It is well known that independent baseball is always changing. Leagues often move their teams from city to city for a variety of reasons: financial, attendance, expansion, etc.
We are now in the midst of the baseball off season – a time when a lot of news and rumors begin to formulate about the next playing season.
Right now, it appears as though there will be new teams in the American Association, United Shore Professional Baseball League, Pecos League, and Empire League.
New to the American Association will be the Cleburne Railroaders. The Railroaders will play at The Depot, a stadium/community event center that is currently being constructed. Cleburne, a city in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area, will take the place of the Joplin Blasters for the 2017 season. The Blasters are out of the American Association after their ownership was sued by Joplin for $12 million for a breach of contract and fraud.
After a great inaugural season, the United Shore Professional Baseball League is also looking to add a fourth team for the 2017 season. That team will also play at Jimmy John’s Field, home of the other three teams; However, 2017 may be the last season that all teams in the league play in the same stadium. Owner, Andy Appleby, is looking to expand the USPBL to the midwest in 2018 and beyond.
The Pecos League has announced that they will bring a team to Amarillo next year. The Amarillo Lone Stars, who are taking the place of the Topeka Train Robbers, will play their games at Potter County Memorial Stadium which was last used by the Texas AirHogs in the American Association this season. The AirHogs will be moving to Grand Prairie for the entire 2017 season.
And finally, the Empire League is looking to move forward as well. After a rocky and controversial season, the mistakes just seem to keep happening. Earlier this month, the league posted a press release announcing a new team in Plattsburgh, but they quickly took the story down when they realized it was “inadvertently posted.” While there have been discussions between the league and the city, nothing is official just yet.
Last month, the Empire League also announced that there will be a franchise in Puerto Rico for the 2017 season. Their goal is to have the team play their home games in Puerto Rico and all other teams would travel there to play as visitors. Since nothing is finalized and the league doesn’t seem to know exactly what they will do and where they will be in Puerto Rico, that team is supposed to play all of their games on the road until the details are straightened out.
The league will also be welcoming MLB player, Matt Joyce, as an owner. Even though he plays major league baseball, don’t expect that to translate to more money for the league’s players.
“Just because im involved doesnt mean players make more money or the league has high funding. We still rely on sponsors and advertising to fund our operations, but I bring a new level of networks at the Major League level to help bring in better sponsors and advertising partners to help execute a good league. I also bring my direct scouting and MLB recruiting networks to make the Empire league an elite developmental program that will also have players ready to play affiliated ball.” said Matt Joyce.
“The Empire League may always be a low budget league” said Eddie Gonzalez, “but with extremely high value. Players on this league should be nothing but grateful and appreciate the opportunity we provide to play ball at a pro considered level. If not they would be back at home doing nothing. Our League is not a League to make a living, its simply that last resort chance to show MLB that they truly belong.”
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