In previous posts, I have discussed various approaches to bring a high level baseball team(s) to the Maritimes. They have mostly been bringing in independent professional teams to an existing league or starting up a collegiate summer league based in the Maritimes. One approach that hasn’t been discussed is adding Maritime teams to an existing summer collegiate league. This has been dismissed by myself mainly that the economics of summer ball would be difficult for teams from the area to travel back and forth to New England (the obvious target) all the time.
Currently the closest summer league team to the Maritimes is the Sanford Mainers of the New England Collegiate League. That would be too far for one team to travel to their nearest opponent. The following is a list of Maritime centres and their “closeness” to Sanford in both kilometers and time (all calculations courtesy of Google Maps). All routes are the shortest routes in terms of time traveled:
- Saint John to Sanford (534 km or 5 hours & 24 minutes)
- Fredericton to Sanford (570.1 km or 5 hours & 24 minutes)
- Moncton to Sanford (685 km or 6 hours & 49 minutes)
- Charlottetown to Sanford (848 km or 8 hours & 35 minutes)
- Halifax to Sanford (945 km or 9 hours & 8 minutes)
- Sydney to Sanford (1155 km or 11 hours & 24 minutes)
Point being, that is a long trip multiple times in a single season when most teams in these leagues operate on a smallish budget. Keep in mind that Sanford is close to the New Hampshire border so it’s close to 5 hours from the (Maine-New Brunswick) border to there. The good news about that is it’s not far from the other teams once you hit Sanford. In fact the farthest time from Sanford is the Danbury Westerners of Connecticut. Sanford and Danbury are 385 km (or 3 hours & 58 minutes apart).
Getting back to the main point of the post, the long distances make it hard for a summer collegiate team to operate in the Maritimes, unless it is a Maritime based league. Professional teams tend to be better capitalized so they can travel farther distances without it affecting their profits as much. However, summer collegiate teams don’t pay their players, which frees up some space in the budget that could go towards travel. Here is the scenario that Maritime based teams in the NECBL could economically make sense. This scenario would also apply to Maritime teams in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, also based in New England (closest team in Portsmouth, NH).
For a present collegiate league to come to the Maritimes and be successful, there can’t be just one or two teams being added. This would be a logistical nightmare. The actual travel and scheduling part could probably work but make-up games and travel during postseason would be a cause of concern. To cut down on the logistical problems, you would need four (Maritime) teams added at the same time, playing as a division within said league. Anything less would not work under this scenario. Five could work but it would lead to a “swing” team which could cause some problems in regards to scheduling. Six of more teams may work but with that many teams you’re better off starting your own Maritime based league. For the purposes of this post, it doesn`t really matter what four communities would be in the Maritime Division.
The NECBL had 12 teams in 2015 divided into two divisions of six teams each. The league played a 42 game schedule (six against division foes and two against each team in the opposite division). As of this writing there is scheduled to be 13 teams in 2016 with the addition of Hartford, Vermont. When discussing this scenario and for simplicity sakes (full disclosure: I am no math major) we will use a 16 team league as an example. The league would be divided up into four 4 team divisions. Each team would play a total of two games against each non-division opponent. For New England teams that would mean a home and home against each non-division opponent in the region. For games involving the Maritime Division, teams would either play two home (and no away) or two away (and no home). This will cut down on travel and each match-up can be played in a two game series. Match-ups will be rotated from year to year (play a team at home one year, you play them on the road the next). This leads to a total of 24 inter division games for each club per season. Of these, 12 would be on the road which can be divided into two six game road trips for Maritime teams and one four game trip for the New England teams. Make-up games may cause some problems but can be alleviated with an off day of two scheduled during each trip. The balance of the schedule will be played within the division. The league can retain the 42 game schedule by playing 18 division games (six against each opponent, as seen in 2015). To emphasis the regional rivalries there is also the option of expanding the schedule to 48 (this means eight games against each divisional rival). Playoffs would lead to some logistical problems, but the best format would likely be top two in each division qualify, playing each other in the division finals. Then the final four would be played in semifinals and finals. Since the league uses the best of three format; all series where a Maritime team plays a New England team would be played at the same site (team with the better record).
The FCBL had 10 teams in 2015 divided into two divisions of five teams each. The league played a 56 game schedule (not sure of the breakdown by division). The is no expansion for the 2016 season. This format Maritime teams could play three games against each New England teams. The schedule would allow five home series of three and five away series of three games each. This brings a total of 30 games. Of these games, 15 would on the road (for the Maritime teams). Would be divided in two or maybe three separate trips. The remainder would be played within the division. If there were eight games vs. division opponents, this would lead to a 54 games schedule (a reduction of two from the 2015 format). These two extra off days would likely be travel days. This means the New England teams have 51 games to play each other. It`s say four against the other (New England) division and 31 against division opponents (eight vs. three teams and one team you will only play seven times). Playoffs would mean eight teams qualify. Top six in New England and top two in the Maritimes. First round would be played regionally (Maritime teams play each other) and semifinals and finals would be played as proposed in the NECBL.
The other collegiate summer league idea I`ve had recently is a joint league between the Maritimes and Maine. This would be discussed further in a future post.