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Thursday, November 21
 
Eight-team league plans 73-game schedule

Associated Press

TORONTO -- Canadian Baseball League officials say they'll be ready to play ball next May.

The fledgling league announced plans Wednesday for a 2003 season with eight teams, including one in Victoria, British Columbia. The league had originally tried to get things going earlier this year, but the effort faltered.

"There are always pitfalls in the first year,'' said Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, who is the league's commissioner. "It's really solid for 2003.

"Most of the leases are OK'd and we have overwhelming support from the mayors in the cities.''

The league's East Division will feature the Montreal Royales, the London Monarchs, Trois-Rivieres Saints and Niagara Stars.

Joining the Victoria Capitals in the West Division will be the Kelowna Heat, Calgary Outlaws and Saskatoon Legends.

Each team will play a 73-game regular season from May to the end of September, followed by two five-game division series and a best-of-seven league final called the Jenkins Cup.

All games will be played Thursday through Sunday to make it easier for parents to take children to games. CBL chairman Tony Riviera estimates the total cost for a family of four with concessions and parking to be about $60 a game.

The teams will have 25-man rosters and a monthly salary cap of $60,000 Canadian. Officials said they'll be able to attract over-the-hill major-leaguers and minor-leaguers with better than average salaries.

The CBL's minimum salary will be $750 a month. Top-end talent will earn between $7,000-$9,000 a month. There will be a minimum of five Canadians on the roster of each club.

"We'll give Canadian players a chance to test themselves at the professional level,'' said John Haar, the CBL's director of baseball operations and a former coach of the Canadian national team. "Canadian players need to be able to play in front of Canadian fans.''

All eight teams will be owned and operated by the league, which is to be based in Vancouver.

Charlton Lui has taken over as president and CEO of the league, and the former Microsoft executive is handling much of the business side.

Lui, one of the league's co-founders and principal owners, said the league should be able to break even if teams average 1,500-2,000 fans a game.

The league won't be dependent on a single revenue stream, he said. Ticket sales, sponsorship deals and a TV deal currently under negotiation will share the burden of keeping the league afloat equally.

Other details were vague.

The Montreal team does not yet have a place to play, with Olympic Stadium a possibility despite rental costs of up to $17,000 a night. In Saskatoon, there is a question whether the local park will be available often enough. The parks in Trois-Rivieres and Kelowna need renovation.

"We're further ahead with infrastructure and our leases,'' Lui said.

"The leases are committed, there's just legal mumbo-jumbo left to work out,'' added Riviera.




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