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FIRST POSTED: THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2017 07:20 PM MST | UPDATED: THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2017 07:40 PM MST

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Fans find their seats for the Edmonton Prospects and Regina Red Sox Western Major Baseball League game at Telus Field on June 7, 2015. (Perry Mah)
 

The clock is still ticking on Edmonton's river valley ball yard, but it's been harder to hear lately, drowned out by joyful noise.

The Edmonton Prospects, who took over as leaseholders 10 months ago and are desperate to prove the ball yard's relevance, scratched and clawed their way to the Western Major Baseball League championship series last summer and that glorious run certainly livened up the joint.

The college kids played their last home game Aug. 13, but the park didn't go dark. Prospects owner Patrick Cassidy, who couldn't be more dedicated to keeping the bulldozers at bay, said there were 60 other bookings on his facility's calendar – corporate and charity slo-pitch games and barbecues and the like. The Folk Fest folks were in there, so too some television production companies.

He also signed eight-month lease deals with Vimy Ridge Baseball Academy and the fledgling University of Alberta Baseball Club, ensuring there's activity year round.

The 30 Vimy Ridge kids were in there five days a week in the fall, now three days a week during winter, but will go back to a Monday to Friday schedule. When the 30 University of Alberta kids aren't on the road – they're playing in Phoenix now and heading for Las Vegas – they're at the park from Monday through Saturday.

Local baseball lifer Mark Randall runs both enterprises, and is determined to build a development system that moves players from Vimy to the U of A, to the Prospects and eventually minor pro. But there's a much bigger picture in his head.

"The whole purpose of this venture from my end, really, is to save the facility," Randall said Thursday. "I know that having kids down there running around the stadium on a daily basis is going to help the cause."

Cassidy signed a four-year-plus-option deal with the City last spring and it represents the last and best hope for baseball. If the Prospects fail in their multi-pronged mission to provide an entertaining product, tend the game's grassroots and open the facility to the wider community, the land could be repurposed for condominiums.

"We're trying to keep the bulldozers parked up on the hill there," said Cassidy. "Part of our mandate was, prove to us that this building is relevant and has a future.

"I think we're going to be successful. We had a good year last year. We put over 40,000 people in the ball park."

The Prospects drew 38,226 fans for 21 regular season dates and another 7,940 for five playoff tilts as they upset the Okotoks Dawgs and Medicine Hat Mavericks en route to the league championship, where they fell to the Swift Current Indians. That gave them a year-long average of 1,775, second only to Okotoks in the 12-team loop.

Cassidy wants to build on last year's momentum by staging half a dozen special events that could attract perhaps 5,000 people nightly, as they do on Canada Day, when the park offers a great view of the fireworks. With more than 9,000 seats available, there is no urgency to buy season tickets. About 95 per cent of their crowd is walkup and they need to constantly beat the drum.

To that end, they reached out to the public with their inaugural gala at Fort Edmonton Park on Feb. 11. With former major leaguer and current Sportsnet analyst Gregg Zaun as keynote speaker, it was a modest affair but the team is gaining momentum in the corporate community.

"You keep feeling it, more and more companies jumping on board," said Cassidy. "Actions speak louder than words, they've got to put their money where their mouths are, and they're doing it."

So are the Prospects. This week, they started putting in a new electronic scoreboard, replacing a relic that had been there since Day 1, according to Cassidy.

"I think it might have been built in 1923," he laughed. "Instead of that Lite-Brite board with burnt-out lights, and only one or two colours, it will be more like a television. It's going to be a lot clearer, more functional. It's something that needed to be done.

"We're also looking at maybe putting new stadium lights in, not so much because we need new lighting and the players are struggling to see the ball – although they will use that excuse when they drop one – moreso because the existing lights are old technology and there is an issue with the amount of transmission and distribution we have to pay every month."

He said new lights could save the club about $75,000 to $100,000 per year on power.

