Think Pro Baseball is Coming Back?  Think Again….

“Baseball in Edmonton”
By Len Nunes

On October 24, 2003 The Globe And Mail wrote an article discussing the sale of the Triple A baseball team the Edmonton Trappers by its owners the Edmonton Eskimos.

"Although the Edmonton Trappers won the Pacific Coast League championship in 2002 and averaged slightly better than 5,400 fans a game this season, the Eskimos announced yesterday they have sold the baseball team...

The Eskimos' president and chief executive officer, Hugh Campbell, said that selling the baseball team became a necessity when the rival Cannons left Calgary in 2002 to become the Albuquerque Isotopes…

"Scheduling, air and cross-border travel and the Canadian dollar were also factors in the PCL being desirous of not having a Canadian team in the league."”

Fast forward over 16 years and the last four reasons listed by the then Eskimos President and CEO still ring true. Any wishes of seeing "affiliated baseball", meaning a team that is directly connected to a MLB team like the Trappers were with the Angels and Expos among others during their tenure, come back to Edmonton are weighed down with the rigors of scheduling, air and cross-border travel plus the weak Canadian dollar.

The most altruistic of baseball fans will envision an all-Canadian baseball league in the model of our friends the Edmonton Stingers in the Canadian Elite Basketball League or our friends FC Edmonton in the Canadian Premier League. If the keywords of said baseball fan are "affiliated baseball", finding a handful of MLB teams willing to move their respective minor league team to Canada, is sadly comparable to hoping just one Major League team moves their youngsters to Edmonton.

For example, the Toronto Blue Jays Triple A affiliate are the Buffalo Bisons 158 kilometers away from the Rogers Centre. The New Hampshire Fisher Cats, their Double A team, are 843 kilometers away. For reference sake, Edmonton is 3,478 kilometers away from Toronto.

The Vancouver Canadians are the Class A short season affiliate of the Blue Jays, a partnership that started in 2011 and was recently expanded to 2022. Here's a snippet from the January 2018 article announcing the extension:

"Vancouver will remain the short-season Single-A affiliate of the Blue Jays until 2022, in a move that has to do with more than baseball operations...The Blue Jays have done a terrific job in recent years at re-solidifying themselves as ‘Canada’s team,’ particularly in Vancouver...Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins was in Vancouver for the annual Canadians Hot Stove Luncheon. It’s a small gesture, but one of many that the Jays have done in recent years to make their presence felt in a city that’s far closer to Safeco Field in Seattle than Rogers Centre in Toronto."

Independent baseball, where the team has no affiliation with a specific MLB team, has been tried before in the form of the Edmonton Cracker Cats, which became the Edmonton Capitals. Throughout the years the Cats and Caps were in the Northern League, Golden League and North American League. Here are a few notes from the Edmonton Journal February 22, 2012 article announcing the departure of the Capitals baseball team:

"The Capitals abruptly withdrew from the North American League on Tuesday, citing the plummeting participation of teams from around the semi-professional baseball league for the upcoming season. The NAL went from 10 teams in 2009 to four teams being registered to play this year"...The move caught city officials by surprise.

Mayor Stephen Mandel, a baseball fan, said it was disappointing to hear the team would not take to the field in 2012. “There’s lots of baseball fans who enjoy going to a game in the summer,” Mandel said. “It’s a family event.”

Edmonton is a city that loves baseball, Mandel said. The problem is the leagues sometimes aren’t strong, he said, adding the city’s northern location also makes it harder to attract teams from better quality leagues."

As over-simplified as the then Mayor's comments might be, Edmonton's northern location is a legitimate issue for any league to contend with.

Managing Director John Ircandia of the Okotoks Dawgs, whose team started out in Calgary as the Calgary Dawgs, shared some of his thoughts from moving from a big city to Okotoks last summer in an interview on the Prospects Baseball Show. Ircandia also discussed some similarities between his situation and the situation the Prospects have found themselves in recently struggling to procure a long-term deal with the City. 

(The Prospects situation) brings back some of the frustration I had with Calgary...we ran a fairly successful WMBL (now WCBL) franchise winning the championship in 2004 with 4,000 fans at that game. Calgary, like Edmonton, had had a Triple A team. There’s a difference between 20, 21, 22-year-old kids playing the college game, however good they are, and guys who are on the door of Major League Baseball…

The big city, you guys got the Eskimos and Oilers...you like to think we are a big city town. The problem is this is a different sport - baseball. We aren’t a big city town, there’s one in the country in Toronto which is 5 times the size population-wise, and on the East Coast, not too far from New York and the baseball center of the East. We don’t have that option and there really is no affiliated baseball in this area other than short season Vancouver. The Prospects or Dawgs could match up with those guys!

