June 14, 2007
Albany - The South Coast League has only made it through the first month of their first ever season but already you have to say the gamble that co-founders Jamie Toole and Chris Allen took will pay off.
Fans are coming out to watch the games and major league teams are paying attention with drafting two South Coast League players last week and signing another.
Also paying attention are communities that one day may be the home of their own South Coast League team.
SCL president Jamie Toole said "It is kind of ironic. Two years ago we couldn't get anyone to return our phone calls."
But now the phone of South Coast League president Jamey Toole won't stop ringing.
Toole said "Tthe expansion interest has been overwhelming. There is probably not a week that goes by that we don't get two or three communities that call the league office."
What has communities interested in the South Coast League is that the league owns the teams.
Toole said "The financials didn't make a lot of sense for individual owners to run profitable businesses and break even."
And not having six owners to please means the first year league won't be forced to making in hasty decisions.
Toole said "Our original business model we had a three to five year plan at least in place. You get into year three, four or five and I think you can see how a community really responds to the real product of minor league baseball."
But the South Coast League is already looking at adding more teams as soon as 2009.
Toole is eyeing the Metro Atlanta area believing he can find success like other independent leagues have had in the suburbs of cities that have major league teams.
Toole said "We feel like the Atlanta metro area can sort of be a hub but also communities like Valdosta and Tallahassee we think several communities that don't have the product know could warrant having a South Coast League club."
Toole believes the lure of independent baseball is the cost as major and now minor league teams are charging prices some fans simply cannot afford to pay.
Toole said "It ends up correlating to the fan higher priced tickets, higher price tickets for the fan, higher priced concessions. I think with independent baseball you have to be fan friendly and you have to be listening to what the fans are saying."
And what the fans are saying so far is they love the South Coast League.