The fact the rookie-level New York State League did not make it is not the biggest shock in the sports world. The fact it folded after only 18 days is a bit more surprising, and a real shame because of what it does to so many players who agreed to play for $500 a month in order to get the opportunity to show the professional baseball world they had talent.
What chance did the league have when it was known from the beginning that all games would be played in one stadium, aging Murnane Field, in the largely blue collar community of Utica, NY? Very little.
Where was the revenue going to come from to support it? It wasn't like this was a hot, new market. And founder Jay Acton had been through the startup process before with the Northeast League so he knew how costly it would be.
Acton told the Utica Observer-Dispatch "we're bleeding $10,000 a day". He should have known the economics all along. So attendance was disappointing. It wasn't the first time he had seen that happen.
One has to question why he--and any investors--would undertake this venture without the resources to keep it going for at least a full season?
This writer had taken a position of neutrality because the league would afford a good number of non-drafted college players the opportunity to be showcased or to at least prove to themselves they could not continue living the major league dream.
Should the failure of the NY State League become a major black mark on Independent Baseball? Absolutely not, because none of us can stop an operator from undertaking this type of venture. If anything, it further convinces this writer (I author the weekly Independent Baseball Insider)the leadership in the established Independent leagues should think hard about forming some type of association so they can establish certain groundrules whereby a league must meet specified standards before being recognized as an Independent league.
Several players who started in the NYSL showed enough talent to win promotions to other Independent Baseball leagues. I would expect others will be signed in the days ahead. One can only hope the operators of the league will do everything they can to see that those who go unsigned are treated fairly as they transition back to a normal life.
And to future idealists who want to start similar undertakings: Please check the thickness of your wallet and your level of determination before you leap into action.
Monday, July 23, 2007
WHY AM I NOT SURPRISED NY STATE LEAGUE FOLDED?
Former chief spokesman for Major League Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth. Six years as publicity director for the Kansas City Royals, and a background in newspaper, radio and television. Started Wirz & Associates, a sports PR and consulting firm, in 1985. Has written extensively on Independent Baseball since 2003.