He's already signed a new food provider – Prairie Catering will unveil a signature Edmonton-sourced hotdog this year – and has a deal pending for a naming rights sponsor. It's an international sales and marketing company boasting 3,000 agents in the Edmonton area, he said.

If the name is approved by City Council, the ball yard will finally have a new identity, and it will be a mouthful. The name of the corporate sponsor, which he wouldn't divulge, will be followed by Field and Entertainment Centre.

Given all that's going on down there these days, it sounds about right.

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Twitter.com/jrnlbarnes

Brooks, AB Joins The WMBL

For the second time this week, the Western Major Baseball League is pleased to announce a major development. The City of Brooks, Alberta will join the WMBL in 2016 and will mean that the league will schedule a 6 Alberta (West) and 6 Saskatchewan (East) clubs format for the first time in league history. The Brooks franchise has been making plans, presentations, and team details for nearly a year and after meeting all conditions set by the league, was unanimously approved this week by the WMBL Board of Governors to relocate and operate at the recently built Elks Field for the 2016 season.

Led by longtime baseball enthusiast, Doug Jones, and joined by local baseball loyalists Jason Thomason, Jason Wander, & Darla Wandler, the Brooks franchise will model itself after some of the smaller long standing Saskatchewan WMBL clubs such as Swift Current, Welbourn, Melville, and Yorkton. “The City of Brooks along with the local business and service clubs are to be commended for their passion in achieving this franchise for this area,” commented WMBL President Kevin Kvame.

In 2007, the league saw the Red Deer franchise request an indefinite leave of absence. “It has been an ongoing goal of the league to relocate this franchise or restart it under better conditions in Red Deer. Doug finally felt he had the right dynamics with Brooks, being a decent field, committed community, and enthusiastic baseball people,” Kvame added about the relocation.

“This has been a tremendous week for the WMBL as we grow to 12 franchises with the goal of seeing another Alberta team and another Saskatchewan team in the next couple of years. Community baseball is alive and well as it provides great and affordable family entertainment,”. The league President went onto say.

The WMBL is Canada’s Premiere Summer College Baseball League operating in Alberta and Saskatchewan with 11 other centers. Each team plays a 48 game regular season, 24 at home and 24 away with college baseball athletes who desire to hone their skills during their summer break from school. It is modelled after other summer college leagues such as the Cape Cod, West Coast, or Northwoods leagues. “We continue to see parity in the league with 6 different champions over the last 7 years including Lethbridge winning their 1st title about 2 months ago,’ commented Kvame.

Elks Field is an excellent facility that is new to Brooks and will be a great field for the new WMBL franchise to call home. It is part of a four field complex that houses Little League and Slowpitch organizations as well, all who have written letters of support regarding the new franchise. “As with any WMBL club, it is important for the team to have backing from their local baseball community and we are very pleased with the show of support in Brooks,” the WMBL President added.

Please contact the WMBL President at the contact information below should you wish any further information on this exciting development.

 

Kevin Kvame

President

Western Major Baseball League

1-403-315-4064 (cell)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (email) 

By Robert Murray, Fort McMurray Today

Fort McMurray’s dream of a Western Major League Baseball team could become a reality as soon as Monday.

The Regional Recreation Corporation sent out a media advisory Friday afternoon, scheduling a media conference for Monday morning at the iSafety Clubhouse in the baseball stadium at Shell Place, where it is expected the team’s name, quite possibly the Fort McMurray Giants, will be announced, bringing a WMBL franchise to the region for the 2016 season.

Different leagues have been eyeing Shell Place’s new baseball stadium as a market for a new team since the stadium opened, though a WMBL franchise has attracted the most attention. The WMBL calls itself the “pre-eminent” summer collegiate baseball league and operates six teams in Saskatchewan and four in Alberta, consisting of players mainly from the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

By Robert Murray, Fort McMurray Today  Full Story at http://www.fortmcmurraytoday.com/2015/11/01/wmbl-franchise-for-mcmurray 

The closest market to Fort McMurray would be the Edmonton Prospects, while other Albertan franchises exist in Okotoks, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. News of a potential WMBL team leaked early in October when a posted was circulated for a fundraising dinner Nov. 17 at the Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre featuring Toronto Blue Jays players Kevin Pillar and Chris Colabello. Sports broadcaster Jamie Campbell will also be joining them.

