While Players and Suppliers Wait to be Paid, Dallas-Based United League Baseball Eyes Expansion

The Fort Worth Cats were rescued from the brink of insolvency 13 months ago when former Congressman John Bryant led a group of investors in purchasing the minor league ball club. And things were going swimmingly for about six months ago until, in the middle of the 2012 season, vendors stopped being paid.

Sporting goods dealer Reuben Rice told Unfair Park in December that he was still owed for some 20,000 baseballs he delivered to the team. The Cats' uniform supplier claimed about $10,000 in unpaid bills, as did a law firm that filed suit in Dallas County, seeking to collect.

The problem, it seems, extended to the entirety of United League Baseball, which Bryant co-owns. The Abilene Reporter-News noted earlier this month that players with the Abilene Prairie Dogs are still waiting on their final paychecks. And the McAllen Monitor reported last year that the ULB champion Edinburg Roadrunners were booted from their stadium after failing to pay the lease on their stadium.

Bryant acknowledged the debt, blaming it on the last-minute purchase of the Cats' home, LaGrave Field out of foreclosure for $5.1 million. That left the team and league, which Bryant says are otherwise financially sound, with a dire cash flow problem.

When he spoke with Unfair Park in December, Bryant was confident that the debts would be paid as soon as revenue began flowing in advance of the 2013 season. Matter of fact, he set a specific date: January 15.

That day has come and gone, and suppliers are still waiting on their checks. Rice, the uniform supplier, the players in Abilene, all are still waiting on checks. Bryant hasn't responded to multiple emails seeking an update, but he told the Abilene Reporter-News yesterday that ULB's LaGrave Field-induced cash crunch continues for the moment but that he expects it will soon be resolved.

So confident is Bryant that he plans not only to pay all the old bills but a thick stack of new ones as well. He told the Reporter-News that ULB is added two yet-to-be announced expansion teams for the 2013 season. That starts in mid-May.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson