Tag Archives: Newburgh Newts

The NCBL’s Road City Explorers GM Issues Press Release

As reported yesterday, the North Country Baseball League (NCBL) has folded after just one season.

Below is the official press release from Robert Babiak, the former GM of the Road City Explorers of the NCBL:

I firstly would like to thank Bruce Zicari for the opportunity he gave me this summer. Without him my roster, coaches and I would have gone without a job this season. The North Country Baseball League was formed over the span of a few days to save the season for the players. Thanks to the efforts of Bruce Zicari and Eddie Gonzalez a league was able to be established and I was given the opportunity to be the General Manager of the Road City Explorers.

Without this effort there wouldn’t have been a place for 88 athletes and coaches to play professional baseball. The leagues goal was to help and promote players, which it did very well. Those with discontent with how the league ran are forgetting the fact that they wouldn’t have had a job. While, there were struggles through the season, there was a season. Mr. Zicari went out of pocket to fund 3 other teams, something that he did not have to do, but did because he wanted to help those wronged by the East Coast Baseball League folding.

Independent baseball is a very difficult business to operate. The margins are very tight and the business has to be run very effectively in order to be sustainable. It takes years of planning to have a successful team, let alone an entire league. The NCBL had significant financial losses due to how fast the league had to be put together and how poorly the ECBL had operated in the new markets. The front office of the league worked endlessly to try and generate revenue for the league.

One of the biggest issues we had was ending up with two travel clubs. I had said from the beginning that placing a team in Newburgh was a terrible idea, based on crime in the city alone. When the coaches arrived in Newburgh there was not a mound and nothing had been done front office wise. Coach Guinn and the team had to do the majority of the field preparation. The league had planned to leave the market well ahead of the league being informed that the ECBL’s check for the facility had bounced.

With only two home teams, the possibility of the league breaking even was slim. The front office looked into every possible market to place a team. The issue is if a stadium is available the market is probably poor or hosts summer collegiate baseball. Every possible market for expansion was investigated. Trust me, if there were two viable markets for the NCBL to place teams they would have. Just because a market is open doesn’t mean a team will be successful. All possible markets did not meet the Triple Bottom Line. The league chose not to operate because it consulted with sport professionals and a second season was not feasible. Folding the league was the responsible thing to do. There are no good markets left in the northeast that don’t already have teams and placing teams in bad markets would be a disservice.

When the league was formed everyone involved was told that pay wouldn’t be the same and if someone was not happy with it they could leave at any time. It shouldn’t have been a shock to anyone the way the league ran. Now, I am in no way saying I am pleased with how the league ran but let’s be rational. Those players or coaches that were successful in the NCBL are not complaining. I am sure that the 22 players that got a chance in a higher league aren’t overly upset about how things went. Not to be repetitive but there could have been no baseball. At the end of the day this all happened because Colin Cummins never had the money to operate a league.
I wish all those who participated in the NCBL the best of luck in their future baseball endeavors.

Robert Babiak
– Former GM of the Road City Explorers


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.