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Great West League to launch with Chico, Lodi teams

Great West LeagueWe have a new summer-collegiate league planned for 2016, as the Great West League has some big names organizing the circuit, including Pat Gillick, Jack Donovan and Ken Wilson.

Wilson, of course, is the former president of the summer-collegiate West Coast League; during his time there the circuit stabilized and brought in a number of solid owners while expanding into better markets. The new league will be focused on California and Oregon markets, and while there may be some overlap with West Coast League territory (Medford, Oregon is a WCL city in the southern part of the state), the first two teams announced have a Northern California vibe: Chico and Lodi.

Chico would be one the first places to look for anyone attempting to set up a new league in California: Chico was one of the best markets in two defunct independent leagues — the Western Baseball League and the Golden Baseball League, and Chico State’s Nettleton Stadium is capable of hosting higher-level ball. (Indeed: Chico was once eyed as a High Class A California League market before changes in California’s community-development system basically made municipal backing of new ballparks impossible.) Steve Nettleton, who owned the WBL’s Chico Heat, will reprise that role with the Great West League; Chico native Pat Gillick, who earned his Hall of Fame status in the front office of the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, will manage the team. The team will play in Nettleton Stadium — named for Nettleton, of course.

“Throughout my career, most of my success has come from amateur players,” Gillick said at a press conference announcing the league. “I’m at the point in life where you want to give something back. What we’re trying to do here is give these young players an opportunity to play in a very competitive league in a good city, a good environment and a good stadium and help them develop these skills.”

In Lodi, former MLB player and scout Jack Donovan will own a team playing out of Zupo Field, former home to minor-league baseball in the city. He highlighted the recruiting advantages for a California-based summer-collegiate league when announcing the team:

“Every other league is trying to recruit players from California. We’re going to be sitting here where they can drive, take their cars up for the summer where they can be in a league where they will play in minor league stadiums.

“When they come here, it will be a minor league atmosphere, a professional atmosphere. And we hope that will draw more players to us as the years go on.”

No word on other potential markets. Wilson says the league will feature either six or eight teams in 2016.

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