A Farewell To The Continental Baseball League

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The Continental Baseball League played its last games this weekend as the 2010 CBL Championship was played in Alpine, Texas.  That series marks the end of the four-year venture for the CBL, which had the majority of its teams in Texas.


Many in the baseball community, both industry professionals and fans, have had plenty to complain about the CBL in its four years; and, yes, many of their complaints are justified.  This post, however, will do one of the few things which was overlooked with all of the complaints.  In this post I will discuss the good points about the CBL and what it brought to the industry.

Please note that many things many be seen as biased in this post, but that is not the case.  I reiterate that many of things you may have read on other forums are accurate or at least reasonable assessments of what took place over the 4 year history of the league.  It is just that when bad news happens in large volumes and quickly, the achievements and good efforts of others often get forgotten.  All that I ask is that you leave the negative comments on the other forums, blogs, or blog posts on this site.  The purpose of this particular post simply is to remember  the good things which came out of the CBL.

Here is a quick history of the CBL teams:

2007 Season:

  • Bay Area Toros (League City, TX and Texas City, TX)
  • Lewisville Lizards (Lewisville, TX and Argyle, TX)
  • Tarrant County Blue Thunder (North Richland Hills, TX) — 2007 Champions
  • Texas Heat (travel team based out of Dallas, TX)

2008 Season:

  • Bay Area Toros — 2008 Champions
  • Corpus Christi Beach Dawgs (Robstown, TX)
  • McKinney Blue Thunder (McKinney, TX)
  • Texarkana Gunslingers (Texarkana, TX)

2009 Season:

  • Alexandria Aces (Alexandria, LA) — 2009 Champions
  • Bay Area Toros
  • Big Bend Cowboys (Alpine, TX)
  • Coastal Kingfish (travel)
  • South Louisiana Pipeliners
  • Texarkana Gunslingers

2010 Season:

  • Big Bend Cowboys — 2010 Champions
  • Coastal Kingfish (travel)
  • Desert Valley Mountain Lions (travel)
  • Las Cruces Vaqueros (Las Cruces, NM)

Here are some of the highlights of the CBL’s history:

  • By rough estimates, nearly 50-60 players had the opportunity to go to higher level independent leagues after having played in the league.  This number includes late-season “call ups” and roster spot “filler” players as the CBL season usually ended 1 to 3 weeks before the other leagues’ seasons ended.  This number is still to be confirmed, so those of you accuracy-minded minor league baseball historians will have to wait!
  • I am waiting on official numbers, but it appears that at 10 (or more) players appeared on affiliated Minor League teams within 1-2 years after having played in the CBL.  This does not mean that they were signed directly out of the CBL, but they were signed for the first time, or brought back to affiliated minor league baseball, at some point after their time in the CBL
  • Lewisville, McKinney, and some of the other teams adopted a unique activity after games:  every night (barring weather) every kid remaining in the stands got to run the bases AND a player (or players) would give free post-game lessons; and these lessons were not “up-sells” to upcoming camps and clinics.  They were done free of charge as thanks for the fans’ loyalty.  Many of the parents got to take pictures of their kids with the players on the field after these lessons.  If nothing else, in these towns the CBL truly delivered on the “family entertainment” aspect of minor league ball
  • The CBL featured 3 former MLB veterans as managers (Curtis Wilkerson, Tom Goodwin, and Steve Trout)
  • Some of the promotions, such as honoring the various branches of the Military, made a positive emotional impact on the attendees and those being honored
  • Many of the websites which serve the independent baseball industry (this website, IndependentMinorLeagueBaseball.com, IndependentBaseballAlumni.com, and IndependentBaseballTryouts.net) would never have existed if not for the CBL’s encouragement and assistance
  • The league gave hundreds of players and dozens of front office staff members and interns the opportunity to say that they were involved with pro baseball for at least some point in their careers
  • Obviously, those fans who simply wanted their kids to be able to meet pro baseball players had the chance to do so at good prices.  Hopefully these experiences gave some of the kids the inspiration to be the next generation of stewards of this game
  • As well, the lifelong friendships and camaraderie among the players – who otherwise would never have been pro baseball players – hopefully will be used for good if the players end up coaching or training the next generation of baseball players

If you have a positive story about the CBL and how it impacted you, your family, or the industry in general then you are welcome to leave a comment on this blog.  All that I ask is that if you feel the need to leave a negative comment then do so on other CBL-related posts on this site, on other forums and blogs, or keep it to yourself.  Thank you for understanding.

Many people put in lots of time and effort into doing their part to help the league at some point in their careers.  The purpose of this blog post is to thank them and remember the contributions which have helped promote the game of baseball.

Finally, many people have asked about the Pecos League.  At the time of this post, it has yet to announce a formal declaration of its legal entity, the official teams, how the league will be structured, etc.  When it does, there is a high likelihood that many of the 2010 CBL teams will form the basis of the 2011 Pecos League; but I have been told that neither the CBL nor any league personnel will have any legal, operational, or financial involvement with the new league.  The CBL will fold, and the Pecos League will be on its own should it declare itself to be an official independent professional baseball league.  More information will follow on this website as the information becomes confirmed.

