With the local baseball season just weeks away and the professional one already underway, I figured now would be as good a time as any to discuss something that I truly believe would be beneficial to Canadian baseball players.
A Canadian Baseball League.
Now I am fully aware that the last time someone tried to start a professional baseball league in Canada (2003) that is was about as successful as an asparagus flavoured lollypop.
In 2003 Tony Riviera, a former major league scout saw his dream, the CBL, come to fruition. An eight team league, one each in Calgary, Saskatoon, Kelowna, Victoria, London, Niagara, Trois-Rivieres and Montreal, began play.
In 2003 Riviera also saw his dream turn into a nightmare when their television deal with The Score (Home for the Hardcore) fell through due to extremely low attendance (like, 300 people per game) and the inability to draw sponsors.
Riviera got the money to start the league from former Microsoft product developer Charlton Lui as well as Jeff Mallett, part owner of the San Francisco Giants.
The loss of the television deal, combined with the low attendance and zero financial positives, resulted in the league folding before the end of the season.
They did award their championship trophy, however, as the Calgary Outlaws, by virtue of their 24-13 record, took home the inaugural (and last) Jenkins Cup (named for Ferguson Jenkins).
However I believe that, if ran correctly, that the league could be successful.
First, don’t pump it up so much. Riviera boasted about how the CBL would be comparable to AAA baseball.
My idea? Use the league as a developmental territory for Canadian baseball players. Run the league from the middle of May to the end of August/middle of September so that Canadians playing college/university baseball in the United States can come back to Canada for summer ball. Should they not be finished school by the end of May then their parent team can choose to play AP players (that is, local midget players) in place of those university athletes until they join the team.
Players attending NCAA universities would not get paid to play as it would be considered an amateur league so as not to ruin their eligibility for their scholarships. Players not attending university would be paid for their services (this would be the tricky part, getting the NCAA to agree to this).
Allow teams to have a maximum of five imports, only two of which could be pitchers. The rest of the players have to be homegrown talent.
As for teams, start off small. Have an Eastern and Western Division. Each division would have six teams. Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina and Saskatoon in the West.
In the East there would be Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax.
Have the Western and Eastern teams play each other occasionally in inter-division, each Western team playing each Eastern team six times (one three game series at home, the other on the road).
To make it easier on teams financially, every series would be three games with a doubleheader on the first day and a single game on the second. That would save hotel costs for the clubs involved. Each double header game would be seven innings and Canadian pitchers have to start those two with an import being eligible to start the third game of the series (to negate managers using a “ringer” to dominate for seven innings).
The league’s sole purpose would be to develop Canadian baseball players. Sure there needs to be a lot more planning and thought put into this. But this is a building block of sorts.
I would personally love to see a predominately Canadian baseball league. Anything that benefits our Canadian ball players is, in my eyes, awesome.