By Jeff MacKinnon
October 3, 2001
CALGARY–Ferguson Jenkins is a pitch-man again.
The Hall of Famer has thrown his name behind a proposed independent league in his homeland. The Chatham, Ontario, native will serve as commissioner of the Canadian Baseball League, which is being billed by its founders as the sport’s version of the Canadian Football League.
The league is searching for eight Western Canadian sites so it can open shop in May 2002 using primarily Canadian talent with some imports. The first season would comprise 72 games all played on weekends–one Friday, followed by a doubleheader Saturday and a matinee Sunday. The rest of the week would be set aside for instruction.
“There’s a lot of youngsters who want exposure,” Jenkins, who now lives in Oklahoma, told Canadian Press. “They want an opportunity to display their talent. Right here in Canada is the best place to do it.”
All franchises will be owned by the league, but details on prospective investors and locations are being kept a secret.
“We’re talking to several cities right now,” said the league’s chairman of the board, businessman Tony Riviera of Vancouver. “I don’t think that’s going to be a big hurdle. We’ve been working on this for four years, and we’ve been talking to cities for probably several months. It’s not a matter of ‘if’; it’s ‘when’ we decide to get going.”
The CBL is targeting cities with populations of over 40,000. Western Canada’s three major centers all appear to be out of the running for the first season. Vancouver has a short-season Northwest League team, while the Pacific Coast League currently operates in the Alberta cities of Edmonton and Calgary. Calgary will lose its team when the Cannons transfer to Albuquerque for the 2003 season.