Monday, January 3, 2011

North American League down to 12 teams

The North American League (NAL), which was announced with much fanfare back in November, seems to be stumbling towards the starting gate for the 2011 season. Originally billed as a 16 to 20 team circuit containing clubs from the old Golden, Northern and United leagues, the NAL is now down to 12 teams and only two divisions according to their recently-launched website.

The current divisional alignment is as follows (location and former league in brackets):

Eastern Division
Edinburg Roadrunners (Texas; United League Baseball)
Lake County Fielders (Illinois; Northern League)
Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings (Texas; United League Baseball)
Rockford RiverHawks (Illinois; Northern League)
San Angelo Colts (Texas; United League Baseball)
Schaumburg Flyers (Illinois; Northern League)

Western Division
Calgary Vipers (Alberta; Golden Baseball League)
Chico Outlaws (California; Golden Baseball League**)
Edmonton Capitals (Alberta; Golden Baseball League)
Maui Na Koa Ikaika (Hawaii; Golden Baseball League)
Tijuana Embajadores (Mexico; expansion franchise)
Yuma Scorpions (Arizona; Golden Baseball League**)
** = league owned

Of note are the teams that are no longer listed as being part of the North American League. The Joliet JackHammers have bolted to the Frontier League and the Costal Bend Thunder no longer have a place to play after being locked out of their ballpark due to unpaid rent. The Orange County Flyers are also without a place to play and their owners are now running the show in Maui.

The remaining assortment of geographically disparate teams is starting to look like a list of clubs that no other league wanted. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the NAL go down to 8 or 10 teams by opening day. In fact, I'm not convinced this league will make it through to the end of their inaugural season. It's starting to look like the Parkers did the right thing by folding the Victoria Seals, thereby ending their contractual obligations to the Golden Baseball League. If the NAL goes down in flames, they'll be glad they avoided a very ugly financial mess.