It’s AAll good for Sammy

Fish's jump to American Association looking smarter by the day

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The American Association continues to expand, the Northern League continues to unravel, and Sam Katz's decision to have his Winnipeg Goldeyes abandon the latter for the former just looks wiser with each passing day.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/12/2010 (4381 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The American Association continues to expand, the Northern League continues to unravel, and Sam Katz’s decision to have his Winnipeg Goldeyes abandon the latter for the former just looks wiser with each passing day.

Even as the Northern League’s Schaumburg Flyers were being evicted from their ballpark, AA commissioner Miles Wolff confirmed Tuesday that the Amarillo Gold Sox — who began selling tickets to the public on Monday — are expected to field a new team for the 2011 AA season.

That would bring the number of franchises in the AA to 15 and it seems Wolff isn’t done adding teams yet, as the commissioner seemed to suggest that a 16th team is also on the verge of being announced for the 2011 season.

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS archives Fans at Canwest Global Park will have a new, apparently prosperous league to watch next season — unlike the struggling North American League amalgamation.

Wolff ruled out operating the AA with an odd number of teams or suspending the operations of an existing franchise in 2011, leaving the addition of a 16th team the only logical alternative.

Wolff was guarded with details, but did say an announcement could come within the next week.

“We have a couple of final issues to make certain of,” Wolff explained, “and we’re asking our teams to be patient for just a little while longer.”

The new Amarillo franchise is owned by some of the same people who own an existing AA franchise in Shreveport, La. There had been speculation that the Shreveport franchise, which averaged just 1,588 fans per game in 2010, would be shuttered for 2011, but Wolff denied that on Tuesday.

There is some urgency to all of this as the uncertainty is preventing the AA league office from releasing a league schedule.

To date, only schedules for the Goldeyes and Fargo RedHawks have been released — and those releases only happened because management of both teams insisted on it so that they could sell tickets in the key period before Christmas.

It’s unclear what adding two more teams would mean to the divisional alignment of the AA, which until now has the Fish in a four-team North Division, along with five-team Central and South Divisions. Presumably one option would be four, four-team divisions.

Wolff said whatever happens with the new franchises will not affect the Goldeyes 2011 schedule.

It is also unclear where a 16th AA franchise might be located and Wolff wasn’t saying. However, Schaumburg appears to be one possible location.

An Illinois court last week ordered the Flyers be evicted from Alexian Field by Jan. 13 unless they pay the local district over $900,000 US in back rent.

But Flyers owner Rich Ehrenreich told an area newspaper last week that a sale of the team — which has been on the block for over a year now — would be announced within days and that the proceeds would be used to clear up the back rent.

Whether that announcement and process is one of the unresolved issues to which Wolff refers is unclear, but the timing at least appears to be right.

The existing Northern League — which consisted of just four remaining teams after the Goldeyes, RedHawks, Kansas City T-Bones and Gary SouthShore Railcats jumped ship in October — announced last month that they were joining the Golden League and United League Baseball in a new super-independent league to be called the North American League.

But that idea appears to be in complete disarray. Construction of a new ballpark in Lake County has ground to a halt and another Chicago-area Northern League team — the Joliet Jackhammers, which also faced eviction for back rent — were sold last month and the new ownership has a tentative deal to move to the Frontier League instead.

Meanwhile, the United League’s Amarillo Dillas are without a ballpark after the city had their lease voided for non-payment of rent and signed a deal instead with the new AA ownership group. And just last week, still another United League team — the Coastal Bend Thunder — were locked out of their ballpark for non-payment of rent.

An announcement from the NAL detailing teams and a schedule that was pledged for early this month hasn’t happened yet and it’s an open question whether it ever will now.

Put it altogether and one thing is clear: there are going to be winners and losers to the 2010 schism in independent league baseball.

And, as he has done so often in the past, it appears Katz has once again backed a winner.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

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