Small Ball, Big Balls

The woman's voice on the other end of the line is strong and perky: "You've reached the national headquarters of the Continental Baseball League," she says, as though you've just dialed a proud, tradition-rich enterprise. But at the moment, the Continental Baseball League doesn't exist apart from its offices on North Central Expressway and its introductory Web site; it's but an idea with a lease. But that isn't stopping CBL president and CEO Ron Baron from insisting that come May 25, 2007, there will be at least six to 10 teams in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and other Southwestern states playing 80 games over 13 weeks during the CBL's inaugural season. The idea is very old-fashioned, according to Baron, who made the announcement yesterday: The teams will play in small towns (85,000-100,000 folks), tickets will be cheap (starting at five bucks), and no player will make more than $10,000. (Not only does it sound like 1932, but it's at 1932 prices.) According to its press release, franchises won't go for more than $100,000, which means Mark Cuban can even afford one. Or a hundred.

And it doesn't sound terribly fly-by-night: Baron's got a national profile as a big-league sports attorney; he's also founder of the Center for Sports Law and Risk Management, Inc., and co-editor of From the Gym to the Jury. Also on board are former journalist and Chicago Cubs media relations man Bob Ibach and ex-Los Angeles Dodger and New York Yankee Jay Johnstone, the former American League Rookie of the Year (40 years ago, for the California Angels). It's doubtful there would be a CBL team in the area; there are already several minor-league teams, including the Fort Worth Cats, the Frisco RoughRiders and the Texas Rangers. --Robert Wilonsky

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