The plan is in place.
Now Sam Creekmore, Frank Dodds, Clark Richey, and the rest of the Cotton States Baseball League North Division have to see where it will take them.
The CSBL”s decision “to bring the game to the fans” continues this weekend when the collegiate summer wooden bat league will feature the Tippah County Tribe and the Golden Triangle Jets in a nine-inning game at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Trojan Field at New Hope High School.
The game is one of three the league is playing away from its home site in New Albany in an attempt to help it grow.
Creekmore, who purchased the CSBL from Richey, its founder, last week, said the league was set up to be a single-site entity, and that model remains. But he said the CSBL decided to bring its product to Fulton, Columbus, and Corinth to see if the prospect of franchising member teams to businessmen closer to their homes would work.
“We could change the model or we could keep it a single-site league,” Creekmore said. “It is going to depend on the community support. We need businesses and leadership to invest in the league.”
Creekmore said the CSBL, which is in its second season, has made significant progress. It is providing a place for senior and junior college players from the region to play summer baseball in a competitive atmosphere while helping them stay close to home. He said he, Dodds, and Richey would like to have the next step for the league in place for next season, and that they would discuss the success of their bringing games to local communities after the season to see if it could be implemented.
Brian Hollis, the founder of GameTime Sports, a sports training facility in Columbus, is helping to put the game Sunday on at New Hope. He could be one of the businessmen the CSBL works with next season to have a team based in Columbus.
Creekmore has relatives in Monroe County and spent many summers in the Golden Triangle area. He knows there is a strong baseball tradition in Columbus, and he is excited about the prospects of playing in the Golden Triangle.
“I thought we should have had more people (at the game in Fulton last weekend), but we did not promote it very much,” Creekmore said. “We decided about 10 days prior to Sunday that we would do this. I think the New Hope game is going to be promoted much more. Brian Hollis has been working hard on this for a while, and we”re looking forward to coming to Columbus.”
Creekmore believes the league will have to get more “bigger-name players” from local schools like Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi to help its plan work. He said the CSBL already has developed good relationships with MSU coach John Cohen and Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco and that it needs to continue to show those coaches and others in the region that it provide a competitive arena in which their players can improve.
Creekmore is confident the league will grow if it adds more MSU and Ole Miss players. He feels it will take help from baseball fans in the state, too.
“There definitely is a need for college summer baseball,” Creekmore said. “To make it financially work we have to have people come to the ballpark, and that is going to take the bigger names. The growth of the league and the players in the league hasn”t translated into a fanbase coming. That is what we need to work on.”
Creekmore admitted that having the CSBL at a central site like New Albany makes it difficult for fans to travel multiple times in a week to see their teams play. He said the league could try to find another host site, where it would base multiple teams to make traveling and scheduling easier. He said the league won”t be able to expand past its current five-team format and stick with playing at one site.
That”s where the enthusiasm and support of local communities will be key.
“I think when communities buy into their teams and take pride in it the fans will come more,” Creekmore said. ”
Richey, who remains a minority partner in the league, feels it would be great for the CSBL to go to multiple sites and help college summer baseball expand in the state. He believes Creekmore has the time and the energy to help push the league in that direction.
“I think we have some work to do,” Richey said. “We are not getting a sufficient number of Mississippi State and Ole Miss players to play. I think we have done a great service to the players in this area. We have 15 to 20 Division I guys in the league this year, but we”re picking up the random Ole Miss or Mississippi State guy that, for some reason, is not going somewhere else, or maybe is not playing the whole season for us. We”re pleased and happy to serve in that capacity for that guy.”
In the same regard, Richey realizes more Division I players competing in the league could help the CSBL attract bigger crowds if it moves teams to other sites in the state. He said it is realistic for teams in local communities to draw crowds of several hundred fans to each game if they have the support of local businesses and have the time and effort to be committed to the project.
Richey is ready to do what he can to help the league take the next step.
“We have investigated clients in Batesville, Grenada, and Corinth that would be good host-site communities that would really get behind it,” Richey said. “New Hope and Columbus, I know they would get behind it.
“I am not sure which direction we”re going to go. Ultimately we”re going to make the right decision for the league that is going to benefit the most players.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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