Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Can-Am Baseball League - a new option



Here in Ottawa, we love our NHL Senators and the OHL 67's, but other professional teams have tried and failed to make an impression on the Ottawa sports landscape since the early nineties. After over one hundred glorious years, the CFL's Rough Riders were folded in 1996, only to be reborn as the Renegades in 2002. The Renegades were losing on the field, and due to bad management they were losing at the ticket office; which led to the same result in April of 2006, the Renegades folded.

The Ottawa Lynx, our former triple A baseball team now calls Pennsylvania home. Originally affiliated with the Expos, the popularity of the Lynx ebbed and flowed with the fortunes of their parent club. As Montreal tore up the Majors in the early nineties, the Lynx were setting attendance records and winning a Championship in 1995. With the Expos gone, the Lynx were affiliated with Baltimore, and then Philadelphia and fan support dropped sharply. Lynx Stadium, which is owned by the city of Ottawa didn't stay empty for long, as the independent Can-Am baseball league moved in this summer, and the Rapidz are now Ottawa's newest residents.

The Can-Am League, is an eight team league based in the North Eastern United States, Ontario and Quebec. The Rapidz joined Les Capitales de Quebec as the Canadian stops on a schedule that includes the Atlantic City Surf, New Jersey Jackals, Brockton Rox, Nashua Pride, Sussex Skyhawks, and the Worcester Tornadoes. The teams play a 94 game, split season schedule starting in mid-May and finishing the regular season September first. The winners of the first and second half of the season, play the two teams with the next best records for the League Championship.

Any expansion team will struggle, and the Rapidz are no exception, posting a 13-34 first half record. The franchise continues to have growing pains on the field, they are 20-46 for the entire season, but they recently put together a winning streak and infielder Jabe Bergeron was named Batter of the Month in July. The Rapidz are averaging 2,147 fans per game, just under the league average of 2,333 ; more on-field success and more local coverage in the media will help the team finish strong at the ticket office and prepare for season two.

Ticket prices in Ottawa are $10 for adults, down to $4 for children. Can you get parking at a MLB game for under $20? The future success of sports leagues depends upon the next generation of fans. The Can-Am league has positioned themselves well for future success with an affordable day at the ballpark. There's nothing like being a kid at a ball game, the players all seem larger than life and a foul ball off the bat of the home team becomes a cherished possession.

I recently had the opportunity to interview the league Commissioner, Miles Wolff, for an article which will appear August 13th in the Main Street - www.laurentianlife.com . The Commissioner was very generous with his time, taking a moment from a hectic schedule to return my phone call, answer my questions, and then talk baseball for another 5 minutes. His passion and love for the game is unmatched. Hopefully, with a hard working Commissioner like Mr. Wolff at the top, the Can-Am League will have a permanent home here in Ottawa. I'll do all I can here at The Voice to help promote the league. If you're not in a Can-Am city, visit Online at www.canamleague.com for more info...

Do you remember when we used to talk about baseball the sport and not baseball the business? It's been too long. While MLB has the glitz and the glamour, I'm tired of hearing about a $20 million per year player who's not even trying. It should not be acceptable to say, "oh, that's just Manny being Manny"... Have a great sports day everyone.

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