The City of Calgary, for whatever reason, put a tag on the word “professional”. They put a value on it...they didn’t know baseball, they didn’t understand the levels and I see a lot of the same dynamic going on in the press I’m reading about the Edmonton Prospects. They (Calgary) wanted to pretend they were getting a better product cause someone could call it professional or affiliated…

In my mind there’s a 100 other reasons why you would prefer a Summer Collegiate model over even an Affiliated Short Season Season model. I personally think that Edmonton and Calgary are deluded if they think they would bring that model anyway. The nearest team at the level, and it’s rookie ball - basically Pioneer League - is Great Falls, Montana. Why they would come back to a place like Edmonton as a solo Canadian team in Northern Alberta, it’s just ludicrous. It is bound to fail.”

Now let us discuss a baseball formula that is getting stronger each year.  It has been in Edmonton. Attendance for the Edmonton Prospects has grown from an average of 296 per game in 2012 to 2,102 per game in 2019. The team plays in the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL), known as the Western Major Baseball League (WMBL) from 2000-2018, which has roots that go back to 1931. Operating in a league built, owned and operated by Albertans and Saskatchewanians, the checklist for success is filled with checkmarks. 

“Scheduling, air and cross-border travel” which doomed the Edmonton Trappers, are controlled factors in the WMBL.  Teams travel by bus and do not cross country borders. The stability of the league, which doomed the Cracker Cats/Capitals, is strong with so much of the product being owned locally.

Former Edmonton Prospects players Tanner Kirwer (Blue Jays), Kody Funderburk (Twins), and Erik Sabrowski (Padres) have been drafted into the big leagues in recent years. Baseball fans everywhere are realizing the quality of play the WMBL puts on the field. Do not allow yourself to miss the action because of an over-value on the word “professional”.

See you at the ballpark!

 

 

 

Prospects' Trivia
by Len Nunes

We are in the last month of this decade. That statement makes me feel reminiscent. The baseball fan in me wondered out loud who the Edmonton Prospects leaders have been throughout the past 10 years. Let’s travel down memory lane as we categorize some of the individual bests by players who have worn the Prospects uniform.

The numbers reflected are single season totals with the year the feat was accomplished in brackets. The Western Canadian Baseball League website only provides stats back until 2010, therefore unofficially these stats represent single season benchmarks for the Prospects. 

Do you recall some of the names on the lists? Do you have memories you would like to share with us? Let us know on our Facebook or Twitter.

DOUBLES LEADERS:

  1. Jake Gehri (2019) 17
  2. Travis Hunt (2019) 15
  3. Cory Scammell (2015) 15 (2011 Seattle Mariners draft pick)
  4. Cory Scammell (2016) 14
  5. Tony Olson (2016) 14

 HOME RUNS: 

  1. Travis Hunt (2019) 7
  2. Ryan Hutchinson (2010) 6
  3. Kody Funderburk (2016) 5 (2018 Minnesota Twins draft pick)
  4. Jordan Chiero (2011) 5
  5. John Apostolo (2011) 5

 RBI: 

  1. Travis Hunt (2019) 40
  2. Nick Spillman (2018) 37
  3. Jake Gehri (2019) 35
  4. Cory Scammell (2016) 34
  5. Cory Scammell (2016) 28

 PITCHER STRIKEOUT TOTALS: 

  1. Taran Oulton 57 (2019)
  2. Noah Gapp (2016) 53
  3. Cory Duggan (2013) 53
  4. Hunter Boyd (2019) 51
  5. Erik Sabrowski (drafted by the San Diego Padres) (2017) 50

PITCHER WINS: 

  1. Craig George (2011) 5
  2. Brenden Wiun (2014) 5 (Current General Manager of the Edmonton Collegiate Baseball Club)
  3. Rich Walker (2018) 5 (One of those wins was his PERFECT GAME)
  4. Hunter Boyd (2018) 5
  5. Too many to list at 4

 

 

Edmonton’s 2020 Sports Scene Officially Includes Your Prospects

By Len Nunes

“..the 5th year option that was part of our original agreement, at the end of the day, was decided that at this point in time that it was the best route to go.” Those are the words of the Edmonton Prospects Managing Partner Patrick Cassidy speaking to Dean Millard on the “Prospects Baseball Show”.

In early November your Prospects were told by the City to begin ramping up for their 2020 season. On November 27th, all the I’s were dotted and T’s were crossed to officially declare the Prospects 10th season at RE/MAX Field. The team played at then-named TELUS Field in their inaugural year 2005 before taking up residency in the downtown diamond again in 2012. To see the full history of the Prospects, click HERE.

