WHITHER the Northern League? More like wither.
Once the premier league in all of independent baseball, the Northern League is in shambles since the Winnipeg Goldeyes -- along with former NL teams in Kansas City, Fargo-Moorhead and Gary -- all defected in October to the American Association.
A notice was posted on the Northern League's website on Nov. 22 stating that the Northern League had merged with the Golden and United leagues and that the four existing NL teams -- franchises in Schaumburg, Joliet, Lake County and Rockford -- would be joining the new circuit, to be called the North American League, in time for next season.
But since then, the assets of the Joliet franchise have been bought up by a new group, which has announced it intends to play in the Frontier League next season; construction on a new ballpark in Lake County remains at a standstill; and a group in Omaha announced it had signed a deal to put a North American League franchise in that city's Ameritrade Park for next season, only to have Omaha officials one day later publicly deny any such deal existed and state they weren't even negotiating with the group.
According to the statement on the NL site, the North American League will include existing franchises from the Northern, Golden and United leagues, plus anticipated expansion teams, to bring the total number of franchises to "16-20."
Plans call for a 92- to 100-game schedule in 2011, with "approximately 75 per cent of their games within their region and 25 per cent outside their region/division."
An inaugural league meeting was to be held at the end of November. It is not clear if that meeting ever took place.