By Jeff MacKinnon
October 22, 2001
CALGARY–Organizers of a new professional league in Canada say they will unveil the lineup for the first season Nov. 8 in Vancouver, B.C.
The Canadian Baseball League is supposed to begin play in at least eight Western Canadian cities in May 2002. Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, a Canadian who grew up in Chatham, Ontario and now lives in Oklahoma, is its first commissioner.
The plan is to have a 16-team league within five years.
“Where baseball has failed in the Prairie League and all these other leagues out here is everyone’s looked at the bottom line instead of saying ‘Hey, let’s bring back the game the way it should be. Let’s bring back the innocence of the game, bring back the fun, bring back the families. Bring back the quality product,’ ” said CBL chairman of the board Tony Riviera.
The league will own all franchises, although specifics on who is backing the venture remain a well-kept secret. The CBL is billing itself as the baseball equivalent of the Canadian Football League. Organizers bristle when asked if theirs is an independent minor league.
“We are a professional international league just like Japan and Taiwan and Korea and Italy and Mexico and the Netherlands. That’s what we’re about,” CBL senior vice president and director of baseball operations Steve Avila said.
Avila said they will allow players as young as 16 to enter their draft.
The CBL is not ruling out going head-to-head with organized minor league operations in Vancouver and Western Canada’s two other major centers, the Alberta cities of Calgary and Edmonton.
It’s expected the inaugural season will see four teams take the field in British Columbia and four split between Alberta and Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan last saw professional baseball briefly in the mid-1990s with the independent Prairie League.
A 72-game season would feature an all-weekend schedule with single games Friday followed by doubleheaders Saturday and matinees Sunday. The rest of the week will be set aside for instruction.