Rumors of a new Canadian independent baseball league are surfacing, as the region’s distance from existing circuits is forcing potential owners to stay close to home in search of markets.
Several independent leagues — the Northern League, the Golden Baseball League and the North American League — have tried to work on schedules that included teams from Edmonton and Calgary, in the hopes that securing relatively large markets would offset the increased travel costs.
They were wrong.
Both Canadian teams dropped out of indpendent North American League this season. And with the revamped North American League unlikely to expand past California in future incarnations and the American Association (we’re told) not interested in expanding the league footprint to Alberta, baseball fans in western Canada will have to make do with summer-collegiate ball, trips to Vancouver or Toronto Blue Jays game broadcasts.
One possible solution is emerging: the creation of a new indy circuit. Edmonton and Calgary are natural flagship franchises for such an endeavor — and we find it telling that Rexall Sports and Entertainment, which owned the Edmonton Capitals of the North American League, didn’t give up its lease for Telus Field — and with funding for a new ballpark in Fort McMurray receiving approval from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, there are three markets for pro ball in the region, though it may be two or more years until we see a ballpark there.
Past these three markets, and you may have some issues in finding the three or five more you need for a truly successful circuit. Victoria, which has hosted pro ball in the past, signed a lease to bring a West Coast League team to Royal Athletic Park, but surely the greater Vancouver market would be targeted, though competition with the Vancouver Canadians (short season A; Northwest League) would need to be carefully considered. Former MiLB markets like Lethbridge would need to be evaluated, along with Saskatoon and Regina. And, of course, moving into some of these markets may mean displacing a Western Major Baseball League team or two.
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