Tag Archives: mount rainier professional baseball league

Are We in for Another Summer of New Indy Leagues?

Last off season, we highlighted many independent leagues that were looking to start in 2015.  First up were the Mount Rainier Professional Baseball League (MRPBL) and the East Coast Baseball League (ECBL). Then came word of one (and then two) leagues in the Ozark, Missouri area – The Heartland of America Baseball League and The Ozarks Pro Baseball League.

Sadly, none of them were able to have an entire season in their original form. During the summer, we recapped what happened to each;  The MRPBL played for a couple of weeks but ultimately folded. The ECBL never played a game, but it was resurrected by one of the team’s owners as the North Country Baseball League. They played a full season and had some players promoted although there were still many issues to overcome due to how quickly it had to be put together.  And Ozark, Missouri didn’t see any professional baseball games this summer as neither league could work through problems to field teams.

To say the least, this summer was not a good one for independent baseball from a new league standpoint.

But as the temperatures are starting to drop, the off season and rumors of new independent leagues are just heating up.

So far, we have heard of four leagues working on debuting in 2016 – The United Shore Professional Baseball League (USPBL), The Empire League, The Desert League, and the U.S. Baseball League.

Last month, we had a Q & A with the USPBL’s Executive Director of Baseball Operations which you can find HERE. The league is looking to field three teams that will all play in the same stadium (that is currently being built) in Utica, Michigan.

The Empire League is a continuation of the North Country Baseball League. Eddie Gonzalez, who was an essential part of the NCBL, will operate as the Empires League’s Director of Baseball and Business Operations. The league will be returning to Old Orchard Beach, Maine and Watertown, New York as well as bringing new teams to Albany and Rome, New York. We are working on getting an interview with Eddie soon!

The Desert League and the U.S. Baseball League have been quieter about their 2016 plans.

The Desert League will be looking to field teams in Arizona and California for a season that runs from August through October. Their website states that:

The Desert League of Professional Baseball is a fall Independent League that will begin its inaugural season in August. The season will run from August until October with each team playing about 60 games.  All of our players will be paid.  No player will pay to play in our league.  This is true professional baseball.

We are catering to the first year pro player.  Our goal is to help players get their foot in the door of professional baseball, there for we have adopted roster rules that require each team to carry 12 rookies. If you are looking for a place to start your professional career look no further.

I have been in talks with members of the Desert League staff and will release more information as well as a Q & A when the league has officially set their plans.

And finally, the U.S. Baseball League is looking to bring baseball to Ozark, Missouri the right way. In August, we reported that Price Cutter Park in Ozark had been purchased. It appears as though that will be the future home of the U.S. Baseball League. They are working hard to get the field ready for baseball in the near future. We will also have more information when it is released as well as a Q & A with the league before the season begins.

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So You Want To Start an Indy League? The Season That Wasn’t – 2015 edition

During the off season, I posed the question, “Will There Be New Independent Leagues playing in 2015?” I took a look at two new proposed leagues, The East Coast Baseball League (ECBL) and The Mount Rainier Professional Baseball League (MRPBL) even going as far as interviewing the owners of both leagues to learn as much as possible.  The answers I received were encouraging, and I was slowly becoming optimistic for the upcoming season.

Then, I received word that another league with a unique concept, The Heartland of America Baseball League, was looking to begin. I did a question and answer session with their Director of Baseball Operations and really liked the direction the league was looking to go.  Over time, it became clear that there was a divide among members of the Heartland League. The Ozarks Pro Baseball League was then born.  The Ozarks league was created by members who just couldn’t see eye to eye with the heads of the Heartland League.

Sadly, all four of these leagues failed to last very long.  Financial problems, poor organization, lack of marketing, and more issues came together to result in all four of the leagues folding.

The ECBL brought guys into spring training but never played an official game.

The MRPBL had guys come to spring training and played official games for a couple of weeks.  It was far from glamorous, but guys were playing ball and enjoying their time in a beautiful area of the country. The players rallied together when the owner had some health issues and pushed to keep the league going as much as possible. However, the league ultimately folded.

The Heartland League could never overcome the challenges that occurred thanks to the split of the Heartland and Ozarks leagues. They had also brought players to Missouri for spring training, but they couldn’t get the money or stadiums in place to continue playing.

And finally, it looked as if the Ozarks Pro League would be getting off the ground. Players, including some who where originally supposed to be with the Heartland League, showed up and were given team assignments. They began to play games, but slowly their lack of finances became obvious. And then, the final nail in the coffin came from this post on Facebook on July 21st:

Phil Wilson has told the players to go home and wait. If we get the finances in order we will ask the players to come back, but we will send money in advance.

We made mistakes but we are not giving up, folding or anything but working hard. We were promised funding and it “will be there tomorrow” for months now.

We are working hard for the guys to have a place to play ball and show their skills. The players are going home but we are not quitting.

We will not ask players back again, ever, unless we have proper funding.

An off season that seemed to hold so much promise for indy ball really couldn’t have been much worse.

However, there is one bright spot that came out of the ECBL folding.  The Watertown Bucks’ owner, Bruce Zicari, decided to regroup other failed ECBL teams and rebrand the league as the North Country Baseball League (NCBL) with the Watertown Bucks, The Newburgh Newts, Old Orchard Beach Surge, and the Road City Explorers.

While there have been many hurdles and obstacles for the NCBL, including stadium issues that resulted in one team without a home (in addition to the already planned road team), the four teams are still playing games.  Their statistics may not always be completely up to date on their official website, but players are getting a chance to showcase their talents and are being signed to the Atlantic League and one player to the American Association at a pretty decent rate for an upstart indy league.

Survival over many years is a long shot for the NCBL, but at least Zicari is trying to keep indy baseball alive in the Northeast for the remainder of the 2015 season.

Hopefully the next time we experience such promise for independent baseball, the future owners look back on the 2015 season and learn as much as possible from the four failures that have occurred in just this year alone. This has caused a black eye for indy ball, and it may take a lot to build up the reputation of independent baseball in the future to an outsider looking in.