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.

    • Doug
    • October 10th, 2013

    Mike,

    Could not agree more. I very much enjoyed the Rapids(z) season and look forward to simply being able to follow a team and heading out on a nice summer’s day to enjoy a ball game.

    I don’t know what Ken Gray has up his nose. Best to ignore his rants.

    My one question is why we can’t get a team here for 2014. The wait is interminable.

    Doug

    • Yes this is the last time I’ll be giving Ken any publicity.

      Re: 2014 – I’ve asked the mayor about this before and this is what he said:

      Jim Watson ‏@JimWatsonOttawa 25 Sep
      @96Nellis no it will be 2015 but we will have community use in 2014 for bookings etc.

      Not necessarily a great answer but it’s better than nothing at all I suppose. They could most likely figure out a scenario that would see the Fat Cats playing in 2014 if they wanted to, it’s not a vigorous schedule.

      • Jayme
      • October 10th, 2013

      I think if we had the RedBlacks/Fury and Can Am team all start in the same year around the same time would have been very risky.

    • R.S. Konjek
    • October 10th, 2013

    It’s funny watching some folks stamp their feet and pout, thinking that an MiLB affiliate will magically appear if they wait long enough. In the meantime, they want no baseball in Ottawa at all. It’s baffling.

    Why not prove to MLB clubs that Ottawa can support some level of pro baseball first – be it IBL or Can-Am – instead of killing off the last club that played there and taking baseball right off the public’s entertainment radar? You can’t grow a baseball culture in a city if there’s no baseball there at all.

    It’s like offering a teen who just got their driver’s licence a nice Ford or Honda, and they throw a tantrum and demand a Cadillac Escalade or nothing.

    • Jayme
    • October 10th, 2013

    I am not sure if anyone did read the comments in the Ottawa Sun but some were comical one was we don’t have the population another one was fans don’t care.

    • Pierre
    • October 11th, 2013

    >> the absence of a Jays affiliation, which is what would’ve been included in the original plan for Double-A baseball.

    I have to disagree here with you or anyone who thought this way. There was never any assurances that a AA team would be affiliated with the Jays. To me, the best is that the Jays sort of let it know that, if Ottawa does get accepted by a AA league (presumably any level league), we _might_ be interested in negotiating an affiliation agreement with Ottawa. Sometime in the future.

    I don’t understand people like Ken Gray either and some saying that they ARE baseball fans. OK, I understand not having a higher level team. It’s a disappointment in a way. But we’ll have baseball and pretty good baseball I might add, nearly as good as AA with some players being bought up by major league teams and being put on AA teams. The upside is that we have a pro team that we can call our own without a major league team deciding who stays and who goes, having talent that may play here three, four, five or more years.

    Not every city can have a MLB team for various reasons. I wonder what Ken thinks of our new basketball team. I guess the way he talks, he won’t support it, even if he might be a basketball fan, because it’s not the NBA.

    Even though some teams in the Can-Am don’t draw all that well, doesn’t mean Ottawa can’t or won’t. I’m not sure what the point of that statement is. Ken thinks the city is setting up baseball to totally fail to tear down the stadium. No proof of this. What does seem to be clear is his willingness to let that happen. I think Ken Gray himself wants baseball to fail and tear down the stadium. His writings point to this more than the city’s actions to this point.

    I say to him, you don’t want to support this team, fine. Let those of us who do alone. I’m not a hockey fan but I don’t put down hockey or the Senators. I don’t know why baseball is always put down by people.

    >> The team will be a bunch of no-names going nowhere.

    Only about 10% of players in the minors make it to the show. Most go nowhere, including those on Blue Jays. Even many who do make it, most are unknowns and quickly-forgottens, in the show for a cup of coffee. So why would we care? This argument makes no sense to me. If people did care, the Fat Cats would not have had the attendance success they did.

    I agree Michael, it’s sad to see. I would not waste my time with people like that, we won’t change their minds. Let’s simply do what we can to make this team the best success possible.

    One thing Gray seems to not realize. If we are to eventually get an affiliated team back, whether in five, ten or even twenty years, we have to show we can support a Can-Am team. It’s baby steps.

    As for 2015 and not 2014, I see a couple reasons for this. First, my understanding is to renovate the stadium. With only $750k, not much of a renovation but at least there won’t be anything in the way such as a pro team playing 50 or more games. The second is that at this late date, it gives everyone a chance to put things in place without being rushed. What Wolff did in 2008 was amazing, putting a team together in five months. It’s a shame all this didn’t happen a year ago but best to take time and do a good job.

    >> all start in the same year around the same time would have been very risky.

    Well, one thing all these new teams do is dilute the sports entertainment dollar. When are the Redblacks supposed to start, in 2014? OK, let the city enjoy the return of football. You’re forgetting about the Skyhawks basketball team starting in a month.

    The Senators had just finished their first season in 1993 when the Lynx started and that did not seem to affect them. The football team plays just a few home games and there’s just going to be very small overlap. Plus I’m not sure that football fans would be much of baseball fans. I wonder how popular the Skyhawks will be. But remember that baseball will be much more affordable than any of those other sports, in line with a movie ticket.

