Prospect League

Butler becomes second team to leave Prospect League

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 13, 2018 9:55 am

QUINCY -- The Butler BlueSox, who have played in the Prospect League since its inception in 2008, is leaving the summer wooden bat collegiate baseball league.

The BlueSox announced the departure in a news release last week.

The move wasn't a surprise to Prospect League Commissionner Dennis Bastien.

"They had given us some indication a couple weeks ago," he said. "We hate losing a member. They've been a valued and trusted member since the initial year of the Prospect League 10 years ago. They've been phenomenal partners that the community supports well."

Butler, a town of a little more than 13,000, sits about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh and is one of the smallest markets in the Prospect League, which includes the Quincy Gems and the Hannibal Hoots. It is also the farthest team to the east in the league, and that made travel expensive and scheduling difficult.

The BlueSox's shortest road trips in the Prospect League's East Division this season were 259 miles to Chillicothe, Ohio, or 275 miles to either Beckley, W.Va., or Springfield, Ohio. For Butler to play a team in the West Division was at least a 400-mile trip.

By contract, Quincy's longest road trip in the West Division was 290 miles to Lafayette, Ind., and the team made eight trips of 21 miles to Hannibal this season.

The BlueSox finished 21-39 this summer, the worst record in the league and the club's worst record in 10 years with the league.

"Due to the current rules and regulations developed by the Prospect League over the last 10 years, along with the League's geographical growth in areas unfavorable to the BlueSox, it has become economically impractical for the current ownership to continue in the same direction," the BlueSox release said.

Those factors made it understandable for Bastien.

"It's very much a hardship for them," Bastien said. "When I came into the league, Jamestown (N.Y.) was also in the league, and they had a traveling partner. This year, having an odd number of teams caused a nightmare of a schedule. (The BlueSox) felt they were better off looking at other options, and we wish them well."

According to ButlerRadio.com, the City of Butler Parks, Recreation Grounds and Facility Authority met Thursday to discuss the future of the franchise. Larry Sassone, co-owner of the BlueSox, was in attendance and said the club is looking to pursue the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.

That move would keep the BlueSox playing at Kelly Automotive Park. The league consists of 15 teams from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Ontario, Canada.

The deadline to join the league is Aug. 31, and there is a $40,000 buy-in payable over eight seasons.

"It's just at the point right now where if you want a wooden bat league here, a collegiate league here, there has to be some urgency on this board's part," ButlerRadio.com quoted Sassone at the meeting.

Butler's departure means the Prospect League likely will have 11 teams again for the 2019 season. The Kokomo Jackrabbits announced in July they are leaving the league to join the Northwoods League. Kokomo was part of the league for three seasons.

The Cape Catfish, based in Cape Girardeau, Mo., joins the Prospect League next summer. Bastien said the league hopes to have an announcement in the "next two or three weeks" about another market.

The Leaf Chronicle, a newspaper in Clarksville, Tenn., reported in April that a new sports complex was introduced that could allow the city to have its own Prospect League franchise.

Only four of the original 11 teams that formed the Prospect League are still in existence -- Quincy, Chillicothe, Springfield and Danville. The Hannibal Cavemen were part of the original group, but the team folded for the 2016 season. It is now called the Hoots and is under new ownership.

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