Ottawa and Montreal: Baseball histories aren’t too far off

Both Ottawa and Montreal have very similar baseball histories, not differing far from each other (source)

Both Ottawa and Montreal have very similar baseball histories, not differing far from each other (source)

The city of Montreal just endured a baseball renaissance as the Toronto Blue Jays brought the final leg of their spring training to the Olympic Stadium.

Even though the Blue Jays have installed this Montreal series against the New York Mets as a way to expand their national footprint, the series has morphed into a celebration of Montreal baseball history, with Expos greats being honoured and Friday night’s game being dedicated to Gary Carter.

All in all, the weekend has re-opened the conversation of baseball in Montreal and the return of the Expos. Will it happen? It’s tough to say, with so many unknown answers at the moment. However while the weekend in Montreal hasn’t done much to solidify the return of the MLB, it has definitely gotten people talking about it.

The city that was arguably effected the most by the demise of baseball in Montreal, other than Montreal itself, was Ottawa.

Once the Lynx severed ties with the legendary Expos franchise ending a 10-year affiliation that couldn’t have been articulated any better, their own health was doomed to failure. 4 years later, the team relocated into another sublime environment – Allentown, Pennsylvania; where the now IronPigs continue to find success.

The consistencies don’t stop there either. Both the Lynx and the Expos struggled to make the postseason in their stretches, which didn’t help the success at the box office.

For many teams, winning is essential. There are very few sports organizations that can get away with constant losing. If the team in question isn’t called the Toronto Maple Leafs or the New York Yankees, they’ll have a tough time.

In Ottawa, the Lynx were extremely successful early, winning a championship in their 3rd season. However after that season, the Expos prospect pool weakened which sent the Lynx into a downward spiral.

The following is from a 2010 piece by Todd Devlin chronicling the history of baseball in Ottawa.

By 1996, the honeymoon was officially over.

To make matters worse, that year saw the tide turn on the field as well, as the Lynx plummeted in the standings. After posting a 215-211 record, along with a pair of post-season appearances and a league title during their first three years, the team proceeded to spend four of the next five seasons in the IL East basement, compiling a dismal 295-415 record (.415 winning percentage) during that span.

In 2000, the Lynx hit rock bottom, finishing with a franchise-worst 53-88 record.

A losing team will nearly always drive fans away. And that was certainly the case in Ottawa.

In the first three post-championship seasons, attendance at Lynx games saw a remarkably steady — yet significant — decline, dropping an average of 22.6% per season. In 1997, just four years after breaking a 46-year-old attendance record, the Lynx dropped to last place in the league (average crowd of 4,165 per game). Sadly, that was a distinction the team held each and every year until the franchise moved to Pennsylvania 10 years later.

It was a remarkable decline – one that didn’t stumble too far from that of their major league affiliate in Montreal.

The parallels don’t stop at the team’s on-field play either. Looking at the struggle to find a suitable owner to return a major league team to Montreal, the similar problem arose when the Ottawa group Champions of Ottawa Baseball was looking to bring a new, affiliated ball-club to Ottawa.

While the cost of renovating Ottawa Stadium was simply too much for taxpayers, another heavy issue was the lack of a local owner, or a majority investor after Nolan Ryan’s group backed out from bringing what I was told would be a Texas Rangers affiliate to the ballpark on Coventry Road.

But let’s not forget the Stadium issue as well. The unreasonable cost to bring Ottawa Stadium up to Double-A standards draws parallels with the very ballpark that Lynx players aspired to play at.

When built, the Olympic Stadium was the most costly ballpark in history. It housed the opening ceremonies of an Olympic games. At the opening of the 1976 games, Olympic Stadium was a state-of-the-art shrine to sport.

Ottawa Stadium was similar in proportion to Olympic Stadium in terms of quality, only its grand stage was the International League. During the inaugural campaign of the Ottawa Lynx, JetForm Park was the nicest ballpark in the league. It was highly regarded as a model for other ballparks to follow.

