Wednesday, April 23, 2014
In Old Orchard Beach, the Tide appears to be coming back in.
Jen DeRice, general manager of The Ballpark, said she hopes to have a contract for an expansion franchise in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League approved by the Town Council at a meeting Tuesday night.
"The Ballpark Commission is all behind it," she said. "I think we have a good working relationship with the group that wants to come in. Everyone wants to see The Ballpark succeed and to offer this for the community."
The Raging Tide of the New England Collegiate Baseball League lasted only one summer in Old Orchard Beach before the owners, the Ayotte family of Massachusetts, opted to pull up stakes. An agreement to sell the franchise and relocate it to Pittsfield, Mass., fell through.
Officials in Pittsfield opted for a Futures league team instead, one of eight clubs expected to play a 2012 season, which would double the number of teams from this past summer.
"Their goal is to be at 10 teams," DeRice said. "We would be the seventh (team) to commit. It's still college players. The players aren't paid to play, but it gives them great exposure for (professional) scouts."
DeRice said the team would retain its Raging Tide nickname.
Tom LaChance, who spearheaded the four-year restoration project that brought The Ballpark back to life after years of neglect, is organizing local investors for a not-for-profit ownership group called the Old Orchard Beach Collegiate Baseball Club.
"We want to keep it locally owned," LaChance said. "I think that's important. The idea is to keep that park with baseball and to have people enjoy, and to feel the dream, and to live in the old memories."
League rules require at least half the roster to be made up of players from New England or New England colleges. Other FCBL franchises are located in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
John and Pam Gallo, season ticket holders last season, moved to Old Orchard Beach from Maryland earlier this year after buying a summer home three years ago and embracing the local community.
"The spirit that went into reviving that Ballpark and getting baseball back here in the first place, that's something you don't find everywhere," John Gallo said. "We want to be a part of that."
Gallo said he means not only Old Orchard Beach but also residents of Biddeford, Saco and Scarborough.
"All those people have easy access to this park, within 10 or 15 minutes," he said. "It's a much larger community that we're trying to provide good family entertainment for."
The two-year agreement calls for a 27-game home schedule in June and July, with the town receiving an annual lease payment of $15,000, plus a dollar per ticket for games that draw more than 500 and 25 percent of concession sales for non-team events in June and July.
In addition, DeRice said, the FCBL agrees to pay $5,000 in each of the next two years for ballpark improvements.
The league also requires a year-round general manager.
"That's something the NECBL did not require," said DeRice, adding that "it's important for us for organizational purposes to have someone who's there on a daily basis to be able to work out logistics."
She said the Ballpark will be hosting American Legion baseball tournaments the first three weeks of August as well as putting on concerts and special events.
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: