The Examiner has learned that the American West Winter League that was scheduled to start on January 24 at the Ray Kroc Baseball Complex in Yuma has been cancelled. On Thursday, Becky Chavez of the Yuma Parks and Recreation Department confirmed that the Independent American West Baseball League has notified the city that the league has been cancelled “due to lack of interest.”
Chavez said that American West representatives cited the number of winter leagues being held in California, Arizona and Texas as factors in shutting down their proposed winter operation. The California Winter League opened in Palm Springs on Wednesday and the Texas Winter League opens on January 31 in Harlingen. There is further competition as the Sunkist Florida League in Palm Bay started its ninth winter league program on January 8. In Arizona, the second-year Freedom Pro Baseball League is registering players for its inaugural winter program which is scheduled to start on February 12 at Snedigar Sportsplex in Chandler.
Along with the narrowing of the winter league field come questions. The cancellation of the Yuma league may be a double edged sword for the Freedom League’s winter prospects. It leaves the Chandler league as the only Arizona option for winter league players but it also begs the question of supply and demand. One advantage that the FPBL operation may have is the choice of a lower fee for players who provide their own meals, lodging and transportation. This can be attractive to the many local players in the Phoenix area. Another carrot is the opportunity to sign a contract with a Freedom League team for the 2013 season. The league is promising to invite at least 40 players from the winter league to its spring training. The Freedom Winter League has the latest start date of any of the similar leagues. It is unclear if the later start time will be a benefit or a handicap. Only the final registration numbers and execution of the league will answer those questions.