Back in 2003, a group of investors, including Jeff Mallett the part owner of the (current) World Series champion San Francisco Giants had the idea of launching an all Canadian professional league, the Canadian Baseball League. The league’s president was Hall of Famer (and Canadian), Fergie Jenkins. The league had big dreams, stating their goal was to be of “AAA” quality and invited the successful Winnipeg Goldeyes (then of the Northern League) to switch leagues. They even had a national TV contract with The Score. But, like many independent leagues, the league folded midway though its first season. The league’s last game was its All-Star Game which was played in Calgary (and ended in a tie, even after a home run derby was played to break the said tie).
The league had eight teams, divided into two four team divisions. The leagues lineup was as follows:
West Division: Calgary Outlaws, Kelowna Heat, Saskatoon Legends & Victoria Capitals.
East Division: London Monarchs, Montreal Royales, Niagara Stars & Trois-Rivieres Saints.
Due to the lack of a suitable minor league field in Montreal, the Royales played out of Sherbrooke.
I remember rumours that the league was thinking of placing a team in Moncton for the 2004 season (which obviously never happened). One thing I don’t recall hearing was that the league scheduled a four game series for Kiwanis Park in August of 2003. Had this league survived another year, there is the real possibility that professional baseball would have been played in the Maritimes during the 2004 baseball season. This would have marked the first time in 65 years (the Cape Breton Colliery League folded after the 1939 season) that a pro team would have called the Maritimes home. If the Moncton team was successful there is no reason to believe that at least one other Maritime city would have joined them in 2005 or 2006 at the latest. Of course, there is the possibility that the league would have folded eventually, leading the demise of the said Moncton team. Or maybe, another league would have taken notice to the market and taken them in. As a consequence, this blog would not exist today had a successful operation (or two) been launched in the region a decade or so ago.
Here is an excerpt from the linked article (about the lauch of the NBLC in Moncton) that mentions the failed attempt at landing professional baseball.
It’s smart to go slow, because the city doesn’t want to rush out and join a basketball league if it’s going to turn around and fold within a year or two.
While enthusiasm runs high for the new league, it wouldn’t be the first time something like that happened.
The eight-team Canadian Baseball League debuted in 2003 and had a four-game series scheduled for Moncton’s Kiwanis Park in August of that year as a way of showing off the new league in this part of the country. That announcement created excitement that the exhibition games would eventually lead to a professional baseball team here in Moncton – the same hope football fans have for eventually landing a CFL team here.
But the CBL never made it to Moncton. Instead the league suspended operations in July 2003 and shut down after its one and only year in operation.
So Moncton officials are used to flirting with a new Canadian sports league and hopefully the experience gained from dealing with the failed CBL and successful CFL has offered city staff and politicians some insight into differentiating between something that works and something that doesn’t.
Interesting to think what could have been had the Canadian Baseball League had been more sound financially. There could easily be professional baseball in the region today, assuming the teams themselves were properly marketed to the public and were able to stay in a sound league either it be the CBL, CanAm or another league that could have come to fruition had there been a presence of pro ball here in the Maritimes.