In spite of financial losses and tiny crowds in its inaugural 2012 season, the Freedom Pro Baseball League not only returns for 2013, but plans to more than double in size over the next two to three years. On Friday the league unveiled plans to expand to as many as 10 teams in Arizona as well as adding additional franchises in California. “We learned in our first season that this is a business model that can be successful,” explained General Manager Michael King. Freedom League President Joe Sperle has attributed last year’s struggles to “growing pains” and the lack of having the “right people in place.” The league has dramatically expanded their staff and is ahead of the curve in terms of preparation as compared to this point in its inaugural season.
It now appears that the league will retain three of its four locations from 2012 with one other team moving across the Valley. League spokesman David Whiteside told the Examiner that the league is very close to inking deals to play at spring training stadiums in Phoenix, Peoria, and Goodyear as well as returning to Roughrider Park in Prescott.
It was previously thought that the league would be unable to return to Peoria because of stadium renovations. It now appears that they have worked out a deal that will allow the Explorers to return. Peoria Stadium is the spring training home of the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres. The league champion Prospectors will return to Phoenix Municipal Stadium where the Oakland A’s play their spring training games. Roughrider Park in Prescott is the home field of Yavapai Juinor College. With no lights, tiny field dimensions, high altitude and barely adequate seating, Roughrider seems to be the weak link in the chain. The league has promised some “exciting changes” for Prescott this season. The Freedom League’s fourth team, the Centennials, played at Scottsdale Stadium last season but will be relocating to Goodyear Ballpark this year. Goodyear hosts the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds during the spring.
The FPBL had previously announced expansion to six teams for 2013 but was unable to make that happen this year. They now say that Surprise and Salt River Fields in Scottsdale are their targets for expansion in 2014. According to Whiteside, expansion plans also may include locations throughout Arizona including Yuma and Tucson. Whiteside confirmed that preliminary calls have been made to representatives in those areas. However the Yuma Desert Rats, who recently dropped out of the competing American West League, will not be a part of the FPBL this year. “We have not contacted the Rats and have no plans on adding them to the Freedom League,” confirmed Whiteside. Published reports elsewhere speculated that the Desert Rats would be absorbed by the FPBL.
Expansion efforts are being led by WB Grimes and Co. Sports Advisory Group which has been retained by the Freedom Pro Baseball League to assist in securing owners for expansion franchises as well as pursuing investors for existing teams. Bill Yates, a Texas based associate of the Sports Advisory Group, reports strong interest in the FPBL. “We are finalizing individual team operating agreements with new owners right now and replying to the tremendous number of ownership inquiries that we’ve received.”
The Sports Advisory Group has representatives throughout the country and specializes in brokering sports teams by initiating sales, assisting in negotiations and acting as a financial advisor throughout the process. This includes assisting owners to place a value on their franchises.
Freedom League Notebook:The Freedom Winter League is on schedule to begin on February 12 at the Snedigar Sportsplex in Chandler. The Examiner was unable to learn how many registrants have signed up for the camp. Capacity is 150 and the league has promised to sign or invite at least 40 players from the camp to Freedom League spring training…A new Freedom League website is being developed and should be launched soon…No schedule nor field staff assignments for the Winter League or the regular season have been announced.