Today, however, we have seen the stock of both stadiums take a drastic dive.

Olympic Stadium is referred to by many as a white elephant that is in dire need of renovations and structural improvements, while Ottawa Stadium requires hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring it up to standard for any type of entertainment-based baseball.

Both of these cities require a facelift to be considered for the level of baseball that they are ready to endure. The only difference, which is fairly substantial, comes in the status of the two cities as a host to baseball.

Ottawa is currently in a much better situation that the former home of the Expos, with a minor league team lined up in the Can-Am League. However, with a grassroots effort already present, Montreal appears to be on its way to one day hosting baseball again.

Hopefully, both Ottawa and Montreal experience a shift in the tide and baseball will find its way back onto the front burner, just as it was 90 years ago.

Can-Am/AA merger: New opportunities emerge

American Association logo (source)

American Association logo (source)

There has been chatter over the viability of the Can-Am League in the past couple years.

Since the Worcester Tornadoes went through issues with their stadium lease and player salaries and the number of teams has dipped below the number 6, the league has been battling critics who continuously question the future of one of the longer standing independent professional baseball leagues in the world, dating back to its days as the Northeast League.

More fuel was added to the fire in late November when Miles Wolff announced the league would not operate independently in 2014, merging with the American Association.

The American Association already covered a large geographic area before the merger was announced, with teams in 3 divisions ranging from Winnipeg, Manitoba all the way down to Amarillo, Texas. Now adding the Can-Am ‘division’ to the circuit, it’s clear that the AA is the dominant indy league on the continent.

Here is a portion of the official press release from the office of Miles Wolff:

Durham, N.C. — Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball commissioner Miles Wolff announced on Wednesday that the league will play as one of four divisions in the American Association for the 2014 season. Can-Am League players will also participate in the American Association All Star Game, to be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on July 29, and interleague play between the two leagues will continue for a third season.

Four teams will make up the Can-Am League in 2014: the Quebec Capitales and Trois-Rivieres Aigles from the province of Quebec; the New Jersey (Montclair) Jackals; and the Rockland Boulders of Pomona, N.Y. The Newark Bears will not operate in 2014.

As the release mentions, the Newark Bears will not field a team in the Can-Am League next season. This is essentially the reason that the merger is taking place. Logically, it wouldn’t make sense to field a 4-team league with a 100-game schedule, so this move is the right one.

It is most likely not a bad idea to move away from affiliation with the Newark Bears organization. The team has been a staple of independent baseball since 1999, but since then has experienced a steady decline in attendance, with the average tallying as low as 453 this year and 668 in 2012.

When Ottawa baseball fans heard that they were getting an expansion franchise in the Can-Am League, I’m sure they opened up Google and did some research. At least, that’s what any knowledgeable fan would do.

The first thing that many of them saw were clearly the attendance numbers of the Bears, as the first reaction for many was “Ha! The teams in this league draw 400 people! It’s a beer league!”

Point is, it’s a good thing for Wolff and his mecca of independent baseball to not have the burden of the Newark Bears on his back.

Not only that, but it allows the focus to shift to one larger league in the form of the American Association. Wolff, as the head of both Can-Am and the AA, now has one less league to worry about for at least the 2014 season.

Personally, I hope that the Can-Am ‘division’ remains. With the addition, the American Association has become a 16-team league with clubs ranging all across the continent, becoming a large and more legitimate league.

It will also be nice to see some real competition. I can boost the Can-Am League all I want, but in the end everyone has to realize that a 5-time defending champion can’t be a positive development, of course eluding to the continued success of the Quebec Capitales.

We had seen the same thing in the IBL with the Brantford Red Sox, which also caused nothing but questions regarding the legitimacy of the league.

In a much larger league, not only will the Capitales have a tougher numbers game than in the 5-team Can-Am League, but tougher competition as well. Clubs such as the Winnipeg Goldeyes, Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and Wichita Wingnuts will give them all they can handle in their hunt for the championship and it will be fun to watch Quebec face the adversity that they’ve been deprived of for a long time.

