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.