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It has been a rough day to say the least. I am not sure what was tougher, telling 23 young men that their young winter baseball season was coming to an end or laying in bed with a sobbing 6 year old boy trying to explain to him that the players will all be ok and that although his heartfelt, generous offer of all the money in his piggy bank was appreciated, it was not enough money to save the Florida Winter Baseball League. It is a shame. The only thing I agreed with in CEO Mickey Filippucci's statement was, "we displayed included a brand of baseball not seen in many years. Specifically, we had affiliated and independent players playing together with affiliated managers leading the way." The baseball was going well, quite well. Players were getting opportunities to play and be seen. Heck, I have a nice list of guys I would turn in to any affiliated organization without a problem. These players were hungry and they were great kids. They deserved better. It is all very strange how this all went down, and I am not sure what to think at this point. This past Sunday, we played a wonderful day game against Space Coast and were asked to meet with Mickey Filippucci after the game as a team. He told us that there had been a snafu with the paychecks, but not to worry. He asked us for one day for his bank wire to clear and all would be well on Tuesday. He asked us for patience as there have been some hiccups with this first year league but we are doing all we can, yada, yada, yada. He thanked us for our time, left the checks, spoke to some of the players and left to go meet with the other two teams (he had met with Space Coast before meeting with us). Kevin Davidson, the director of operations for the league was also there that day speaking with Space Coast Manager Jim Gabella (Royals) regarding player personnel. As a matter of fact, Jim asked me about a player that they might sign later in the week at the plate meeting that day. In other words, the owner and CEO of the league and the director of operations were both in attendance that day and not one inclination was given that this thing would be over in 48 hrs. We had a day off Monday and Tuesday began with an email that shocked us all. The Global Scouting Bureau had parted ways with the league. The following was their official statement on their website that day, "Due to a series of failed commitments by the Florida Winter Baseball League (FWBL) to the Global Scouting Bureau (GSB), we have chosen to announce a formal separation from the client due to non and delinquent payments dating back to November 1st, 2009." The email we were all sent was similar. I got on the horn talking to all parties, which at the time were all blaming each other, and by the end of the day, the league was done. All our checks bounced by the way, but payment was made on all of them today and the players all were sent home, on their own dime. Here is a portion of the Mickey's statement today, “Being a first year league, the organization was built from a simple idea into reality, and though we are ending the inaugural season prematurely, we now see the commitment and organization needed by our staff in order to be successful long term. We acknowledge that start-up growing pains are real and sometimes overwhelming, but that has only strengthened our resolve. We will be recapitalizing the Company to better accommodate the financial requirements to operate the league more effectively in the future. We thank our management company, the Global Scouting Bureau, for its organization, work ethic, and overall professionalism and look forward to restructuring our agreement with them for the future endeavors of the FWBL organization"

24 hours ago, GSB and the FWBL were pointing fingers at each other, now the league has been dismantled, everyone sent packing, after two whole weeks of baseball, and they have kissed and made up and are working towards next year? This whole thing smells to high heaven. I am not going to point any fingers, but obviously someone screwed up, and did so big time. I am not sure who it was or if it was a combination of people or circumstances, I really don't care at this point. You see, this game is very special to me, and today, it got trampled on by people who either don't know what they are doing, or don't care about what they just did. This thing was mismanaged and run into the ground and people were hurt. Young men's lives were damaged by today's events and no one seems to care. My 6 year old son cares more about the players in this league than the any of the people in charge, apart from the staff members of each club, which by the way, did a great job on the field, and I tip my hat to you all. That little boy cried himself to sleep tonight wanting to give all the money he had to keep the league alive, why? Because he cares about the players. He gets it, the managers and coaches of each club get it as well. The rest of them, have no idea what they just did. As a manager of a professional baseball team, it is my job to be an advocate for those young men, and it is my job to stand up for them when they have been wronged. I was hired to be their manager, and I am just doing my job the best I know how.

I am proud of my team and the job we all did to help establish the Florida Winter Baseball League. It was and is a very good idea that could work if it can be run correctly. I just hate to see the hearts broken of young ball players looking for a chance. These were great kids, not just on our team but league wide. They put up with a lot of broken promises and kept the faith that people would do right by them so that they could continue playing and be seen by someone who could give them a chance. That is all they wanted, and it lasted 15 games.

Views: 59

Comment by Bill Stanton on November 19, 2009 at 10:54am
Andy- Thanks for sharing this info. I am merely an observer from a distance and following this league through you and some others here on CheckSwing. I loved the idea from the beginning and am disappointed to see it executed so poorly.

It begs the question... Is it realistic to think a league like this can survive? Will enough fans actually show up and buy a ticket to support these teams? You hear more stories about Independent league teams struggling and folding than you do them flourishing. It seems that after a few years of success, it's been quite a bit of failure for Indy teams and Summer leagues.

What is the formula to make a league work? Between all the youth baseball leagues, travel ball, tournaments, Perfect Game type showcases.... kids are playing a huge amount of baseball these days and families are investing large amounts of time and money into baseball. Is there no time left to go and watch good quality local baseball that is not MLB?

I'd love to hear from as many CheckSwing members as possible to get ideas and perspective about how a good idea like the FWBL might work in our world today.
Comment by Anthony Fruhling on November 19, 2009 at 2:15pm
I think it would work but it has to be run properly. The first thing you need to do is make sure you have the financial backing to at least run for 1 full year. I wouldn't start a project if I couldn't pay for it at least for the first season. Also in my opinion you should start out small and make sure it will work for all parties involved and then expand slowly. If you start out too big or grow too fast then problems usually follow.
Comment by Kyle Grucci on November 19, 2009 at 4:22pm
That's really too bad, Andy. I hope things can get worked out for next year. Thanks for updating us.
Comment by Andy Swenson on November 19, 2009 at 4:29pm
Great commentary Andy and I feel your pain and to be honest, the FWBL will probably get the reputation for doing things the wrong way and could be a death notice for the coming years! I would bet that most of these players will head off the the California Winter League as that one sounds like it is going the right direction with top notch people at the helm.
I feel for your son as well and I hope I am wrong in saying this, but it sounds like the FWBL just did themselves in for the future.
Take care,

Swens
www.swensonbaseball.com
Comment by Dion Chamar Owens on November 20, 2009 at 3:53am
Well, now you see how the Expos and the fans in Montreal feel now.
Comment by Tom Hagerty on November 20, 2009 at 8:21am
Thanks for sharing and explaining, Andy. Your son's touching reaction reminds me of why I fell in love with this great game at his age. You may not have stopped his tears, but I know that by being there to comfort him you helped ease his pain. The world needs more fathers like you.
Comment by Mike Pisaniello on November 20, 2009 at 10:57am
Andy ....please feel free to have your players, not under contract, contact me. I will send out their info to my Indy contacts. NYPrep@verizon.net
Comment by Robie Dewitt on November 20, 2009 at 8:00pm
Andy I was so sorry to hear that this didn't work out this year. I can just hear your son thinking he could make it better. I hope his team is doing better tha yours did. Has he gotten over the shock of Little League vs Minor leagues yet? Tell the fmaily I said Hi.
Comment by Andy Barkett on November 20, 2009 at 9:02pm
Good to hear from you Robie. He is doing fine. His team wasn't so hot, but he made the all star team and is having a blast.
Comment by Robie Dewitt on November 20, 2009 at 11:11pm
Would you expect anything less from him? He probbaly knows more aboout baseball than all his coaches put together.

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