Armada, GBL are all business

first_img No, the missing sounds were those we’ve come to expect after several years of watching minor-league baseball teams lurch and spew around Blair like a garbage truck that’s just lost its hydraulics and its load. We didn’t hear that telltale sound of a player’s check bouncing down Park Avenue and across 7th Street. It’s been very quiet this summer at Blair Field. You could hear the sounds of baseball just fine whenever the Armada hosted one of their Golden Baseball League opponents. The crack of leather and horsehide, cheers from the crowd, the squeals of kids, the metallic squeak when kids see if they can shake the heads off their bobblehead giveaways. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 We didn’t take feverish phone calls from city officials saying the new team in town is behind on its rent and griping about a bigger piece of concessions. We didn’t hear rival owners arguing in the stands before a game, one of the finer moments in the Barracuda/Riptide experience. We didn’t hear bellowing and kvetching from owners and league officials when there was a hostile takeover of the Long Beach franchise. Hostile has been the operative word whenever a minor-league franchise set up shop here, because the legacy of failed and embarrassing franchises in Long Beach is longer and just as twisted as the Long Beach Grand Prix course. So while we welcomed the Armada and Golden Baseball League like all the others, with a hearty handshake, we then took several large steps back so we wouldn’t be in the vicinity when it blew up. center_img Well, the GBL didn’t implode or anything. It has reached the end of its first season, with the league playoffs underway this weekend at Blair Field, having done what it promised play baseball without angst or distraction. We knew the GBL had the potential to be different because it had a business model what a concept! that didn’t rely on owners in the typical sense and it launched with significant sponsorship commitments in hand. We just had to see it for ourselves before passing judgment. One year isn’t much of a track record for a new league, but most of the others jumped the rails by midseason. “I read all of the articles, so I knew what had happened and what the expectations were,” said Dave Kaval, the GBL CEO and Stanford grad who turned his college business project into a reality. “We’ve had a good first season and it’s been about what baseball should be, the games and fans and players, as opposed to the high drama of independent baseball here in the past. There’s a ton of people in the league who worked hard and long hours to make sure the focus was on the game.” You can have a fleet of well-intentioned personnel working in that area, and things will still take on an aroma if the league starts to flounder behind the scenes. The GBL’s biggest success may have been planning. Kaval and friends spent two years-plus in preparation. Kaval toured California and Arizona to find the locations and fields he believed would succeed. He and his partners worked diligently to land a major multi-year sponsorship deal with Safeway/Vons as a sponsor. The league is a single entity, meaning the league owns all the teams, which meant there would be no mini-Steinbrenners fronting the clubs. Those running team in several cases are more like community CEOs than traditional owners Bob Linscheid in Chico, Pat Brown in Yuma, and Juliana Paoli, once Ronnie Lott’s business adviser, in San Diego. They also had an investor lineup in hand, along with its money, before launching, so there would be none of the typical in-season financial screwups. “Those were two fundamental things,” Kaval said. “We had quality investors and were well-capitalized.” Most of the investors have links to thriving businesses, like computer software and Internet, plus two locally based former NFL players, Mike Sherrard and Christian Okoye. “The deal we made with Safeway put us in a solid financial situation,” Kaval said. “People learned about the teams and the leagues by going to their local grocery store, which was a nice lead-in to the family market.” The league’s credibility got a bump, too, when a sure Hall of Famer, the ageless Rickey Henderson, signed on to play in San Diego, and when former major-league execs like Barry Stockhamer, who had spent most of his career with the Dodgers, signed on to assist in marketing and communications. The only blip was the league losing a home city for its Samurai team made up exclusively of players from Japan. Thus the Bears played all of their games on the road, and the responsibility for their extended road trip fell in the arms of the league office. “A lot of our marketing and business execs had to put things aside so they could run the team,” he said. “That was really the only negative.” Kaval and friends are already preparing for season two as season one comes to a close. The first priority is finding Samurai a home, followed by considering expansion to 10 teams no guarantee and negotiating new lease terms related to concessions with franchises in Arizona. The league may get a boost in the future thanks to a pending decision by Major League Baseball. In search of reducing costs to its minor-league operation, it may close two of its six rookie short-season leagues, the Arizona (nine teams) and Gulf Coast (12), which would put 400 draft-worthy players on the streets looking for a place to play. It’s part of a fundamental change in the minor-league business that can only help independent leagues. Having a league that’s a single-entity theoretically works smoother than a league with independent owners of varying resources. “Major-league teams are more and more reluctant to subsidize leagues, especially when their own surveys say only five percent of all players in A ball make it to the major leagues,” Kaval said. “So carrying two teams each in A and rookie-league ball doesn’t make sense. “A team with a major-league affiliate may have a higher gross margin because of the major-league subsidy (players and their salaries), but each team has its own sponsorship and marketing sales concerns. The fact we own all (the) teams is its own advantage because we’re selling sponsors an entire league.” A league that now looks to the future without the usual chorus of freaked-out investors, braying owners, and players openly wondering if the check in their hand was more bankable. Yes, Silence is Golden. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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