For all of those with whom I have had many good  laughs and fun experiences when involved with the CBL, thank you for your friendship and for your encouragement about starting & maintaining this website for the benefit of the industry.  I hope that our involvement together has helped your career and helped you to become a good ambassador for the game of baseball in the years to come.

For all of the CBL fans, both those who attended games and followed the league on forums/online radio/team websites, thank you for your encouragement and support.  Having been both in the front office as well as in uniform, your support was greatly appreciated!

Matt

P.S.  Should you know anyone who either played in the CBL, worked for a CBL team, attended CBL games, or is the friend/family member of a CBL alum then you are welcome to send this post to them.  They are welcome to leave any positive comments on this post as well.

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I asked for some memories from fans and those who were involved with the CBL.  Here is what they said:

“Well with all that said Matt I would have to say my favorite memories in the CBL would have to be…When the league first open and it gave a lot of men chances to do what they love.I remembered when I wasn’t on the team yet and my Dad(Curtis Wilkerson)was coaching all these guys from everywhere around the states being professionals having the time of there lives. Thank you CBL for everything.You gave second chance to play baseball again and get signed to Affiliated team.” -Brandon Wilkerson

“My favorite time was when one of the Furrow’s (can’t remember which one) had to give his mini bio to the crowd and included his cell phone number.  Hahahaha!” – Andrew Hastings

“I suppose one of the funniest moments was seeing Gunslingers GM David Farren put himself in the pitching rotation… and then manager Chris McKnight having to go out and relieve his boss of the ball.   As a fan, my best memories are of the “Tuesday feeds”. It was a practice day, but not a game day, so it was mandatory attendance but there were no sponsor meals. So, an informal group of fans got together and put out a spread every Tuesday evening.  Good lord, those boys could eat!” – Kevin Craig

“I remember meeting alot of other ball players that i still talk to to this day even though we are all in different leagues spread across the US.  I also got my dream job from just networking with people who attended the games.” – Glenn Wilson

“Haha, the phone number thing worked too!  Let’s see, from 2007 I remember getting rained out for a month straight. We got paid to go fishing everyday with Jason Furrow, Brandon Pello and Bull. Went four wheeling a lot.”  – Donald Furrow

“I will say that I’m proud of all my teammates and opposition who stuck together and endured a poorly organized and operated league. I gained a lot of lifelong friendships. For that I am truly thankful.”  – Jason Furrow

“I was there from the very beginning– the first meeting with teh owners and the administration of the league– the hopes and the dreams and the drive – and passion was filling the room– the first season with the ball clubs in Lewisville and Tarrant County- we were there to broadcast them to families around the country and for that matter around the world.  Then in the middle of the season– the owner of the Lizards left– they had to move to Argyle, Texas– Tarrant County was playing on a field for little leagues– and when it wasn’t raining– we would be hearing about scores that looked more like football then baseball– Great guys that came to play– and learn from Tommy Goodwin and Curtis Wilkerson– seeing how they came together as a team.  Second year, when the shift to move Tarrant County to McKinney and be at the Ball Fields at Craigs Ranch… nice facility but like someone already mentioned– had to suspend a game so they could get the fireworks off without upsetting the neighborhood… oh what about the All Star Game that only went 4 innings before the gully wahser came in and washed out the rest of the game.  Other memories are not for print– but suffice to say broadcasters have skewed memories but the guys were great and the friendships are priceless.” – Dave Michaels

“The cbl was a great oporitunity for me to extend my baseball career, it was a great league and I can can say I was once paid to play a game witch I grew up loving! I made some life long friends and was one of the best summers of my life!” – Robby Winn

“I do know from my point of view the most memorable times I had was being in a small town (Alpine, TX) where the town really took you in as their own. The most rewarding aspect aside from the obvious of playing at a professional level is when you get to sign your first autograph. The joy of watching a kid run up with a baseball, excited as can be, asking for your autograph was my biggest thrill.” – Brett Urie

“That is the best part is getting to watch the smile on young kids as you give them your autograph!”- Keith Essary

“I really enjoyed the internship experience I had. I loved seeing and learning some of the ins and outs of a independent league ball club. Never a dull moment!” – Mike Rowe

“Beating Texarkana after trailing by nine in the 6th, first game at Kokernot since the original Cowboys. Watching Darrell grow and see his happiness with the Lacy family.” – Donnie Randell

“Winning the CBL championship in 2008 was a blast…I will never forget that feeling and the guys on that team…” – Tony Rogowski

