After completing its first year of existence, the Dallas-based Continental Baseball League is looking to expand into the Mid-Atlantic region, raising the possibility that a team could be playing its home games in Anne Arundel County by 2008.
League representatives have held discussions with Franklin Cheney, an administrator for the county's Recreation and Parks department, and staff members who oversee Joe Cannon Stadium about using the Harmans facility during the four-month season. A decision could come within two weeks.
The independent CBL comprises four teams - the Tarrant County Blue Thunder, Lewisville Lizards, Bay Area Toros and Texas Heat - and will be adding two more from Texas in December. But league commissioner Ron Baron has a bigger vision, with the possibility of tapping the markets in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia and West Virginia.
"We know there's a great outpouring of interest in those areas, and we'd like to bring our brand of baseball to the region," said Baron, who founded the league. "Hopefully, we'll be up and running there in 2008. If not, certainly in 2009. We understand that Anne Arundel County is a great location, a booming area, and far enough away from the other minor league teams in that area."
If expansion takes hold, the winner from the Texas and Mid-Atlantic divisions would meet in the championship series. The Blue Thunder, owned by Baltimore native Larry Faulkner, won the inaugural CBL Ferguson Jenkins Championship in August.
"We had a very successful first year," Baron said. "We overcame a lot of challenges, including the highest amount of rain in Texas in 50 years."
Cheney met with league representative Walt Finklestein two weeks ago concerning the viability of moving a team into Joe Cannon Stadium.
"We're basically at the part where we're analyzing the information he's given us, basically looking at it from a financial situation and usage situation," Cheney said. "They're looking at 30 dates, and we're pretty booked at the stadium. Conceivably, there will be 30 games that won't get played there. But that's a low-minor league stadium there, and we haven't had a pro team play there, so that would be nice. We have to evaluate it and continue to research the league.
"It's not a typical 81-game home schedule. There are 30 dates, and they seem very willing to work around our schedules. But it's a little bit of a different type of commitment. We'd have to staff it differently."
Joe Cannon is normally reserved for adult and youth leagues in the summer, but CBL operations and communications director Bob Ibach said he believes a new team could co-exist with the established ones.
"We support those kinds of programs," he said. "We could see, if they have championship games, scheduling them as the first part of a doubleheader. The last thing we want to do is hurt kids' baseball."
Cheney said the stadium averages about 300 games a year, and though eliminating 30 to make room for the CBL would bring in more money, "we're not looking to knock out the other groups we have."
Cheney also said he hasn't considered another location because the league averages about 600 fans a game, and with what Joe Cannon offers in seating (1,500), locker rooms and other amenities, it's the only viable option.