For the last few months, I have posted updates on the Desert League, an independent league that is looking to be the only indy league running in the off season.
Recently, it has come to our attention, thanks to Richard Hopkins, that the idea for a fall independent baseball league in Arizona has been going on before the Desert League was created; However, those plans have never been officially put into place.
Hopkins sent us an email with his backstory about a fall league:
The idea of a fall independent league came from I believe Sandy Alderson, in 1997 or 1998. He wrote letters to cities in Arizona that had fields available, looking for host cities. One went to the City of Buckeye. The city manager at the time gave me the letter and asked me to follow up as I was the ‘baseball guy.’ The idea was to have each independent league have an all star type team so the players had a chance to get seen by scouts in town for the Arizona Fall League.
After a couple of years, he gave up and wished us well in trying to get this going. It has been worked on continually since then by myself, Richard Hopkins. Jim Hayes joined the effort about 10 years ago. We made presentations to the Brawley City Council and the San Luis mayor and a councilman or two. After each, we were taken to a local baseball game, one a Mexican league game played in San Luis, and introduced to the crowd as those bringing baseball to their community.
As Jim Hayes and I have worked on this for about 10 years or so, others come and go. Someone referred Luke Powell to us 2 years ago or so, and we invited him to one meeting in Yuma. He kept pushing for us to call this the Desert League and make it a pay to play league. Jim and I have always insisted this be an independent league. He took it on himself to do a website called the Desert League ‘for us,’ even though the league was called Arical Professional Baseball League. I filed the paperwork with the Arizona Secretary of State late in 2013. The LLC was formally accepted August 2014 after I finally got around to publishing the articles in a local newspaper.
We have worked our butts off and every time we are just about ready to go, something comes up from prior leagues (Yuma), field usage (Brawley), field costs (Goodyear), and the sour taste former leagues in AZ have left with cities all over.
We do not want to fail miserable like other recent independent leagues in Arizona. As such, Arical requires the first year budget be deposited up front in escrow so that the league will not fold in 3 weeks or halfway through, and be able to pay the bills all year. The fields will also be paid in full up front. All players will be paid a monthly salary and be covered by insurance as well. Ours will not be a pay to play league.
This is but another set back in a long line of setbacks, but this is something new. From what I have been reading, the Desert League appears to have stolen our proprietary business plans and ideas, as well as cities we have met with as Arical. Luke Powell is no longer affiliated with Arical Professional Baseball League LLC.
Here are some newspaper articles. The first is from the West Valley View of June 22, 2006.
Minor league baseball likely to return to W.V.
Thu, 06/22/2006 – 5:00pm
Richard Hopkins, who’s spent the better part of the summer thus far assisting with scouting for the U.S Women’s World Cup baseball team, soon may see another of his diamond-based endeavors come to fruition.
It’s called the Baja League, and if the remaining wrinkles in the planned independent baseball league are ironed out, play could begin in September with as many as six teams scattered throughout the Southwest U.S.
The West Valley team would be based in Buckeye, Goodyear or Maryvale, depending on which municipality can most efficiently provide stadium usage.
“Buckeye Main Street finally may be ready to fix the field in Buckeye so we can play there, like we’ve been trying to get for the last five years,” Hopkins said.
The remaining teams most likely would include another from Arizona, San Luis, and several from California, possibly Palm Springs, El Centro and Indio. The sixth team would be based in Tecate, Mexico.
“Basically, it’s all going to be the Southwest U.S. because we can play here in the fall,” Hopkins said.
Games would be scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, and then Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On the off days, teams will travel or play exhibition games vs. teams from other leagues.
Starting in September not only gives the league more time to reach the necessary agreements with local cities and towns, it also should mean a higher quality of play.
“We hope to attract the players that have just been released from Class A, Class AA, Class AAA, because that all ends about Labor Day,” Hopkins said. “The other independent leagues in the U.S. end about that time, so we figured we could get them in the fall and that way it would be the best of the best.”
Games most likely would run through the weekend before Thanksgiving, but exact schedules, along with many other league details, remain to be finalized.
Another from 2014, in the Yuma Sun.
As one can plainly see, the efforts for a fall independent league have been going on for more than 2 years.
If all of this sounds similar to another story last summer, that’s because it is. It mirrors the issues that occurred between the Ozark Pro Baseball League and the Heartland of America Baseball League. As readers may remember, neither league had a season.
It has been heavily documented how difficult it is to start an independent baseball league. Will either of these leagues start and be successful? Only time will tell. Stay tuned for further information!
(For clarification purposes, the Desert League we have been reporting about is not and never was going to be a “pay to play” league as stated in Hopkins story.)