“I don’t know if I have any over-arching community-related stories, but I am grateful for the CBL–not only did it give young players an outlet to continue playing, it gave me and other interns/staff, a young, would-be SID a chance to try and start a career, which eventually landed me an internship for a few months at the Texas Rangers. I wish the ending was happier than “still looking for a job post-graduation.  There were a lot of headaches with the 2007 CBL, and bush-league stories, but overall it was a whole lot of fun.” – David Waxman

“I had a great time and met a lot of great people. I’ll miss it… most of it anyway” – Andrew Kelne

“So much potential and talent ran through this league. It gave myself, a kid from canada a chance to make a paycheque while living the dream in texas. Shout out to t french, beau cumbie, justin meagher, robby winn… It was good boys.” – Trevor Klassen

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3 Comments

  1. I had the incredible opportunity to represent the McKinney Blue Thunder in a very unique way. I had the privilege of being Thunder Dog, the teams mascot. I walked around in that big blue dog costume for the 2008 season. The only thing I would have changed was the Texas heart. Many times the temperature in the costume got up to 110 degrees. The temperature made not difference when I saw the looks on kids and adults faces at the sight of a six foot blue dog. Even now I run into parents that recognize me and ask about Thunder Dog. It brings a big smile to my face. I am great full to the management, staff, and players of the McKinney Blue Thunder. It was an opportunity that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

  2. Working on my base by the pool everday….betourne, kelne and the bouge getting sunburned from too much tanning oil- Forsythe

  3. How could we not be proud of what took place here this past baseball season? The Big Bend Cowboys provided the community a service more than supporting the venture by attending a game. Having an additional entertainment venue available is a plus and the addition of a few extra jobs is important. But more than the economics, it was an act of generosity to accept strangers into the homes of the Host Families. The parents of these young men had to be concerned; but they were well-cared for among us.

    We’re also proud of all the players (finishing the season here or elsewhere), coaches and staff contributing to the results on the field; from training camp to the remarkable championship finish the weekend of July 29-31, 2010. Some will return to their old hometowns in Texas and elsewhere in the USA or over-seas. Some will seek to be signed by a team in a full-season league in search of manifesting their dreams beyond the Big Bend Cowboys this summer. Some will return for a second or third season with us next summer.

    Some found Alpine-Big Bend to their liking and found an opportunity to work and others, romance and love. They’ll be remaining with us and attend to their career and/or their gal. Perhaps they’ll start a family and be a part of a proud tradition of Cowboys’ lore when a first pitch is thrown to start the season or another All-Star luncheon is held in advance of the evening’s game.

    Truth be told; many fans live vicariously through their teams’ effort on the field. We haven’t escaped the fact there are many important concerns needing to be addressed in this world. After all, baseball is but a game and a business venture for the players and the owners; each seeking to advance their own interests. That isn’t a crime. It is called a “career move”. “Follow your bliss”, as Joseph Campbell wrote.

    The players at the CBL level of organized ball do so for a chance and an opportunity to advance themselves in something they love and have enjoyed for some years before ever hearing of Alpine-Big Bend, TX. Purchasing a ticket and getting excited throughout the season; both cheering and encouraging their growth and supporting them while having a grand time at Kokernot, is win-win for all concerned. Having fun isn’t a crime, either.

    Fans have enjoyed singing “Take me out to the ball game”, mentioning “BARBEQUE” to team mascot Buffalo Bill while enjoying his “schtick”, the dizzy bat contest, the relay around the bases, the Reata’s food and beverages, the vendors delivering ‘treats to the seats’, GM JR Smith (the busiest guy in Big Bend) present and engaged in every aspect of what it took to play ball, the recycling of cans and plastic bottles, the “people watching”, Mickey hustling for foul balls and broken bats, the “All-Star” luncheon at the Granada and game that followed, the friendships made in the seats nearby and more – much more. How ‘bout watching a game at Kokernot Field on a typically nice Alpine, TX summer night, with those mountains in the background?

    It can’t be ignored that Team President, Bob Ward, was up in the grandstand after the games, lifting up the seats and moving efficiently through row after row with a push-broom where the volunteer labor may have flagged and missed a peanut shell or wrapper. Bob – you did a yeoman’s amount of heavy-lifting to keep the team and season afloat – with more than just a broom.

    Then, at the risk of omitting to mention names, simply let it be said: “Thank ALL of you, too” for putting your time, attention and yes, currency for professional baseball in Alpine-Big Bend!”

    I suppose you can call playing for any of the Continental Baseball League’s teams an “Internship” or a “work-study” program. But we hope that the players are proud to have participated in this venture. You’ve proved what a person – as a team – is able to accomplish with determination and lots of effort on your side – ‘cause you didn’t do it for the money or the extra adversity or challenges that occurred during the season. You have our thanks and appreciation!

    Wherever the path of life takes our Big Bend “Boys of the Summer of 2010”, you are wished the very best in all your future endeavors. You may be leaving us; but know that where ever you go, you carry the knowledge that of your hopes and dreams, it IS possible to manifest them. That’s called “success”. Indeed, this year was a success.

    Peace be with you!

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