RiverHawks join new North American League
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November 19, 2010 - LOVES PARK, Ill. – The Rockford RiverHawks announced Friday that they are part of a new three-league merger that will result in travel across three time zones between Lake Michigan and the Pacific Ocean.

The Northern League, Golden League and United League will partner as the North American League for the 2011 season. While Rockford will maintain regional rivalries against Chicago-area opponents, the team will make at least one cross-continental flight this season.

It is the third league for the RiverHawks in a decade in the Stateline. Rockford played one season in the Northern League after its move from the Frontier League.

The RiverHawks regret that they were unable to divulge detailed information on the merger to fans, corporate partners and media in recent weeks, because of the sensitive nature of the lengthy negotiations.

The NAL plans to have as many as 20 teams in multiple countries – both the Northern and Golden Leagues fielded at least one Canadian team in 2010 and the GL also had a Mexican team – and cover many of the major markets in the U.S. and Canada in 2011, with possible expansion in 2012. The existing leagues will keep their names and their baseball operations structure while consolidating and enhancing a number of business activities and will adhere to a single and consistent set of league operating by-laws.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the teams of these three leagues,” said Kevin Outcalt, Chief Executive of Diamond Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns and operates the Golden League and will administer the North American League. “This will provide more value to our marketing and business partners, more exposure for our players to advance their careers, and increased excitement and fun for the fans of all of our ballclubs. In addition, the business advantages of league-wide advertising and sponsor revenue… should drive additional profitability for the North American League member clubs.”

The structure of the NAL will be set up on a regional basis conforming to the previous leagues. An unbalanced schedule will result in intradivision play in approximately 75 percent of the games. For the RiverHawks, that means frequent games against fellow Northern League members Joliet, Lake County and Schaumburg.

The league plans to play a schedule of between 92 and 100 games, to be determined at NAL meetings scheduled for the end of the month in northern California. The regular season would be followed by playoffs and a North American Championship Series.

All of the existing Golden League, Northern League, and United League teams will be part of the circuit, and it is expected that additional teams will be announced in the coming weeks as well. The full slate of 2011 NAL teams and the makeup of each region will be announced following the league meeting. Baseball-related playing rules will also be finalized including player classification/eligibility and playing rules (National League or American League).

The Golden League eliminated the designated-hitter rule in 2010.

“This is an excellent move for the Northern League,” Northern League commissioner Clark Griffith said. “By becoming part of this new league, we will enjoy benefits that can't be found anywhere else in minor league baseball and some exciting opportunities that were never available in the Northern League in the past.”

Although these three leagues totaled 35 percent of the professional independent minor league baseball teams in North America in 2010, they were responsible for placing half of the players on the Baseball America magazine’s Independent Leagues Top Prospects list and six of the 14 players named to the all-Independent Leagues First Team by the publication. In addition, the three leagues have sold more than 30 player contracts to major league organizations so far in 2010 and are all recognized as an important source of baseball talent including players, umpires, coaches/managers, and front office/business personnel by big-league clubs.

“The United League is pleased to announce it is becoming part of North American League Baseball,” UL president Byron Pierce said. “By doing so, the United League will be able to bring a national presence and the rich tradition of three leagues to each of our United League cities, while maintaining our regional rivalries and identity.”

The RiverHawks have played in the Stateline since 2002. The franchise has existed since 1993, the first year of the Frontier League. It played as the Portsmouth (Ohio) Explorers in 1993-95 and the Springfield Capitals in 1996-2001. The RiverHawks won the Frontier League pennant in 2004.

The RiverHawks moved to the Northern League at the end of the 2009 season. Four teams – Fargo, Gary, Kansas City and Winnipeg – left that circuit for the independent American Association last month.

Teams that played in the Golden League in 2010 include: Calgary; Chico (Calif.); Edmonton; Orange County (Fullerton, Calif.); (Wailuku,) Maui; St. George (Utah); Tijuana; Tucson; Victoria, British Columbia; Yuma, Ariz.

Teams that played in the United League in 2010 include: Amarillo; Coastal Bend (Robstown); Edinburg; Laredo; Rio Grande Valley (Harlingen); San Angelo. Each team is based in Texas.

Advertising and season-ticket information for the RiverHawks’ 10th season is available by calling (815) 885-2255. Games are broadcast live on ESPN 1380 (WTJK-AM) and on ESPN1380.com. Fans can also visit the RiverHawks online at www.rockfordriverhawks.com.


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