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Internet could manage Crushers

Lake Erie CrushersThe Lake Erie Crushers (independent; Frontier League) are set to turn over on-field management to a crowdfunded startup, America’s Ball Club, building a fan-run baseball team.

America’s Ball Club is attempting to raise $75,000 on indiegogo to launch a website and pay licensing fees to the Crushers, giving fans power over how the team is managed. Throughout the season, backers will choose the team’s lineup and batting order, pitching rotation, select draft picks, potentially fire the manager, and more. Of course, this will all come as part of a deliberative process: fans will hold Q&As with team management, debate topics in online forums, and then dictate actions to the Crushers front office. It’s being pitched as the ultimate in fantasy baseball. Here’s a bio of the founders:

America’s Ball Club was started by Kevin Barber and Mike Waghalter, two longtime baseball fans with a dream to democratize the National Pastime. We’ve often found ourselves cursing the management of our favorite teams (Kevin’s is the Orioles; Mike’s is the Dodgers) when they make a bad call or field an inferior lineup. Like most fans, we thought we could make better decisions, especially when it came to the lineup, batting order, and pitching rotation.

The Internet managing the team has actually been done before: the late Schaumburg Flyers (independent; Northern League) did the same thing in conjunction with MSN and LivePlanet, a development company formed by film stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, in 2006. Internet voters determined batting lineups, fielding positions and the pitching roster for the second half of the club’s 2006 season. It didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

This time could be different, as Internet technology is considerably more advanced. Still, there are a few questions: will these guys raise $75,000, and will enough fans care enough about Lake Erie Crushers players to fork over money to say who plays and who doesn’t? An MLB team could conceivably attract enough players to fund $75,000, but we’re not talking household names on the Crushers roster or coaching staff.

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