    >> You can’t grow a baseball culture in a city if there’s no baseball there at all.

    Well put as is your car to a teen analogy.

    >> one (comment) was fans don’t care.

    Funny how those who don’t care are the ones reading and responding to a story about baseball.

      • Doug
      • October 11th, 2013

      @Pierre

      Agree with you on almost all points Pierre. Sports is entertainment and it needs to compete against other forms of entertainment. The Can-Am team and the Skyhawks will offer good entertainment for the cost of a movie ticket. I’m in! I remember many of the Rapidz players. I wonder how many Lynx players Ken Gray can remember?

      The big money ($40 million to renovate a stadium = higher ticket costs) can stay home. Lets the games begin.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Pierre.

      I won’t be giving Ken Gray any more attention, it’s pretty clear that he’s flat-out wrong and I tend to agree with you – he most likely wants to see baseball fail here now. Especially given his personal dislike for the mayor, who’s backed this plan.

      People want Double-A baseball here because of the names and prospects, but they are acting as if Can-Am is a bad option because of their own personal wants, not what we actually need. They need to smarten up.

      In the end, I just needed to get this off my chest – will try to be more positive with future posts.. lol.

      Looking forward to first pitch on Can-Am, hopefully I’ll see you upstairs again.

    • Bigbob99
    • October 12th, 2013

    There’s no point in arguing with self-described fans who already dislike the upcoming team before it even plays. I’ll only say that it was never certain that Ottawa’s team would be associated with the Toronto Blue Jays and, frankly, I’m pleased that the team won’t be. There is just too much financial baggage to go along with the higher levels of affiliated ball. Also, as the Fat Cats demonstrated, a team can and should survive on its own, independent of other city or team.

    A considerable amount of Can Am bashing has originated with the two daily newspapers who, I noticed from the start, telegraphed disappointment in the team not being connected with AA and the Blue Jays. Their attitude is short sighted and ignores why the Lynx failed, namely cost, high attendance and revenue requirements, unstable roster, and an impractically long season this far north. Cynically, the newspapers’ main concern isn’t with a team’s success but with it having a higher profile and thus offering greater potential for (negative) news.

    Rob Alexander
    BigBob99

    • The newspaper point is also a good one. They (mainly the Citizen’s David Reevely from what I’ve seen) have been describing the Can-Am League as a “low level league”, which it’s not, and repeatedly mention that the league’s already failed here before, completely ignoring why that’s happened.

      It’s clear that most of the writers and fans don’t know the whole story. That was one of the reasons that I wrote this in the first place but you’re right, it’s not going to do anything.

      • Doug
      • October 12th, 2013

      I can assure readers that had the AA franchise materialized the local newspapers would have been expressing alarm over who was going to foot a $40 million bill in order to have minor league baseball. The $40 million would have been subsequently used as a yardstick for other line items. “If the city can afford $40 million to upgrade the ballpark for a minor league team then it can certainly afford…….”.

      No, the Mandalay bid seriously overplayed its hand. The CanAm proposal provided use for the stadium on an affordable basis. Hats off to the Can/Am bid folks.

    • Pierre
    • October 12th, 2013

    All good comments in last few days and agree with all. Let’s put the negatives aside and let’s build this thing. So what is needed?

    Obviously, someone with money and baseball savvy. Preferably local. Someone who’s not going to buy it just as prestige thinking owning such a team puts them in the same league as a Senators owner. That can be hard to find but I think the league will and should take its sweet time, no hurry. It’s just that I cannot fathom anyone local fitting that bill. There’s always the possibility of putting together a group of people but that actually could be even harder.

    The front-office needs to be top-notch starting with a good GM. That person will be in charge of finding players so needs to know baseball. He will have all of next year to evaluate players from all over so that’s a good thing.

    We need players obviously, the better they are the better. That’s going to be a tough job for the GM. I don’t think there’s good enough local talent but one or two could help if only to promote the team as Ottawa’s team.

    A “big name” I think would help. If there’s a former major leaguer that would be available, I say let’s think about it. Maybe use such a guy as the manager. I know those are few and far between but we could get lucky.

    Another big need is Public Relations. Someone who will promote this team full-time, not let the media forget. Build relationships. And marketing. Marketing is important. Get businesses on board as well as media.

    • Jayme
    • October 15th, 2013

    I think this will be the rebirth so to speak of the Can Am league with Ottawa now in i could see Montreal and a team in the Philly area also starting in 2015.

    • Pierre
    • October 17th, 2013

    I can see Montreal. Don’t know about Philly. I can see the Can-Am merging with the American Association by 2015. There could be three divisions of six teams each with the Can-Am teams of Ottawa, Quebec, Trois-Rivieres, Rockland, New Jersey and potentially Montreal in an “eastern” division. Split the AA teams into north and south divisions. If Montreal does join and add Edmonton or some other (closer) Canadian city, you could have a Canadian division.

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