Getting another baseball team in Ottawa to replace Triple-A will come down to finding a voice of reason at City Hall who can pull others along at the government level. It seems cut-and-dried, but in politics, it never is, of course, especially now.
Anyway, there's more hope than there was 24 hours ago that someone at City Hall will stand up and say, "Look, follow the money. We can solve one stadium dilemma, get closure on an eight-figure legal labryinth, protect public space and avoid soaking the poor taxpayer." Not to oversimplify since we all know the gears grind slowly very in politics, but that's it in a nutshell. Whether it's a councillor, Mayor Larry O'Brien or a top manager who's going to help get people onside, no one knows. But it has to happen very soon since the Can-Am League has to make plans for its 2008 season over the next few weeks.
Can that happen? After being down there today, let's say the door is open a crack.
Wolff, who had support from fans, citizen-journalists such as Carl Kiiffner at Ottawa Lynx Blog, and Baseball Canada director general Jim Baba and Andre Lachance, coach of the national women's team, came across very well. Wolff has done this dozens of times. He didn't promise the moon. He was clear that this is strictly about giving minor-league ball a chance to rise again in the capital, kind of the way coaches will say, "Let's just get in the playoffs, then talk about a championship."
That openness, might go a ways with councillors in a city that knows from failed sports ventures. When pressed, he even said he would be willing to own a team here, if it came to that.
Baba, wearing the mantle of his position at Baseball Canada, was great in getting a point across that's been made here. It's one thing for any one person to say the Can-Am League could work in Ottawa, but if Miles Wolff believes it can, take it to the bank.
Wolff's confidence in this market can't be emphasized enough. He helped establish Baseball America as a respected publication, was vital in turning minor-league ball into a major industry when he owned the Durham Bulls in the late 1980s and touched off the independent baseball renaissance of the past 15 years when he got the Northern League going in the early 1990s.
The councillors who met Wolff today, if they didn't know any of that at 7 a.m. this morning, they certainly do now. This might not have been a home run today, but it felt like one of those solidly smacked singles that often heralds a big rally.
League makes first pitch to councillors over Lynx Stadium (Darren Desaulniers, Ottawa Citizen)
A couple points:
- The Can-Am League would push Canadian content. Quebec Capitales, whom Wolff owns, have an all-Quebecois coaching staff and eight Canadians on the current roster.
If the reborn Ottawa team could have a French-Canadian player -- such as long-time indie-ball veteran Max Poulin, who played for Winnipeg this season -- that would be a huge score for French-language media coverage.
- Identifying with the players is a big selling point. Lynx GM Kyle Bostwick, if memory serves, once told a reporter that the team made 147 roster moves in a season. This year, 50 players came through Ottawa, and that wasn't necessarily high for Triple-A -- Toledo (54) and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (61) each used more and they won their divisions. The Lynx had only two positions in the starting lineup (catcher with Jason Jaramillo and Gary Burnham as the cleanup hitter, splitting time between first base and DH) that didn't change all season.
In comparison, the Northern League's Goldeyes had five of their nine regulars play at least 92 of their 95 games.
- Baseball Canada already does a lot with little (which will only get more challenging after it loses Olympic status after 2008). It's an absolute no-brainer for it to have use of a top-notch minor-league park for training and evaluating players, especially with Canada hosting the world junior championship in Edmonton next year. (How many people even know we are hosting this?)
South of the border, there would be no hesitation to make that happen, but this is Canada and it works differently. Still, reasonable people can always work toward something reasonable, it just has to come very quickly. This is more than a sports story now; you might want to turn to the city section of the Citizen first today.
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.