Tag Archives: East Coast Baseball League

East Coast Baseball League – Q & A With Owner Colin Cummins

5/20/2015 *UPDATE* The ECBL will not be going on as planned. Read all about it HERE – The East Coast Baseball League Ends Before Ever Playing a Game. 

The independent baseball world will have two new leagues looking to start up for the 2015 season.  One, the MRPBL, has previously been covered on this blog.  The other, the East Coast Baseball League, is being featured in this post.

The East Coast Baseball League (ECBL) will play in both the United States and Canada.  Currently there are four teams established, but the league is looking to add two more before the season begins in May.

I recently had the pleasure of asking the owner and league director, Colin Cummins, some questions about the league and his expectations.

What made you want to start your own independent league?

We actually looked to start out, as a single team, in the CanAm League. The CanAm thought that our area was too small, and we were turned down. So the thought of building a league was the next venture. I actually thought we were CRAZY and now look where we are.

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

Niagara Wild (Welland, ON), Waterloo Whiskey Jacks (Waterloo, ON), Newburgh Newts (Newburgh, NY) and Watertown (Watertown, NY).
We are looking to add 2 more teams by the end of next week. All of our current cities, with the exception of Waterloo, have had professional baseball before.
These cities deserve to have professional baseball in their communities. Waterloo is new to everything, but they are a baseball/sports community. I believe we can make this work.

What are your expectations for fan attendance and community involvement?

My expectations aren’t too lofty. I truly believe for our first year that if we average around 300 fans a game, we will break even. We need something to build on each year. The on field product and in game entertainment will be another decision maker for individuals, groups, families and corporate fans. It’s a building and awareness year for us.

Starting a league, finding stadiums/cities and sponsors, as well as paying players and employees seems like it could come with a hefty price tag during the beginning. We’ve seen a lot of independent leagues go dark due to finances, plus keeping professional baseball in Canada seems to be a struggle as well. Do you have any worries about that or about how you are going to finance the league?

If I said No, I would be lying. You try to come up with a strategy and run with it. I have my concerns. We are not the main users at some fields, waiting for schedules, not having control over certain aspects and lastly, not having the right finances for it all. ‎ With this being a building year, I hope to have the right people in the right places. I have some silent investors above me. We talk all the time. We don’t want to lose any money, but we understand that it takes money to make money.

Do you foresee any problems running a new independent league that operates in two countries?

I don’t know right now! We hope that everyone has a clean background. We hope that everyone is able to get a passport and can travel to and from. It’s hard to foresee things. We just have to be better than good. Even our umpires will be under that scrutiny.

How exactly does the pay system work for players? Are they given host families, transportation, and meals?

Our pay scale is $500 for rookies to $850 for a veteran. We are looking for host families. We are talking to charter bus lines or looking to purchase a bus and each player and coach will receive a $25 stipend per away game.

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

I think we will assemble a product that MLB and other indy leagues will like. I expect our coaching staffs to try and move players who deserve the opportunity and showcase the up and comers.

Have you taken any ideas/structures/rules from any other independent league when creating the ECBL?

Yes I have! These guys have helped build successful brands and leagues. I would be stupid not to take a little from here and there.

A lot of people on independent league message boards have concerns with a league owning every franchise. Do you see this as a problem now or even further down the road?

I don’t want to own every team. I would like to have an owner for every team. But if that is not possible right away, then the league will help out until we can find a potential owner. We are looking for owners, and we have had talks with a variety of potentials. It comes down to the right fit. You don’t just give ownerships away because there is money. The right fit needs to be involved.

The track record for new independent leagues isn’t very good. What are you doing to ensure that your league sticks around for the long run?

Hopefully, not follow the same path. Find successful ownerships, (the right fits), let the communities know we are there for them, market the brand properly, advertise properly and know your demographics. ‎LISTEN and LEARN.

I know that you have been working with the Myrtle Beach Winter League. Can you tell me how that is going? Are you planning on signing players from that league for the ECBL?

I put on the Myrtle Beach Winter League. We offered 16 contracts to players and offered 10 spring training invites. It was a learning experience for me. I made mistakes and will look back and say: I did it and I learned.

Is there anything else that you would like the readers to know about you and the ECBL?

Come and catch a game or two. We hope to surprise you!! Good eats, good treats, affordable and fun.

 I would like to thank Colin Cummins for his time and his honest answers. As with any start up league, it may be an uphill battle, but I truly hope to see the league succeed. It is nice to see Independent baseball alive and growing.
You can check out the ECBL website HERE.

