BUTLER — The Butler BlueSox will not be in the Prospect League next season.
So where will they be?
That question may remain unanswered for a while.
The team announced Sunday night it was leaving the Prospect League. But the ownership group says it wants to field a team in Kelly Automotive Park in the summer of 2019.
“No one in this ownership is worried about making money,” said Roger Snodgrass, one of the owners. “From day one, the object of the BlueSox’ ownership has been to bring entertaining wooden bat baseball to this community and that hasn’t changed.
“We want people to be able to go out to the ballpark with family and friends, enjoy a wooden bat game, baseball food, fireworks, no cost to park ... That’s what we’re about.
“We’re not just going to pack it in. That’s not who we are,” Snodgrass added.
But staying in the Prospect League — the BlueSox’ home for all 10 years of their existence — is no longer economically viable, the owners say.
“Most team in the Prospect League can commute to and from the majority of games,” said Matt Clement, one of the BlueSox owners. “We have to get on a bus and ride nine or 10 hours, stay in a motel, etc. That affects the organization financially and on the field.
“It’s tougher for Cody (team manager Herald) to find players when we have bus rides that long. Other teams can offer much shorter trips all summer. That’s more attractive to these college players. It’s much less hectic.”
Another BlueSox owner, William “Wink” Robinson, said the team’s closest road game “is four and a half hours away and that just doesn’t work.”
The BlueSox dropped their final nine games this season and finished a franchise-worst 21-39. They averaged 500 fans per home game, ahead of only Champion City (Ohio) in league attendance.
Snodgrass said long road trips hurt the team at the gate this season.
“We had three stretches this year where we went on road trips that took us out of Butler for an entire week,” he said. “People find other things to do when you’re gone that long. They tend to lose interest. That definitely hurt our gate.”
Prospect League Commissioner Dennis Bastien said the BlueSox “will be sorely missed by our league. We are grateful to that organization, the City of Butler and the team’s fans for their support through the years.
“We understand the franchise’s situation and we wish them well in the future.”
Larry Sassone, one of the BlueSox owners, served as secretary of the Prospect League this season. Robinson has been heavily involved in league affairs through the years as well.
Lorain County (Ohio) left the Prospect League a few years ago. The Slippery Rock Sliders relocated to Champion City a few seasons back.
“We used to have teams in the (Prospect) league much closer to us,” Robinson said. “That’s just not the case anymore.”
The Prospect League is adding a franchise in Missouri next year.
“You can see where the league is going,” Clement said.
One place the BlueSox may be looking to go is the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League, a 15-team circuit that has nine teams in Ohio, four in Michigan, one in Richmond (Ind.) and one in Windsor, Ontario.
Deadline to join that league — which carries a $40,000 entry fee spread out over four or five years — is Aug. 31.
Sassone has had conversations with the Great Lakes league’s president and commissioner, “but that Aug. 31 date doesn’t leave us much time.
“But, right now, our prime goal is to field a team next summer.”