about where we got some of the information that we had about housing and payment for players in the Desert League. The conversation was pretty straightforward and relaxed and after both parties had the answers to their questions, we discussed the industry in general and agreed that there was a misinformation on certain aspects of one another’s businesses. Close to Thanksgiving, we learned that Luke was frustrated about the way that his 2018 season was coming together and he was not happy with the options he had at that time in order to field a 4 team league in 2018. During these conversations, we learned that Luke also operates his own, successful business in the oil industry and he simply could not devote the time necessary to the Desert League in order to operate it in the manner which he envisioned it being operated.

We discussed several options with Luke about what to do before ultimately coming to an agreement that would see any Desert League player who was under contract, or was to attend their tryout camp or development league, have the opportunity to attend the 2018 California Winter League at a discounted rate. Luke wanted to make sure that his players had somewhere to go in January, and while the CWL is a more expensive options than the Desert League for players, we agreed on a price that was close to the same daily rate that players would have paid for training camp (which did not include housing) or the developmental league. Our price is higher because we include housing, food, etc. in Palm Springs, CA for 28 days during peak tourist season.

While I am sure some players will not be willing or able to come up with the difference in price between now and the start of the CWL on January 22nd, Luke wanted to make sure that they had a realistic option at a price point that could be justified. We wanted to make sure that we did not miss an opportunity to discuss the CWL with the dozens of players who were committed to the Desert League. So the agreement made sense for both parties.

2. In what ways do you think this is going to benefit players (ones from the Desert League and ones who were already attending the CWL)?

For players who were set to participate in the Desert League, this deal will give them a chance to continue pursuing professional baseball. There are not many options for baseball players to play in front of managers and scouts who are looking to sign players in January and February. This agreement, and the timing of the announcement of the cancellation of the Desert League season, gives players a realistic alternative to play in front of representatives from MLB, the Frontier League, the American Association, the Atlantic League, the Baseball Challenge League in Japan (who we just announced an agreement with), the United Shores League, and the Pacific Association. It’s more exposure than they would have received in the Desert League. We want to offer exposure to many different types of professional leagues in 2018 so players can still find contract offers regardless of age or experience level.

Playing in front of managers and scouts from all of these different leagues for a month will, in my opinion, offer Desert League players much more exposure than they may have received otherwise. As far as the benefit to players already attending the CWL, a late surge in player registrations would allow us to add more teams to the CWL schedule and hire more managers or scouts to coach those teams. More managers and scouts on staff at the CWL means more organizations represented who are looking to sign players.

That really is the main benefit, at this point. We will still ensure that the level of play is respectable and require that all players, including those from the Desert League, have previous college or professional experience.

3. How is this going to affect your league and the competition for contracts/roster spots for regular summer leagues?

Well hopefully we can add more teams and bring out managers from more independent league teams who want to sign players. That would be a real positive at this late stage. We’re not sure at this point what type of response we will see after the news about the Desert League and how it will affect the number of players we have this year. If we only receive a small influx of players, than it will not affect things much at all competition wise.

If we receive a great deal of interest and many players register, then we will look at bringing out more coaches who have the ability to sign players for their organizations. We will not, under any circumstances, have rosters that are larger than 22 or so players per team and we will make sure that we have as many teams and leagues represented out here as possible in January. Our goal is to get as many players signed as possible and historically, teams will sign maybe 2-5 players from the CWL. So the more players who register, the more teams we have, the more coaches we need to manage those teams, which hopefully leads to more contracts signed. That’s our goal.


Q & A with the California Winter League


Recently, the General Manager of the California Winter League (CWL), Peter Wagoner, reached out to me to discuss their upcoming season.

To clear up any questions and concerns potential players had, we decided to do a Q & A for Indy Ball Island.

Below are some frequently asked questions gathered from potential players along with the General Manager’s answers.

When did the league begin?

The first California Winter League season was in 2010.

Where is the league held?

The league operates in Palm Springs, California.

When will the league take place this year?

The 2017 California Winter League runs from January 16th until February 12th.

How many teams/players are there?

The amount of teams depends on how many players we have. We try to stay to about 20-22 man rosters. This year we will be around 250 players and therefore a 12 team league.

How many games does each team play (average amount of ABs or IPs per player)?

The number of games is also impacted by the amount of players/teams we have in the league. This year, we have 16 regular season games and at least one guaranteed playoff game. We do mix in off days during the league. This helps keep pitching fresh but also allows for instruction as well as networking between players and coaches/scouts.

What is the cost for each player?

The total cost of the league is $3500 (price has not increased in the 5 years I’ve been here). We do offer various discounts depending on player experience and when they register. For example, if a player registers before June, the cost is $2500.

What all is included in that cost?

The price includes housing (timeshare condos primarily and then hotels), two meals a day (breakfast and lunch), transportation while in Palm Springs (we hire a bus company to shuttle players to and from housing, the facility and…), a gym membership, equipment (bats, baseballs, uniforms, etc.). The price also includes field rentals, insurance costs as well as instructor fees since we do have to pay coaches and scouts to be a part of the league.

Who are some of your instructors and scouts and what teams/leagues are they affiliated with?

We have our 2017 instructor list posted on the website (you can see the list HERE). We work with every major independent league. That includes the Frontier League, American Association, Can Am, Atlantic League, the United Shore Professional Baseball League as well as the Pacific Association. We also have 10+ affiliated organizations here every year as well.

How many players are signed (on average) out of your league each year?

This number can change year to year depending on how many players are in the league and the quality of the players but we’ve been consistently between 75 and 100 players the last few years.

What exactly is the extent of your deal with the Frontier League?

Our relationship with the Frontier League (FL) is a mutually beneficial one. It provides the FL with a way to see a large number of players, particularly rookies, they might not otherwise. They have a rookie requirement of 11 players, which is a large portion of their roster. The majority of our players are recent college graduates, or have minimal professional experience, so it’s a good pairing for both the FL and the player. The FL has taken 98 players from the CWL in the last two years.

A lot of guys get signed to spring training contracts, but it’s much harder to stay on a roster afterwards. Is it really worth it as a player to spend the money to go to a winter league such as yours? Which players benefit the most from attending?

That is the nature of baseball for sure. Nothing is guaranteed. However, the CWL puts players in the best position to succeed. In 2015, the CWL gave you the best chance of playing in the FL. There were more guys from the CWL that played in a regular season game than players drafted at the FL open tryout or that were brought in by coaches. When our players do get released, they often get picked up by another one of the coaches that instructed in our league. And for the guys that do get released without playing a game, most likely they were afforded an opportunity that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. With that being said, we’ve had roughly 500 contract offers in 7 years from 18 different affiliated organizations and various independent leagues. We had 10 guys playing in affiliated ball last year alone. The league is worth it for anyone that is interested in playing professional baseball. We can be your foot in the door or the means to get you to the next level.

Winter ball is not for everyone. There are costs associated with putting on a league of this magnitude and not every player is going to be able to afford it. For those that can, we offer the best winter baseball experience in the country hands down. It’s run well and it shows. I know through the conversations I have with former and prospective players as well as indy and affiliated organizations that people believe in what we do, and more importantly, in how we do it.

Last year, Indy Ball Island followed players signed out of the CWL. You can see the original signings HERE and our Mid-Season update HERE

We also plan on following the 2017 signings in the upcoming months. Please subscribe to avoid missing out!