When asked on that episode of the “Prospects Baseball Show’ about the future of RE/MAX Field, Cassidy replied, “The City has already put a contract in place to replace the lights (with LED lights). Which is good, it is something that needed to be done and something that in the long term will be beneficial from a cost efficiency standpoint in terms of operating the ballpark...I think the future of RE/MAX Field is solid. I think the City is committed to the ballpark. The fact they are investing a bunch of money in lights starts to speak to that.”. 

Negotiations are ongoing for a long-term deal to keep the Prospects in the downtown park and an option for Edmonton sports fans during the spring and summer months for years to come. 

On December 2nd, the Prospects along with the Eskimos Football Club, Stingers Basketball Team, and FC Edmonton united to create the “Ultimate Sports Fan Pass”! The Ultimate Sports Fan Pass is one ticket to each different sport during the 2020 regular season for only $79 dollars plus tax. The offer expires on December 23rd , order yours today by clicking HERE! 

See you at the ballpark in 2020 and thank you for your continued support.

 

City of Edmonton in 7th inning stretch with potential new operator of RE/MAX Field

Edmonton Prospects management is growing impatient as it negotiates a deal for the 2020 season.

 
Edmonton Prospects assistant manager Jordan Blundell [centre] feels the team has done a lot to keep baseball in Edmonton and wants the team to continue to play at RE/MAX Field. (Submitted by Jordan Blundell

The Edmonton Prospects baseball team is frustrated over negotiations with the City of Edmonton, as they feel uncertain about the team's long-term future at RE/MAX Field.

The team has been told by the city that it will play ball in 2020, but negotiations are still ongoing. 

"There's some days that are disheartening, but we're pretty positive here. We're from Edmonton, man. We want to see the ballpark survive," said Jordan Blundell, assistant general manager, Edmonton Prospects.

The Prospects' current deal as an operator of RE/MAX Field expired this year. In April, the city called for proposals to run the facility in a 10-year lease agreement.

The city is currently working on an operating model with a new operator of the ball field, spokesperson Carol Hurst confirmed in an email.

"We are interested in seeing WCBL played in the facility and increasing use by the community," wrote Hurst.

She added the city is in negotiations with Gold Sports on a deal that would allow the Prospects to play at RE/MAX Field for the 2020 season, which includes hosting the WCBL All-Star game.

Despite the city's willingness to have the Prospects remain at the ball diamond, Blundell feels there's still a lot of unanswered questions. Answers he would like to share with impatient fans.

"What is this other group proposing? Why are they being considered?" he asked. "What's their role in this over the next 10 years? And honestly, what team do they have?" 

 
RE/MAX Field, home of Prospects baseball, is part of the Rossdale redevelopment area. (David Bajer/CBC)

Councillor Michael Walters is in support of a baseball team continuing to play at RE/MAX Field and for a long-term deal that involves an entertainment district.

He's optimistic about the current negotiations between the city, it's new potential operator and the Prospects.

"Like any negotiation there's ups and downs," Walters said. "Things take time, but I'm still hopeful that all the parties involved care about baseball in Edmonton and we'll get to a place we need to be."

@Travismcewancbc

Loss To Dawgs Ends Prospects Season
By John Short

The Okotoks Dawgs have defended their role as leaders of the Western Division of the Western Canadian Baseball League.

To do so, they defeated the Edmonton Prospects 5-0, thanks to top pitching from Tanner Simpson, solid defensive play and the reliable offensive force that made them runaway champions of the regular season.

Simpson struck out four of the first six Edmonton batters while his teammates scored a pair of unearned runs in the first three innings. From that point the Dawgs never looked back. Their next step is to win the Alberta section’s final best-of-three series and then to face survivors of the Eastern Division with the 2019 league title on the line.

The loss was disappointing for the Prospects, who staged a fervent three-run rally in the 10th inning on Friday to even their series at 1-1 and, at least, fulfill a major ambition of every proud team: they won their final game of the season at RE/MAX Field.

Dane Tofteland’s second-inning single against Edmonton starter Trever Berg led to the opening run. A following Will Hollis single and an outfield error moved the runners to second and third base. Tofteland scored on an infield out.

In the next inning, Davis Todosichuk singled and stole second, then moved to third on an errant throw by catcher Jake Gehri. A sacrifice fly by Jacob Melton pushed Todosichuk across the plate.

Okotoks collected three more runs – more than enough to clinch the victory and the series – in the sixth inning on doubles by Jaxon Valcke and Gavin Logan, along with singles by Tofteland and Tristan Peters.

Berg left the mound with two out in that frame. Two relievers kept Okotoks scoreless the rest of the way.

Simpson went the distance for Okotoks, scattering six hits and striking out 11. Beaux Guilbeau and Jake MacDonald earned two of the Prospects safeties. Among Edmonton’s starters, only Travis Hunt avoided being fanned.