The league is still young, a merger of sorts between two leagues.* That means there has been some flux in the league. Mostly for the good. The league went from 11 teams in it's inaugural 2009 season to 15 teams this year. The only true casualty has been the Dupage Dragons. There have been a few ownership changes, but no other teams have folded. That might change.
*Well, one league and some former owners in the Frontier League. CICL took its teams and basically made the Western Division. The former Frontier League owners made up the Eastern Division.
Before we get into that, let me give a little personal history. I worked for a year (pretty much the 2008-09 school year, plus the 2009 summer) in the Purdue Particle Physics Lab. While not an awful job, there really wasn't any need for my position. I could have very easily been part time and still completed what needed to be done. It wasn't a terribly fulfilling time. I kept looking around to find a better fit, and thought I had landed it. A start-up IT consulting firm, I would be the first employee. Who doesn't want to get in on the ground floor? I jumped at the chance, and I was out about as quickly as I was in. The guy just couldn't afford to keep me. That led to a pretty awful time of no income for a few months. In a moment of desperation,* I decided a great way to be employed was to make my own job. I couldn't afford to pay myself, though, so I needed to find a project for somebody else to bankroll. My idea was a twelfth team in the (at the time) 11-team Prospect League.
*I was pretty desperate to not lose my apartment that I had just signed a renewed lease on, because who thinks their new job at the start-up will end in two weeks? That said, I definitely believed in the idea, I just didn't have the money to bankroll it myself.
Currently, the Prospect League is sitting at a very healthy 15 teams. One of those teams, the Nashville Outlaws, though, has no owner. Apparently the league has been running the team since March, and hasn't gotten any real serious offers for another owner. If another owner isn't found, the team will most likely fold. I'm obviously not close to the situation, but it seems if there aren't any serious offers by now, a new owner is unlikely to materialize. Being the ambitious dreamer I am, it sounds like maybe I ought to revisit my idea, now that I'm in a more stable place.
My idea was to base a team in Lafayette. If a city like Danville can support the Dans all this year, surely the Lafayette metro area could do the same. It fits in the league geographically, much better than Nashville. There is a very nice field, Leob Stadium, that right now I don't believe hosts anything other than Lafayette Jeff baseball and the Colt World Series. I'm still desperate to see the field get more use, because it's a very nice old park in a great, great set up.
The stadium is situated within Columbian Park, which is the crown jewel of Lafayette parks. It used to have an amusement park in its confines, that has since been converted to a water park. There is a small (but pretty decent) zoo right next to the ballpark, along with pavilions and a "standard" playground. I think there's also a mini train track that still runs during the summers, a holdover from the amusement park. You would think with all those people around the stadium any way, you would be able to attract some curious walk up ticket buyers to go along with your baseball fans. And, like I mentioned, the park atmosphere can only help the baseball team.
The first go around didn't really get off the ground. For one, I got my current job before I could really get serious about it, but I did some communication with the league commissioner who was excited to have a Lafayette team before I let the dream die. Or at least take a hiatus. Here, though, is my pitch to bring summer college baseball to Lafayette.
First of all, anybody that's going to bankroll this is going to want to know what sort of expenses they have to look at. I don't remember, and couldn't reveal even if I did, what the franchise fee was, but strictly on the field expense should not be too bad. We would need some basic baseball equipment. Balls, a few bats, helmets, uniforms, and maybe catcher's gear. Even at retail, we're probably looking at a few thousand bucks. Five tops, I would guess. The helmets we probably could have the players buy as part of joining the team, but I would rather have the team buy them so they can be used from year to year. If the players want to buy their own helmet, though, that is an option available to them. I'm sure most players would have their own bats, too, but I would buy a few more or less for emergencies. These would be wooden bats, they do break. The catcher's gear players might own, but it just looks nicer when we can get gear in team colors. And, again, would make a good back up, should some personal equipment break.
The next expense is the park. Renting the field straight up with the city is $300 a night. With a 56 game schedule, we'll say we play half at home, so 28 games. That comes out to $8400. But, that's without working out any sort of deal with the city, which I would be surprised if we couldn't get some sort of break. Even at "retail," if we charge $5 a head, that comes out to 60 people a game. That seems pretty reasonable to get that money back. We might be able to work out some afternoon games on the weekend, too, which would lower the rental to $200 for those games. And, again, that's without working out a deal with the city, which I fully anticipate getting some sort of discount.
As far as staff is concerned, we should be able to get by with a very minimal staff. We'll need a GM, which I nominate myself. If I can make what I make now or slightly better but work in sports, I will be very happy. I can also be a salesman, getting advertisers to bring money and services in. I'll also volunteer as media guy. I would love to be able to call the games on the radio, but I'm assuming whoever we get to broadcast the games (maybe ESPN Radio 1450, out of Lafayette. There won't be any Purdue sports or high school sports to broadcast then) will have their own guy(s). And that would be a little bit of money in as part of that media deal. I would also be the one to run the team's website, Facebook, etc. I could also very easily keep the book at the games and be the one to call in the scores and stats, but I'm sure we can get some unpaid interns to handle some things beyond taking tickets and selling 50/50 tickets.* And because we can sell them on experience, that's no money out of our pocket. The other paid staff would be the manager and a couple of assistant coaches. We would only have to pay the coaches through the season, and we could probably get away with paying a fairly minimal amount, as it's probably going to be a college coach (I would try to get Coach Stevens from Wabash first) who already has steady income. This would just be some side money. Just to aim high, let's say $10,000 to pay three coaches ($5,000 for the head coach, $2,500 each for pitching and hitting coaches). So essentially, the only full time employee is me.
That would come out to less than $30,000 for all the "in-season" expenses, and a lot of the equipment costs (uniforms [outside of hats], helmets, catcher gear) will not going to be bought every season. Because we don't have to (and, in fact, can't) pay the players, that saves a whole ton of money. The only other costs not covered are travel and hotel.
I'm very optimistic this can be worked out for either free or close to it through trade deals. We throw free advertising at Imperial Travel and one of the Lafayette hotels* that they give us services for instead of money. Maybe over time we'd buy a team bus, but if we could work out a cozy deal with Imperial, I would be happy with that.
*In this league, the home team books hotel rooms for the visiting team. It hadn't crossed my mind before I started looking into it, but it makes a whole lot of sense. As far as the team owning a bus, there do seem to be some pretty reasonable deals on a used bus, which is an option that would be up to the owner. I'm fine either way.
It sounds like a winning deal to me. With a possibility at making a little money, or at worst spending what would be two full-time employees at a presumably well-off owner of a Lafayette business, we can bring a great family entertainment option to Lafayette, as well as bringing a great opportunity in helping college ballplayers work their way to pro dreams. What's not to like?
As you might have guessed, that's a concept* of the (in Uni Watch parlance) softball tops of the team. I really like the name Conductors. Purdue, and Lafayette as a whole, have had big ties to the railroad historically, and this pays homage to that. The colors I picked more or less to be unique, not sold on it at all. I don't think it's bad, though. Just because I can, here are what the "standard" white and greys would look like below. Thought I would probably put a number on the front, too. And stirrups!
*And by "concept," I mean I played around with the Russel Uniform Builder for about ten minutes.