Although no official announcement has been made by the league, the Examiner has learned that the San Diego area North County Cannons have withdrawn from the AWBL. In an exclusive interview, Cannons owner Jim Hoynes told the Examiner that he is terminating his team’s operating agreement with the American West Baseball League. Hoynes said that he notified league CEO Michael Cummings of his decision by e-mail on Wednesday. “I still think independent baseball can work in this area,” said Hoynes. “I may give it another shot in the future, but it certainly won’t be as a part of the American West League.”
Hoynes retired from the Marine Corps in 2007 and has thought about putting together a baseball team ever since. He thought that his dream was coming true last October when he plunked down a franchise fee to own a team in the start-up American West Baseball League. “It was something I had always wanted to do,” lamented Hoynes. “I can remember taking my son to minor league ballparks and thinking how great it was. That’s really where the idea started.” Hoynes has paid at least $35,000 in fees and league dues without receiving any return.
“When I came on board I understood that we would be able to play at (Cal State) San Marcos, but that never came together. The league kept looking for a place for us to play, but as time went by it became obvious that it wasn’t going to happen. The other fields they were looking at just weren’t suitable. They either didn’t have lights or adequate seating, and the ones that did weren’t available. With no place to play at this late date, I concluded that it just wasn’t going to happen and the best thing to do was to terminate our operating agreement.”
North County becomes the fourth team of the original five announced AWBL franchises to pull out of the league, the third due to the lack of a ballpark. DC Sports and Entertainment purchased a franchise in Long Beach but found that they were unable to use Blair Field which is operated by Long Beach State. Soon after DC Sports came on board, a franchise in Mesa Arizona was acquired by former big league pitcher Albie Lopez and Mesa Sports agent Eddie Marin. The pair quickly learned that Mesa’s Hohokam Park was unavailable due to commitments to the Chicago Cubs and its Arizona League (rookie level) team. Lopez and Marin refused to make further payments to the league and also withdrew. In Yuma, owner Tim Ferguson had a place to play, but didn’t see any progress with the other teams. Like the owners in Long Beach and Mesa, Ferguson chose not to make further payments to the AWBL and instead he too pulled out.
After losing the Yuma franchise the AWBL scrambled to announce that they are bringing a franchise to Las Curces, New Mexico but have not announced an ownership group for the team. The city formerly hosted a Pecos League at Apodoca Park.
Most recently, the AWBL announced that they will field a team in Nogales, Ariz. The team is to be named the Nogales Ghosts and will play at War Memorial Stadium. An group that operates a winter league in Colombia has agreed to own and operate the Nogales team.
The other active AWBL franchise is the Fullerton Flyers owned by a combination of the league, owners of the former GBL Fullerton/Orange County franchise, and former major leaguer Edgar Renteria and his brother Edinson. The team had hoped to play at Fullerton State’s Goodwin Field, but they have not been able to reach a lease agreement with the school.
The scorecard for the league shows seven franchises announced; four withdrawn; one with no ownership group; and one with no stadium to play at. The AWBL has however, produced a website and a lot of press releases.
Meanwhile, after canceling their winter league due to “lack of interest,” the AWBL, in yet another announcement, touted a spring league to take place in April at a to-be- determined Southern California site. Since the announcement, the AWBL website has taken down the registration for the league and replaced it with a notice of “Coming Next Year.” Now they and started registration for a tryout camp that is to be held at Valley Christian High School in Cerritos, California on March 23. Players are left to wonder what they are trying out for at a camp run by a league that increasing looks like it will never throw a pitch.