Teams having success on the field also leads to other positives, some of them off the field.

An example of that can come from the Winnipeg Goldeyes, the 2011 AA Champions. A team based in a market that the MiLB steers clear of due to its location, the Goldeyes have become one of the model franchises in not only the indy circuit, but the minor league circuit as a whole.

With an average attendance of 5,880 last season, Winnipeg ranked 28th among all MiLB/Indy/Summer Collegiate teams in North America. Also to their resume is a deal with TSN Radio, a nationally acclaimed brand, who broadcasts every single one of their games.

My friend and fellow Minor League Baseball aficionado Carlos Verde had an idea for independent baseball that has a potential to come to fruition with the merger of these two leagues. I consider it a good idea, however the Can-AM/AA bond must continue through this season for a plan to come to fruition.

There has to be revenue sharing in an indy league. There has to be, otherwise it is not a viable investment. Because so many teams are going to fall off the radar – that’s the trend right now and I think that’s the trend that we’ll follow for a while.

That’s the trend that all indy leagues follow, some teams make a lot of money and others barely keep their heads above water and that’s why they have failed.

To counteract this alarming trend, start a revenue sharing program among teams to level the playing field out so to speak and allow some financially troubled teams to catch their breath while their ownership group recovers from the initial shock of owning a professional baseball team.

I’m all for the possibility of revenue sharing among the teams in the league. This may be needed in the future for teams who are experiencing issues on the money end, are in the middle of a hefty and impractical lease, or anything on that end. Looking at successful franchises like Winnipeg and St. Paul, it could be looked at as one giant, year-long Christmas gift.

That isn’t the extent of new opportunities for the merger either.

Let’s say that the merger does continue past next season, and the Ottawa franchise is a member of the American Association. This would give the league 4 Canadian teams – in Winnipeg, Ottawa, Trois-Rivieres and Quebec City.

If you ask me, the window is open for a Canadian baseball renaissance. There are so many markets both in between Quebec and Winnipeg, including beyond those boundaries. Telus Field in Edmonton has been regarded as one of the best ballparks in Canada and it currently sits without a tenant.

Fort McMurray is also in the process of building a state of the art facility to host baseball games.

Even with the 4 existing teams involved, a tournament to determine the best of the indy Canadian teams could also be a reality – a “Canadian Indy Classic”.

At that point, you could even look at the possibility of national TV deals to cover the games – hey, it seems as though TSN will have many open slots on their schedule starting next year. The more teams the better as well – even making the addition of the IBL and WMBL champions could expand the footprint.

If Ottawa can replicate what has happened in Winnipeg, I’m not sure that Ottawa Stadium will look so empty. With a recent rebrand, Ottawa already has a TSN radio station, plus a Rogers station in the form of 1310News. One of those two stations broadcasting games would do wonders for the legitimacy of the team.

A winning franchise and good marketing is always helpful as well. The partnership that the Fat Cats had established with the Ottawa 67’s is one that the new franchise should seek to continue. Now, this may be a little tougher with OSEG’s other entities going head to head with the baseball season, however if possible I’d love to see some cross-promotion.

Whatever happens, the potential for independent baseball in Ottawa is still around – whether the team’s first pitch comes in the Can-Am League or the American Association is just a minor detail with the initialization of some strategy.

Sounding off: Fans unreasonable in Can-Am protests

Today, Ottawa’s Can-Am baseball bid fought its way through city council chambers and passed overwhelmingly, 20-3. With the proposal passing, it’s almost a guarantee that we’ll be seeing a very good level of professional baseball back in Ottawa.

This is unfortunately being misinterpreted as a bad thing by many people around the city – and I’m not talking about those who aggressively discourage public funding of pro sports stadiums and franchises, I’m eluding to actual baseball fans.

Yes, there are baseball fans in Ottawa who don’t want to see independent professional baseball occupy Ottawa Stadium. This doesn’t make any sense to me, especially considering that they have no legitimate case in calling the Can-Am League a bad quality of baseball, if they look at it objectively.