The United League Folds – What Does That Mean For Indy Ball?

United League Baseball: “Where Dreams Come True.”

Those dreams have now turned into a nightmare.

Yesterday, according to the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings Facebook, the United League Baseball (ULB) announced that they would be folding after seven seasons.  

This comes as no surprise to people within the baseball world as there has always been financial struggles and obstacles with the ULB.

The league started in 2006 with six teams.  This lasted five seasons until they became the North American League in 2011 (merging with the Golden Baseball League and the Northern League to create ten teams.) After two seasons, the North American League folded due to traveling and financial issues.

In 2013, the ULB was once again reestablished with six teams originally competing in the league; However, two teams (McAllen Thunder and the Alexandria Aces) had been forced to cease operations during the season. For the start of the 2014 season, the Edinburg Roadrunners could not put a team together in time and had to be replaced by the Brownsville Charros. This was only the beginning of their problems.

Over the last few months, the league has been in the headlines for all of the wrong reasons.

In addition to the growing complaints from players of poor conditions, treatment, and lack of pay (much like reports from players within the Pecos League), the United League also landed in the news for much bigger issues.

In July, the San Angelo Colts filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and moved their final eight home games to other ULB stadiums in August.  That did not matter as much since the entire league’s schedule ended nine days earlier than originally planned. The season finished completely with a best of five Championship Series between the Fort Worth Cats and the Rio Grande Valley White Wings. The White Wings would ultimately go on to sweep the Cats in three games to become the last ULB champions.

The problems continued to grow during the off season. In November, the Fort Worth Cats were asked to leave their ballpark, LaGrave Field, by the City of Fort Worth.

In December, the Colts bankruptcy saga continued.  A motion was filed in Dallas to either dismiss their original Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing or change it to Chapter 7. This also brought the news that the Colts had $714,034 in unsecured debt and that the IRS also had a secured claim against the club of $28,000.

The main reason for all of the financial problems within the ULB could be due to (the lack of) attendance.  The league as a whole averaged only 734 fans per game. The best team in terms of attendance, The Fort Worth Cats, managed an average of 1,160 fans per game, and the worst, the San Angelo Colts, only had an average of 383 fans attend each game. The White Wings and Charros also had to share the same stadium. While the White Wings official average attendance is listed at 608, there is no actual attendance data listed for the Charros..

All of these cities have large populations, but fan support for the ULB teams was practically non-existent. On paper, Fort Worth, San Angelo, and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas all look like nice markets to tap into, but it was just too difficult to bring fans to the ballparks.

What does all of this mean for independent baseball?

Well, it now means that roughly 100 players (average of 25 players for each of the 4 teams) as well as many coaches are now free agents and looking for a place to call home for the 2015 season. Some of these players may come to the realization that their dreams of playing baseball are over. But on the other hand, it forces the good players from the ULB to essentially try out for better independent teams and move up the indy ball ranks. The American Association, Atlantic League, Can-Am, and Frontier League are all still going strong.

One good thing for these players could be the creation of the Mt. Rainier Professional Baseball League (MRPBL) and the East Coast Baseball League (ECBL). Both independent leagues hope to be operating for the 2015 season.  While the MRPBL rosters are filling out nicely, there are still many open roster spots available. The ECBL is still forming teams and adding players every day. (I talked about these leagues here: New Leagues in 2015, but I hope to have updated posts about both in the upcoming weeks.)

The folding of the United League can also serve as a lesson for other independent leagues, especially for the Pecos League and the two new leagues looking to break in.  If you don’t have the fan support to back your teams, no matter how large the market you are playing in, you stand to lose a lot financially. No league can continue to operate and pay their players adequately with minimal attendance.

Players were also growing increasingly fed up with the ULB and how the league was being ran. The Pecos League may want to watch what they are doing closely if they don’t want more players to speak out and leave their league for leagues who treat their players better. (You can read Pecos League horror stories here: The Pecos League Exposed)

There will always be guys who want to continue to play baseball and keep their dreams alive, but without better conditions and more support, there won’t always be an endless supply of money to keep these lower independent leagues running. Historically, it is really difficult for independent leagues to stay in operation.

Only time will tell if the Pecos League will continue to operate through all of its issues, or if the Mt. Rainier Professional Baseball League and East Coast Baseball League will get off the ground and stick around the indy ball scene for years to come. But with the added coverage and increasing player signings from the independent league ranks, there’s never been a better time to follow indy ball.