Friday, September 18, 2009

Main Street Interview with Can-Am Commissioner Miles Wolff

For the September 18th edition of Main Street Week, available today at www.laurentianlife.com, I had the pleasure of speaking with Can-Am League Commissioner Miles Wolff. With permission from my editor, to help promote Main Street and the Can-Am baseball league, I have posted the article here for all Voice of Sport readers to enjoy. A big thank you to Commissioner Wolff for a great conversation and taking the time to speak with Main Street. For more information on the league, drop by www.canamleague.com

Catching up with the Can-Am Commissioner

Another exciting season of Can-Am baseball is in the books for the six-team league and the Quebec Capitales, as winners of the second half of the split-season schedule, have advanced to the playoffs in their quest for the Can-Am Championship. With many highlights this season and expansion possibilities on the horizon as awareness of the league grows, Commissioner Miles Wolff graciously took time from his busy schedule to speak with Main Street.

Miles Wolff is not only the Commissioner of the league; he is also the owner of the Capitales, bringing the team to Quebec City in 1999. ESPN, the American sports network, selected Wolff as the eighth best owner in all sports, a list that includes NFL, NBA and MLB owners. He has a Master’s Degree in Southern History and has authored two novels, Season of the Owl and Lunch at the 5 and 10 and spent 18 years as the President and Publisher of Baseball America.

With his interest in history and a keen eye looking towards the future, Wolff agreed that there are very few cities in North America like Quebec City, where people can visit a museum in the morning, watch a baseball game in the afternoon and enjoy fine cuisine on a patio in the evening.

“I have always been interested in history and Quebec is such a historic town,” said Wolff at the start of the interview. “We play up the history in the ballpark; we've got, on the walls, all the pictures of the old players and the history of baseball in the province. We really play up the history aspect of baseball in Quebec City and the province and because it is an old ballpark that helps the ambience. It's a great city.”

The Can-Am League made national headlines this past spring with the news that 2003 Cy Young Award winner and Quebec native, Eric Gagne, had signed with the Capitales after leaving the Milwaukee Brewers. The arrival of a MLB all-star in the Can-Am League and the exposure that went with it certainly raised the profile of the independent league.

“He is such a name and there has been such excitement,” said Wolff of Gagne’s arrival. “It has helped us far beyond anything I could have imagined. His name and his pitching for us has been a great boost.”

Baseball fans in the provincial capital have embraced the Capitales as they led the league in attendance again this season. In August, the team travelled to another Quebec town with a tremendous baseball history, Trois Rivieres. As interest in the league grows, would Trois Rivieres make a good home for a provincial rival to the Capitales?

“Absolutely,” said Wolff. “The City of Trois Rivieres has spent $8 million dollars fixing up their ballpark. It is a really nice facility so that is one reason we played there, to see if the interest was in the community.”

The Can-Am League is in a good position moving forward in the current economic climate. There is a limit of $100,000 per team for salaries and tickets are reasonably priced. The league could expand beyond six teams according to the Commissioner but not before next season.

“We'll have six next year but Ottawa could be one of those cities,” Wolff revealed. “I think over the next month or so, we will see how certain things develop but there is some good movement in Ottawa, so this could develop into the ability to get the stadium and get a team there, it would be very good for the league. We have one team that needs to move, the American Defenders of New Hampshire in Nashua. They won't be going back to Nashua next year, they haven't drawn that well so they are looking for a new home.”

Of course, each conversation with Commissioner Wolff for Main Street eventually leads to the question of a Can-Am team playing in Montreal. A group had expressed interest in a Montreal franchise last season but the lack of an adequate stadium forced the league and possible investors to adopt a wait and see attitude.

“I think getting Eric Gagne has just increased the visibility and the desire of Montreal to get a team,” said the Commissioner. “There is a lot of movement in Montreal right now, whether that will come to anything; Montreal is certainly on our radar. If we can find a location to put a stadium, I think that might happen. There is nothing very definite right now, other than lots of people talking.”

For the time being, Quebec baseball fans have a tremendous team in Quebec City to cheer for but with the possibility of teams in Ottawa, Trois Rivieres and Montreal, the Can-Am League could soon have a lot more Canadian content. Can-Am playoff coverage is available at The Voice of Sport website. Have a great sports day everyone.

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