The main complaints that I’m seeing is mostly due to the absence of a Jays affiliation, which is what would’ve been included in the original plan for Double-A baseball. While there is indeed no affiliation with the Can-Am team, which is unfortunate, there is no need to be involved with the Jays for success in Ottawa.

I’m not going to go deep into this as it feels like I’m beating a dead horse, but with the different business model that the Can-Am League comes with, the team can be successful without the help of a major league team. Why do you think indy leagues have the staying power that they do?

You don’t need 4,000 fans for the team to be viable. The Rapidz did just fine in their only season, drawing approximately 2,500 fans per game and that was before establishing any kind of identity with the fans in Ottawa.

The whole identity thing came to fruition with the Fat Cats, as they drew well over 3,000 fans per game after connecting with their supporters during the playoff run of 2011.

One of the fans who hasn’t been able to shake off the attraction of Double-A baseball is Ken Gray, whom I’ve mentioned on this blog previously.

Gray runs a blog called The Bulldog, which covers city issues. He has been very active on the baseball front and wasn’t exactly happy when the Can-Am League was announced as the winning bid. Here are a few gem quotes from his multiple pieces on the subject.

Here’s what Mayor Jim Watson and his city staff are implicitly telling people in Ottawa who are even remotely interested in baseball:

If you want even moderately good baseball in your life, leave town. If you are someone who has good talents to choose a good job in a good city and you like to watch a bit of good baseball, pick another place than Ottawa.

Not a good way to attract topnotch talent to Ottawa.

If you have a young family or you’re a senior looking for inexpensive entertainment, try somewhere else.

 

One club in the five-team loop draws fewer than 500 patrons per game. And all the years the Quebec Capitales have not won the Can-Am championship (the Tin Cup it is called or at least we are led to believe) since 2005, those winning clubs are no longer in the league.

The Can-Am League is a great option for Ottawa if your goal is to tear down Ottawa Stadium.

 

Here is what will happen. Ottawans won’t go to the Can-Am League because they have no identification with the team. The team will fail.

Perhaps that’s what the city wants. Guaranteed that within seven years there will be a shopping centre or office towers or condos being built on the site of the Coventry Road stadium. Look I’m a baseball fan and it’s unlikely I’ll go to an Ottawa Can-Am’s game. The team will be a bunch of no-names going nowhere. Who cares.

With Double-A you get to see the Blue Jays of the future. With Can-Am you get to see the nowhere players of the past. It’s a waste of time.

I’m not sure that I’ve seen such an unreasonable position full of assumptions and accusations. I once thought of Gray as a supporter of baseball’s future in Ottawa – but not now. His public degrading of the Can-Am League has closed that case.

Unfortunately, we have to face the displeasing reality. Gray’s position is apparent among many, and it’s sad to see. Fans have been led to believe that the Can-Am League is bad quality baseball. News sites have been putting a negative spin on the subject and are not giving the full story, thus resulting in unreasonable protests against Can-Am baseball.

The reality of it all is this. The Can-Am League is good quality baseball that has found success in many many markets and has rejuvenated professional baseball in Quebec, with its two teams in Trois-Rivieres and Quebec City.  Not only that, but they’ve produced many current major league players.

The league failed once before due to bad ownership courtesy of Rob Hall and nothing else. With Miles Wolff leading and knowing this time around that any old guy who has the money to own the team isn’t necessarily the best option, the team will succeed.

Have I made myself clear?

I fail to see the logic of those who say that the new incarnation of Can-Am baseball won’t stick around because it is a “glorified beer league”, as has been said multiple times. If you’re a baseball fan in the city of Ottawa, don’t be an elitist, support your local team.

Can-Am League handed Ottawa’s baseball dreams

Jared Lemieux gets set to bat for the Ottawa Rapidz in a 2008 Can-Am League game (photo courtesy Nicolas Rouleau)

Jared Lemieux gets set to bat for the Ottawa Rapidz in a 2008 Can-Am League game (photo courtesy Nicolas Rouleau)

In an unprecedented turn of events, the city of Ottawa has ruled against pursuing a double-A team at Ottawa Stadium.