The man behind the project, Steve Avila of High Plains Baseball, indicated in late September to the Today, that he wanted to “fill in the hole in the summertime.”

Monday’s announcement will take place at 11 a.m.

http://www.fortmcmurraytoday.com/2015/11/01/wmbl-franchise-for-mcmurray

 

Date: March 12th, 2014

 

Edmonton Prospects bring Franchuk onboard for 2014 season as special advisor and coach

 

Edmonton (AB) – Edmonton Prospects owner Pat Cassidy is adding fuel to the drive for a stronger operation and a league pennant in 2014. Baseball heavyweight and Edmonton Sports Hall of Famer, Orv Franchuk, is joining the organization as coach and special advisor, effective May 1st.

 

“Bringing Orv onboard will ensure we address the demands of the front office, increase our media, sponsor and community outreach, and add to Ray Brown’s already deep coaching staff,” Cassidy said. “Orv brings a broad base of experience in pro ball and he knows Edmonton and the local baseball community – it’s a win, win for fans, sponsors, and athletes in this region.”

 

Franchuk has nearly 40 years of professional baseball experience as a manager, coach, scout and hitting coordinator with the Cincinnati Reds, Anaheim Angels, Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations. He sports a World Series ring from his post with the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and seven minor league championships.

 

In high performance amateur competition, his baseball career includes coach of the Canadian National Team at the 2007 World Baseball Cup, the 1981 Intercontinental Cup, and the 1978 Amateur World Series. Franchuk was inducted into the Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

 

He earned his Masters Degree in Education from Long Beach State and taught in the Edmonton Public School system for 24 years before making the transition to a full-time baseball career.

 

“Getting back to Edmonton brings me full circle. I was one of the first kids from this region to get a chance to play baseball in the U.S. college system back in the 1960s and that was the first step to a 37-year career in the sport. Edmonton has become a hotbed of baseball talent since then and I’m looking forward to working with Pat, Ray and others in the operation to build the Edmonton Prospects franchise this coming season,” said Franchuk.

 

A summer collegiate baseball program, the Edmonton Prospects play a 46-game schedule in the [11-team] Western Major Baseball League. The Prospects open their 2014 season on May 30th with a four-game home stand, three against the Lethbridge Bulls and one against the Okotoks Dawgs. Games start at 7:05 p.m. at TELUS Field. For a full Edmonton Prospects season schedule, sponsorship and volunteer opportunities, go to www.prospectsbaseballclub.com. For details of the Western Major Baseball League go to www.wmbl.ca.

 

For more information:

Media Contact: Orv Franchuk
email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Team Contact: Lynda Holden

phone / email: 780.940.4854 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

ORV FRANCHUK TO JOIN EDMONTON PROSPECTS AS COACH & SPECIAL ADVISOR

 

– EXPERIENCE

 

  • 2013 LOS ANGELES DODGERS – Hitting Coach AA
  • 2011-2012 EDMONTON CAPITALS – Manager
  • 2009-2010 SAN DIEGO PADRES – Hitting Coach AAA/AA
  • 2008-2009 HOUSTON ASTROS – Hitting Coordinator
  • 2002-2006 BOSTON RED SOX – Hitting Coordinator
  • 1995-2002 OAKLAND ATHLETICS – Manager, Hitting Coordinator, Catching Coordinator, Hitting Coach
  • 1988-1994 ANAHEIM ANGELS – Hitting Coach, Scout
  • 1977-1984 CINCINNATI REDS – Scout

 

– EDUCATION 

 

Master of Arts Degree in Education

California State University at Long Beach

Long Beach, California

 

Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Education

Pepperdine University

Los Angeles, California

 

– PERSONAL

 

Orv and his wife Susan make their home in Meridian, Idaho.