The Can-Am League is becoming expert at
hastily cobbling together a traveling team. For the second time in as
many years, a club has called it quits just before the season started.
The Bangor Lumberjacks had been looking for a new owner, but when
that didn’t happen the team said it wouldn’™t be able to play in 2005.
The league announced that a travel team, known as the Grays, will take
over the Bangor schedule. Any Bangor home games will now become home
games for the opponents.
Bangor manager Chris Carminucci was hired as the Grays manager, and
he’ll be responsible for signing players for the new club. All of the
Lumberjacks players became free agents when the franchise shut down.
The last-minute move was a case of déjí vu for the league. Last
year, when the circuit was known as the Northeast League, the Allentown
Ambassadors declared bankruptcy just before the season began, forcing
the league to form a traveling team called the Aces (using uniforms
from the Central League’s defunct Alexandria Aces).
“Obviously it helps (to have experience with a traveling team),”
Can-Am League president Dan Moushon said. “We know what the costs are.
Spring training in Elmira worked for us before, so we’re doing that.
There are some benefits.”
But having less than a month before the season to shuffle schedules
also leads to plenty of headaches. Each other team in the league picked
up six to eight more home dates after season tickets and schedules have
The experience with the Ambassadors last year helped the league
realize that it needed to tighten up the league constitution to ensure
the strength of the league and its member clubs. The league members
voted to dissolve, and re-form as the Can-Am League, with a new
constitution. The new constitution meant that when Bangor informed the
league that it would not operate in 2005, the league’s members were
able to quickly act to terminate the franchise.
The Grays will be one of three travel teams in independent baseball
this season. The Ohio Valley Redcoats (Frontier) will spend most of the
summer on the road, although they will have a limited slate of home
games at three sites, while the Samurai Bears (Golden) will field an
all-Japanese traveling team.
“I think the Central League is the only independent league that
hasn’t had a traveling team,” Moushon said. “It’s not like it’s
something new. It’s been tried before. It can work.”
A Big Bet
Gary Wendt knows that he faces a skeptical public when he says the
Mid-Missouri Mavericks should be better than they have been in past
After all, it would be hard to be worse. In their first two seasons,
the Mavericks are 61-123, more than 60 games under .500, finishing in
the basement of the Frontier League’s Western Division twice.
But Wendt, the team president, hopes to generate enthusiasm for the club with a bet that better times are ahead.
“We’re putting our money where our mouth is. If we don’t finish .500
or better, we’ll give season ticket holders half their money back,”
Wendt said. “Last year whatever could go wrong, did go wrong. I had to
do something, and I felt like this is the best thing to do.”
Based on last year’s season ticket sales, Wendt said the team would
be out roughly $50,000 if it doesn’t reach .500 for the first time in
team history. He said he has high hopes for the season because the team
was able to turn over its roster during the second half of the season
to find players who should form a strong nucleus for this season.
“If there was a little silver lining, it’s that once we figured out
it was a train wreck–and that didn’t take long–we started shuffling
the deck,” he said. “We were able to come up with some decent
ballplayers, so we have a core group of players we are confident can
compete on this level.”
• The Pensacola Pelicans (Central) are moving forward with the city
of Pensacola on a plan that would bring the team a new stadium as part
of a waterfront development. The 3,500-seat stadium would replace
2,500-seat Pelican Park, which was built in 1991.
• The Rockford RiverHawks (Frontier) will not move into their new
ballpark until July. The new ballpark was scheduled to be ready for
Opening Day, but poor weather and cost overruns led to delays. The club
will play at its previous home, Marinelli Field, until the new park is
• The St. Paul Saints (Northern), as usual, have come up with
something new. The Saints were scheduled to host Sioux Falls in a May 8
exhibition game at 5:30 a.m., which may be the earliest start ever for
a pro baseball game. The game was scheduled as a tie-in with two
charities that will get a portion of the ticket proceeds: Darkness to
Light, an organization that teaches adults how to protect children from
sexual abuse, and the Foundation Fighting Blindness.
• The Northern League suspended a pair of players, Winnipeg righthander Luis Soto and Joliet lefthander Damien Myers,
after both tested positive for performance-enhancing substances while
they were in spring training with affiliated clubs. Both players will
be subject to additional testing during the season.