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.”