Despite losing the Yuma Panthers and Orange County Flyers, the independent North American League will add teams in Hawaii and Sonoma County to stay with four Northern Division teams.
According to San Rafael Pacifics President/GM Mike Shapiro, work is underway to find new homes for new teams, with discussions occurring with a variety of venues; Na Koa Ikaika Maui will add the Hawaii team (Hilo is being eyed) and the Pacifics ownership will add the Sonoma County team. This will keep the Northern Division at four teams and presenting a platform to add more teams in 2013, when additional owners may be in the offing.
Yesterday Michael Cummings, CEO of Godfather Media, which purchased the Panthers and the Flyers this offeason in stock-based transactions, announced his firm wouldn’t be fielding teams this season, saying uncertainty about the league’s future called him to pull the plug after paying for a makeover of the Panthers and a manager in the form of Gerry Templeton.
But when talking to Shapiro, the former MLB executive who is now running the San Rafael Pacifics and working on the league expansion, it’s pretty clear his group actually prefers adding another team on their own, rather than relying on Godfather Media’s ownership.
“When we were doing our due diligence in acquiring the rights to league teams in the 10-county Bay Area, we concluded the league was being run by the wrong people — the original Golden League was flawed, and the North American League was inoperable as organized.” he explained. “We determined we should take over the league and work to find good, solid owners.”
The plan to add teams in Hawaii and Sonoma County was already in the works for 2013, he said; adding them now accelerates the plan.
“We thought the this first year would be rocky, that we would still have to be play under a commissioner and league structure not of our liking,” he said. “There may be confusion about what happens this year. We’re saying, bear with us, go to a game and you’ll have a good time.”
One thing that will stay the same: the relationship with the six Texas teams owned by John Bryant and Byron Pierce. The two divisions play totally different schedules and aren’t slated to meet for a championship, but Shapiro envisions one down the road.
“They’re good operators,” Shapiro said.
The move is the latest in a rocky offseason for the league, which saw the Edmonton and Calgary franchises suspend operations and Diamond Sports removed as operators of the circuit, formed in 2011 with teams from the Golden Baseball League, United League Baseball and the Northern League.
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