Only a few months ago, sports fans in McKinney dreaded the idea of a summer without first-class baseball. No need to worry, though. The lights at Gabe Nesbitt Field will be on every night during the heat of 2008.
That’s right, every night.
After a winter that saw the near-demise and resurrection of the Texas Collegiate League, The Ballfields at Craig Ranch executive vice president Ray Ricchi confirmed Wednesday that a professional ballclub will serve as a co-tenant at The Gabe with the one-time TCL-champion McKinney Marshals for the 2008 season.
Formerly of Fort Worth, it is unknown what the Tarrant County Blue Thunder, an independent Continental Baseball League (CBL) team, will identify with as its host - Collin County and McKinney are possibilities, but the prospect of seeing top-quality baseball at every level in action every day — the Blue Thunder and Marshals will rotate home dates — in McKinney is something that puts a big smile on Ricchi’s face.
“Every night you’re going to be able to come out here to The Ballfields and watch youth baseball, fast-pitch softball, college baseball or professional baseball,” said Ricchi, also the general manager for the Marshals. “You’re going to have any type of baseball you want. How awesome is that?”
Owned by a group from Washington, D.C., the 2007 CBL-champion Blue Thunder comes to McKinney during the league’s first official offseason that has also seen the move of the Lewisville Lizards to Texarkana.
“We’ve been talking to the league for more than a year now,” Ricchi said, noting the Marshals set an attendance record in 2007. The ownership group, which does not include Craig International, “heard about The Ballfields and the complex and the fan base here in Collin County, and they said ‘hey, this is where we want to move to.’”
Texas City (Bay Area) and Robstown (Nueces County) comprise the rest of the league’s charter teams. The inclusion of as many as four additional teams remains up in the air for the 2008 season. The league’s season is comprised of a 62-game (31 away, 31 home) schedule, playoffs and an all-star game, which will also be played at Gabe Nesbitt Field.
All CBL teams are independent, meaning they do not have any affiliation to Major League Baseball franchise, but do compensate their players.
Calls to Blue Thunder general manager Alan Burt were not returned as of press time.
Ricchi also confirmed the post-Olympic return of the Pro FastPitch Xtreme Softball Tour to The Ballfields from Sept. 5-7. Players on the PFX Tour are among the top professionals in the country, many of which have or will represent the United States in the Olympics. The McKinney stop comes less than two weeks following the conclusion of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, where the United States will be the likely favorite to win gold.
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