It has been recommended that an independent Can-Am League team moves in to Ottawa Stadium.

Here is a portion of the press release from the city, full version can be found here:

 

Ottawa – A staff report to be considered by the Finance and Economic Development Committee on October 1 and by City Council on October 9 recommends approval of an offer from the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball to lease the Ottawa Stadium and return professional baseball to the capital.

If the offer is approved, international pro baseball would begin in May 2015 with an Ottawa team joining five others in the Can Am league – two in Quebec and three in the northeastern U.S. – including 50 home games at the Ottawa Stadium.

“I am pleased that this challenging two-year process is coming to fruition,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “Our goal was to secure a long-term professional baseball tenant for this important purpose-built facility, and do so while getting the best value for taxpayers.”

Through this process, the City has refined its vision for the long-term use of the Ottawa Stadium in a way that will preserve the facility, see professional baseball return to Ottawa, and open the doors for a variety of other community uses. In addition to being reanimated with 50 baseball home games in a professional international league, the Ottawa Stadium would also be used as a recreation and entertainment venue with 50 to 75 additional days of programming each year.

“The City has worked hard to find a solution that is fair for taxpayers, sports fans, community groups and the public,” said Orleans Councillor Bob Monette. “If this plan is approved, I hope all residents will join us in supporting our new Can-Am team and attending new activities at the facility in order to make the most of this important community asset.”

As you can most likely tell from my previous posts, this is a gigantic step in the right direction for Jim Watson and the city. Double-A baseball was not the way to go, as the cost for taxpayers was significant. A Double-A team would have been a decent investment of these tax dollars, however when handling the money of residents, less is usually better.

You’ll note that I italicised the word ‘usually’, as there are some obvious exceptions.

Miles Wolff stated that the cost for renovations under Can-Am requirements is much less than the term of approximately $30 Million that was announced as a possibility if affiliated baseball was chosen. “With the money that has been spent thus far on the stadium, I think it will take a lot less than $5 Million to bring it up to shape” Wolff said in an email.

Given that, and using the ‘less is better’ analogy in this situation, it really seems like a win-win. The other ‘win’ being that we still get good quality baseball in Ottawa.

I was in Quebec City earlier this summer and had the pleasure of taking in a Capitales game at the old Stade Municipal. The calibre of baseball was surprisingly good – I don’t remember the Rapidz being able to play at the level of Quebec and the visiting St. Paul Saints (albeit, these squads are a little better than the Rapidz were).

For the many in Ottawa who have not been to Double-A baseball games before, this calibre will be more than suitable, just as the Fat Cats were when they drew over 4,000 per game on average during the 2011 playoffs.

In terms of an ownership group, I wouldn’t worry too much. While we should see investors step into the role, Miles Wolff would run the team in the short term. Who knows, maybe he’d take the reins and run with the team himself in the event that there is no potential buyer in the first season or two. Wolff did the same thing with the Quebec Capitales, leading them into a championship dynasty that is now in its 5th year.

Another point to make – you can be sure that Wolff will be careful in choosing his new ownership group for this Can-Am team following the Rapidz fiasco in 2008. Zip.ca boss Rob Hall was handed the Ottawa Rapids franchise, butchered the branding and bailed after just one season leaving Ottawa Stadium to rot.

It appears that the majority of reaction from baseball to this development has been negative, as expected. Many were excited about the Double-A possibility.

I understand that Double-A baseball is a primary developmental league full of big-shot prospects and would be a great addition to Ottawa’s sports environment, but in the end it comes down to what works in this market.

The Can-Am League is a low-cost option with a business model that fits with the Ottawa market for baseball. Hopefully most fans that are caught in the moment step off their soapboxes and support this new club, if it does indeed materialize. With the right people in charge, the Can-Am League will find huge success in Ottawa.

