This month’s updates for the List of Stadiums focuses on the return of Independent baseball as most leagues return in May. In 2011, we could have seen one of the craziest offseasons this circuit has seen yet. It all begins with the ridiculous North American League, which is a combination of teams from the Northern League, United League and Golden Baseball League. All of those leagues have “folded” to create the NAL. The reason this is a sure failure and a complete joke is the insane geographic distance between the teams. The ten team league consists of franchises in Texas, Canada, Hawaii, California and Illinois. How in the world the teams are going to afford to stay alive is beyond me. The Chico Outlaws start the year on a 19-game road trip, meanwhile, the four Texas teams (Edinburg, San Angelo, Rio Grande Valley and McAllen) are in their own little four-team league as the Edinburg team only plays the other in-state teams and never plays the other six franchises in the NAL, not once. Then, to add to the craziness, you have the Lake County Fielders, who played part of last year in an unfinished stadium with just bleachers in the Northern League, now don’t have a home game until July as they get their Pop-Up Ballpark supposedly completed. What a joke!
OK, on to the stadium news. The unfortunate demise of the aforementioned three leagues led to the folding of several franchises: Orange County Flyers, St. George Roadrunners, Tucson Toros, Victoria Seals, Laredo Broncos and Schaumberg Flyers. The only one that we lost from the Stadium List was Victoria (BC) as the others didn’t have the minimum capacity (or were saved by other teams playing there). Many teams moved onto different leagues, primarily into the American Association, which has now been stretched geographically. In that league, Winnipeg’s stadium name changed to Shaw Park. Over in the Frontier League, there was one casualty, Homer Stryker Field in Kalamazoo, as that franchise folded and I can’t find anyone calling that ballpark home anymore.
Heading out East, things are a bit calmer. The Sussex Skyhawks have folded and I was saddened by that as it was the closest professional franchise to where I live. Luckily, Sussex Community College will still play in the 4,300 seat Skylands Park, so it was saved for at least one more year. In weird naming news, the Long Island Ducks play at a ballpark located in Central Islip, NY. The town of Bethpage is about 18 miles away. Yet, in the ever-confusing world of corporate sponsorship, Bethpage Federal Credit Union bought the naming rights. Now this is fine because the bank is all over Long Island. However, they decided to call the stadium “Bethpage Ballpark”. Hopefully, fans don’t head to Bethpage looking for this park.
The last bit of wackiness comes from Ramapo, NY, where the Rockland Boulders are getting ready to play in the Can-Am league. Their new, yet-to-be named ballpark has been off again/on again as construction has been marred by legal issues and court battles. It is currently on again and they are scheduled for their home opener in Mid-June, hopefully the ballpark gets completed on-time.
Ending on a good note, I wanted to give a huge kudos to the Brockton Rox, who play at Campanelli Stadium . Last year, when I visited this stadium, I wasn’t pleased with their parking situation and lack of direction (both from the website and while driving into the ballpark). When making this month’s updates, I came across their website and saw a totally revamped “Directions” page and one that is now very easy to follow for first time visitors not from the area and visiting that city and ballpark. Well done!