According to several sources at the ownership level, the current game plan for the independent Northern League has the four Chicagoland teams remaining in the circuit and Clark Griffith continuing as commissioner, while four teams — Winnipeg, Fargo-Moorhead, Gary-SouthShore and Kansas City — moving to the American Association.
The four Chicagoland teams — Rockford RiverHawks, Lake County Fielders, Joliet JackHammers and Schaumburg Flyers — will comprise the new Northern League, with Griffith staying on to seek expansion opportunities for the league. In doing so, the four teams spurned offers from both the American Association and Frontier League to join forces. We’re told there are some solid financial reasons to remain in the Northern League — it’s seen by some owners as the best way to preserve franchise values at a time when Joliet is for sale and Schaumburg is back on the market — and some logistical arguments to a running a league where all four teams are in close proximity, which will cut down travel costs.
For the four teams departing, it’s a reunion with the teams who originally defected from the Northern League to form the American Association. It also addresses some travel issues in the AA: the team jumps from 10 teams to 14, with Laredo and Montgomery County (Texas) joining in 2012. At 16 teams, with eight teams in a division, you won’t see the long road trips most teams suffered through in the past few seasons. (In other words, don’t expect a Goldeyes/Pelicans game any time soon.)
As usual, there are the usual disclaimers: it’s still a fluid situation, and things can change. Still, we expect an announcement later this week that will finalize all these details.
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