News and Notes: Fat Cats around the IBL, Welland expansion/relocation?

Former Fat Cat Brandon Huffman pitches for the Red Sox (photo courtesy R.S. Konjek)

Former Fat Cat Brandon Huffman pitches for the Red Sox at Christie Pits on June 2nd (photo courtesy R.S. Konjek)

It’s been too long since I’ve addressed the Fat Cats on what used to be primarily a Fat Cats blog. I feel slightly guilty about that and I’d be lying if I said that nothing was going on, so here’s a little rundown covering what’s been going on with all Fat Cats related stories around the IBL, and a little blurb on some IBL expansion prospects.

Cats around the league

Another former Fat Cat joined the likes of Jason Coker and Brandon Huffman among others, signing with an IBL team looking to make a run at a championship. At the signing deadline, the Brantford Red Sox inked Eitan Maoz as a depth acquisition in an effort to defend their title again.

As of July 22nd, Maoz is batting .286 in 4 games played. Obviously it’s a small sample size, so we’ll see if he’ll continue to bring Brantford the energetic punch that Fat Cats fans knew him for over the course of his 2 and a half season stint in the red and white.

He’s played the majority of his games as the DH or in the outfield. You may recall Maoz being the go-to catcher for Tim Nelson last year. However, with IBL veteran and former Frontier League pro Wayne Forman in their catcher slot, it’s hard to find a fit for him in that position. Regardless, Maoz brings a hot bat and a charismatic persona to the Sox locker room, two qualities that are valued by a team looking to claim a championship.

With the arrival of former London Rippers pitcher Jamie Richmond in the IBL, Brandon Huffman has been dethroned as the best starter in the league. He does, however, continue to carry a very low ERA of 2.10. While his strikeout count is down, that is most likely for the better, as Huffman often went deep into counts looking for the K, driving up his pitch count.

Having a lower strikeout number is a good thing for him in my opinion and he’s settled into what looks to be a big role in Brantford’s starting rotation – not that they need his help, being 9 games ahead of the pack. It’s safe to say that the Sox have all but clinched a sixth straight championship – if you’re looking for parity in the IBL, halt your search now.

The team that was slated to challenge Brantford for the Dominico Trophy at the beginning of the year was the Barrie Baycats. There are a few people who believe that the Baycats’ phase as the “heir to the throne” is over, replaced by the Kitchener Panthers.

This is plausible, but I’m not buying it. Jason Coker and Josh Soffer have helped the Baycats into a dog fight with London for 3rd place, and while the Panthers do have the stats (and the help of a subdued Matt McGovern) I find it hard to believe that the Barrie team is done.

Coker and Soffer have both settled into their Baycats uniforms nicely. Soffer has posted a team-high 2 saves and a 2.22 ERA while appearing in 21 games this year – the next closest competitors in that category are Jake Hines and Brett Lawson at 10 appearances each. It’s clear that he’s one of the go-to pitchers for manager Angus Roy.

Jason Coker’s surprised many with an IBL career-high 9 home runs – very impressive for a guy who was not known as a power hitter with the Fat Cats, as Nelson went with more of a small ball game. This new dimension to Coker’s repertoire enforces what a valuable player he is.

Another pitcher with what we thought was terrific value is the young gun James Amelotte, but his play has stalled this year. Ever since a disastrous appearance in Guelph during the 2012 playoffs, it’s been downhill for him, where he’s walked 8 and given up 15 runs in just under 13 innings worked for Barrie, adding up for an ERA of 10.65, not much better than the 7.06 he had at SUNY Canton in 2012-13.

Given that this is the same 19-year-old that held off the powerhouse Red Sox in a complete game effort among other performances last year, it’s surprising to see him drop off. Hopefully we’ll see more of a rebound toward the end of this season and wherever he plays in 2014.

