Old Orchard Beach will host a professional baseball team this summer – in a new independent league that formed just a few weeks before the team’s season opener on June 2.

The Old Orchard Beach Surge will join three New York-based teams in the North Country Baseball League after the four pulled out of the financially ailing East Coast Baseball League. The ECBL, based in Canada, was supposed to open its first season this week with six teams.

The North Country Baseball League was organized earlier this week by businessman Bruce Zicari, who runs the Watertown (New York) Bucks. Zicari, the founder of the Cheeburger, Cheeburger family restaurant chain, did not want all the work that went into putting the league together go to waste after it became apparent that the East Coast Baseball League would not be financially solvent.

“The players were already in training camp (in Delaware) when everything fell apart,” Zicari said Friday. “We put it together, everybody is in place. We lost two teams, but there was nothing we could do. We’re all set.”

The teams will play a 50-game schedule. The Surge will open a 33-game home schedule against the Bucks at The Ballpark at 7 p.m. June 2.

“We’re just very excited that we’re all on board,” said Alex Markakis, the general manager for the Surge and a 2014 graduate of St. Joseph’s College. “We built a solid foundation here from the ground up.”

Markakis said he was always confident that baseball would be played at The Ballpark this summer. “I saw the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. Others in Old Orchard Beach weren’t so sure.

“We were concerned,” said Guy Fontaine, the operations manager at The Ballpark. “We had a Plan B and a Plan C. Luckily Bruce stepped up and will take care of the league.

“It’s turning out for the best. This is working out and we’re all excited about it.”

The North Country Baseball League will consist of the Surge, the Newburgh (New York) Newts and two teams in Watertown, New York – the Bucks and the Road City Explorers, who do not have a home field.

Teams will have 22-man rosters. The Surge, who will be led by Manager Scott Nathanson, recently signed former University of Southern Maine outfielder Tucker White (a former national player of the year for D3baseball.com) and former St. Joseph’s College catcher Joe Coyne.

Old Orchard Beach lost its summer team last year when the owners of the Raging Tide said they would not return to the Futures Collegiate Baseball League after four seasons.

In stepped the ECBL, a start-up league led by sports agent Colin Cummins. He pulled together the six teams that were to open the ECBL this summer.

But Cummins said he lost the financial backing of his chief investor.

“I mishandled the situation,” said Cummins in a phone interview. “I tried to keep him on as long as I could and that faltered. I didn’t speak up, and that put a bad taste in (the owners’) mouths.

“I tried to put things on hold. I’m not going to mince words. It’s my fault.”

Cummins, who has not given up hope that the ECBL can start up this year with four new teams, said he is glad the four teams located in the U.S. were able to salvage their seasons. The other two prospective ECBL teams are in Ontario.

“They really pushed hard, especially in Old Orchard, to keep it going,” he said. “They did a lot of work.”

He added that with Markakis – the younger cousin of Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis – on hand, “I know they will be successful.”

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.