Baseball in the city of Warwick has long been a source of pride, with high school state titles galore, four Little Leagues, Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken leagues and more than a few individuals who have gone on to have success in college or beyond.
As soon as 2015, there may be a new baseball team in town quite a bit different than the rest.
The Independent Professional Baseball League (IBL), an up-and-coming non-affiliated professional league is in the process of an attempted expansion through the Northeastern part of the country, and is hoping to base one of its teams in Warwick.
“We decided that a Northeastern division would be really ripe,” said Dan Malley, director of operations for the IBL. “Baseball has flourished here for a long time, it still does, and Warwick is a pretty sizeable city without any professional baseball.”
The IBL is set for its inaugural season 2014, with four teams in Ohio and Michigan that will play 36 games apiece. The hope is then to expand to the Northeast and really begin to grow the league.
Warwick could be part of that growth. The IBL is looking for a local ownership group to help get the ball rolling, as they would be more in tune with a possible venue, what may work in the city and how a new professional baseball team could succeed in these parts.
“We want a local ownership group, because they obviously know the area,” Malley said. “They know Warwick better than anyone. Here, I’m in the regional office on Long Island. I’m not in Warwick. We’ve identified through market research that Warwick has an excellent town and facility, but we need to find the proper people who know the town.”
Independent baseball league teams are not connected with any Major League team, but they provide former MLB-affiliated players or those looking for a shot at joining a Major League Baseball organization a chance to showcase their skills.
Teams are usually comprised of former college players who were undrafted or released by Major League organizations. Showcases and tryouts are typically held to create the roster.
“That’s what independent-level baseball is all about,” Malley said. “For some of these people it’s a job, and for most others its to get back into affiliated ball and have another shot at getting to the big leagues.”
The IBL was founded by current president Eric Spitaleri, who has a history of running sports leagues. In 2006, he was one of the founders of the Continental Indoor Football League, which was formerly known as the Great Lakes Indoor League. That league has been generally successful and is the longest continuously-running indoor football league in the United States.
Although not affiliated with the league anymore, Spitaleri has the background to help a league get started.
Of course, its easier said than done, as owners, managers and players need to be found and permits need to be approved.
It’s an undertaking, but it’s one that has the potential to be both profitable and exciting for the community.
“For an independent professional baseball league, our rates are very cheap,” Malley said. “It’s more about individual franchise, then it is about the league making money. Our goal is to really put independent professional baseball in towns that wouldn’t necessarily have minor league baseball otherwise.”
Besides Spitaleri, the league has some additional credibility. The Tiffin Saints, one of the four teams that will begin play in 2014, have signed former three-time Major League Baseball all-star Bill Madlock as their manager. Madlock won four batting titles while playing for six franchises from 1973-1987.
The IBL hopes that’s just the beginning, and is hoping that Warwick could be another piece of the league’s puzzle.
“In the upstate New York region, there are about six teams that will possibly be joining us,” Malley said. “We have interest in numerous other cities throughout the Northeast, like Warwick. Things are looking really good.”
Anyone interested in finding out more about investing in a team in Warwick or putting together an ownership group to help bring a franchise to the city, more information is available at www.investinibl.com.
“There’s a lot in the works for 2015 up in the Northeast,” Malley said.