One last note from Toronto – Cody Mombourquette has left that organization after spending some time in the Leafs’ outfield and at shortstop. This was confirmed when I came across this tweet:

Potential relocation

Switching topics to some off field headlines, I’ve been in earshot of rumblings that the Fat Cats were contemplating a move to Welland Stadium in the Niagara region and that Duncan MacDonald was involved in the process – he won the IBL Executive of the Year for both years he was the man in charge for the Fat Cats.

A St. Catherines Standard article published on July 9th added fuel to the fire when it stated that “a second group wanted to put a team in Welland” other than the other local group, however Commissioner Smith shot down that proposition early.

I contacted Smith about the second group, where he denied the Ottawa/Welland rumours while also confirming other whispers that the Fat Cats would currently be unable to move due to outstanding payments.

“Even if the Fat Cats were in good standing with the League, which they are not, they and all other IBL teams have no right of relocation” said Smith via email. “Each franchise is assigned territorial rights; any expansion or relocation requires approval from the existing owners and the IBL has not received such a request.” Smith added that if the Welland area does gain an IBL team in 2014, it will be expansion and not relocation.

Nice to see high-quality baseball return to Welland and the Niagara area, it’s been way too long since a team occupied that ballpark and as one of the nicest in the country, that shouldn’t have been the case. I’m surprised that the Can-Am League hasn’t looked into placing a team there with the market of St. Catherines just 20 minutes away.

If the new ownership group wants to make the team viable, they will have to do their best to draw from outside Welland as well as from within. A “Niagara” brand scheme would work well in this situation.

I’ll hope to catch a few games in Welland next year if the team does in fact come to fruition. It would be nice to take in IBL baseball once again and in a stadium that has formerly hosted affiliated baseball to boot. This would be the nicest stadium in the league behind London and technically Ottawa.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Before I go, I’ve started a new sports blog called Under Review Sports, designed for me to express my opinion on all things sports while the Ottawa Baseball dilemma is sorted out. Check it out; I plan on updating it frequently!

 

Think again: Double-A bid not the end

Collision at the plate takes place during a Rapidz game in 2008 (source)

Collision at the plate takes place during a Rapidz game in 2008 (photo courtesy Pearl Pirie)

Local media outlets had recently been reporting that the latest restart of the Ottawa Double-A baseball bid (yes, the process has been restarted) is the last shot at seeing baseball in Ottawa. A report out of the Montreal newspaper La Presse suggests that the Can-Am League is ready to give Ottawa another shot and is armed and ready in the case that the Double-A baseball bid falls through.

Une annonce officielle concernant cette expansion sera émise en septembre prochain. Les marchés potentiels comprennent les villes d’Atlantic City et Sussex au New Jersey, Worcester au Massachusetts et Montréal et Ottawa au Canada.

En ce qui concerne Ottawa, M. Wolff a précisé : «Les responsables de la Ville ont envoyé une demande d’offres à la ligue Can-Am et nous ont demandé d’y répondre. Nous comprenons que la Ligue de l’Est (Eastern League) est actuellement le premier choix d’Ottawa, mais nous sommes prêts à intervenir si la proposition de la Ligue de l’Est échoue.»

The latest reports on Ottawa baseball have garnered the interest of Jays blogs with Drunk Jays Fans – a prominent Blue Jays news and analysis site - picking up the story last week, as it looks as though a deal to bring a Jays Double-A affiliate to Ottawa is closer than it’s ever been. I’ve also heard from a source that the city and Mandalay are very close to striking a deal to move an existing EL team to Ottawa – however let’s not jump the gun once again, as the possibility of the deal falling apart is still there. In the event that it does, many are reporting that baseball in Ottawa will have seen its last glimmer of hope washed away.

This is clearly not the case, as noted above and I’m not sure as to why some seem to think that this is the last chance for baseball.

There is clearly interest from the Can-Am League and according to the La Presse report linked above, there could be other leagues inquiring to the city about utilizing Ottawa Stadium in the event that the Double-A bid falls through such as the new independent Diamond League and the revamped Northern League. I believe these leagues are just as good if not better options for the future of baseball in this city.

If you’ve been keeping track of the baseball situation through the news, just know that the Double-A bid is not the last chance for baseball to succeed. If the Can-Am League came in to Ottawa Stadium under the guidance of Miles Wolff, it would thrive. Add in the new rivals from Trois-Rivieres and potentially Montreal, and things could get as heated as a Saturday night Fat Cats-Majors game.

Another plus for Can-Am baseball would be the cost to taxpayers. As opposed to the cost being tossed around now, Miles Wolff stated that they would only spend the money needed to bring the stadium to operational standards. Far less than the current price tag of $10-30 Million, which we all have to admit is a little pricey regardless of our stance.

While things are looking pretty solid at the Double-A camp right now, if the deal does end up falling through I hope the city opens themselves to other opportunities. Councillor Bob Monette is already on our side, going on record saying that he wants “the stadium open for decades” – so let’s hope that some other council members are of the same opinion, as the indy route is more than viable.

While uncertainty continues to rule, one point that isn’t subject to change is that I can’t wait to write about baseball once again.

The Fat Cats should be playing this season – and beyond

Rick Howroyd puts away the final out of game 3 in the 2011 IBL Championship (photo courtesy Freedom Photography)

Rick Howroyd puts away the final out of game 3 in the 2011 IBL Championship (photo courtesy Freedom Photography)

Back in 2011, the Fat Cats were the talk of the town as they made it all the way to the IBL final, drawing over 4,000 people per game consistently during their run, rivaling the storied Ottawa 67’s in terms of crowd size.

Now, due to the success of the Fat Cats, we’re looking at an empty stadium for two years. Ironic, isn’t it?

Of course, this wasn’t the original plan. If things went as they were planned at first, we’d quite possibly be getting ready to head out to a renovated Ottawa Stadium right now to watch the Ottawa Blue Jays – while not missing a single summer of baseball.

The Fat Cats, assumingly, would’ve had their final season inside Ottawa last year during renovations.  That’s right, it would’ve been possible for the team to play ball through the ongoing construction in and around the stadium.

So my question to Mayor Watson is this – why isn’t Ottawa Stadium being used for Fat Cats baseball right now?

The reason that the Cats and OSG weren’t allowed to play this year in the first place was because they couldn’t fit them in under the schedule. If the Fat Cats were able to fit in to the schedule before, what caused that to suddenly change? It doesn’t seem to make any sense.

The easiness of the Cats’ schedule reaffirms the strangeness of the sudden change. If they were in the IBL this season, they would play a 42-game schedule, with 21 of those games being at home. If you include Friday nights and add in a couple double headers, the entire Fat Cats schedule could be played in around 6 weekends.

This equals out, obviously, to 12 days. 12 days without construction and 75+ days with isn’t a major hoop to jump through for the city. It seems like they could accommodate the Fat Cats if they really wanted to – the first devised plan shows that.

Jim Watson clearly has a plan for the stadium this summer. He’s alluded to it in tweets and rejected an offer from Duncan MacDonald’s new group in order to go ahead with this plan. Not only that, but the city is not allowing the charity fundraiser Home Runs for Autism to utilize the stadium for their event. They’ve been forced into Carlington Park for this year.

I would like to know what that plan is and what it consists of. Now, obviously I’m not going to jump to conclusions and suggest that it’s a bad plan before I see it, but if it doesn’t involved a competitive level of baseball being played at the stadium, I would hope this plan isn’t in place until the current negotiations are settled.

Let’s see the field used for what it was built for – baseball. If it isn’t, we could see interest for baseball dwindle, as the momentum that the Fat Cats brought to town is slowly fading away.

In fact, why doesn’t the city welcome back the Fat Cats for 2014? We’ve already established that the Cats’ schedule is easy and can be worked into a construction schedule and that there won’t be Double-A baseball in 2014, so why not? If anything, it would boost the fading interest for baseball in this city as the stadium sits empty.

Give it some thought, Mr. Mayor! In the meantime, I hope the current proposal you’re mustering up doesn’t involve grass achieving waist-high levels.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.