July 25, 2015

Rainier Snowcaps End 2015 Summer After Regular Season

Lynnwood, Wash. – The NWCBL is a second-year developmental collegiate summer league that keeps its player fees low in order to allow players the opportunity to play and improve. Our head coaches all have collegiate coaching experience and are aware of league coaching guidelines, in which it was made clear that ejections are not tolerated. Each head coach is responsible to fill a paid assistant coaching position on their respective teams and perform their duties in professional baseball attire. Head coaches are also responsible for taking infield/outfield prior to the first contest of each day and being available to their team before the game.

We care deeply about the baseball, and the way in which it should be played, but also coached and managed – and that includes the player experience and respect for officials. The NWCBL did not turn a profit in 2014, and is currently in line to break even for the summer of 2015. Although we are a business, we are more concerned about giving players the opportunity to play. Each year we have pushed players to the West Coast League for opportunities when they were asked to join those clubs. NWCBL coaches try and reward players who show up every day and are working hard to improve with at bats and appearances. Many of the umpires that are assigned NWCBL games are trying to gain collegiate umpiring experience; the NWCBL is a developmental opportunity for them too.

There are some issues that arose with the Rainier Snowcaps that culminated at the end of the 2015 regular season, and we want to be clear about why the Snowcaps won’t be participating in the NWCBL Tournament.

The head coach of the Snowcaps was not present for the last two weeks of the season and had not communicated that to any league official. We learned that he was using pick-up players who had not registered or paid to be in the NWCBL. The larger issues were the lack of control from the players on the team, and the lack of leadership in the dugout. The ‘Caps coach was the only to be ejected this summer and he did not have an assistant coach in the dugout at the time. Rainier was also the only team to have players ejected this summer. Obscene gestures were made to umpires in one circumstance that were completely unacceptable, and that incident was addressed.

There were players who were not wearing Snowcaps jerseys or hats, there were no lineup cards being filled out before games, coaches were not coaching the bases offensively, and on Thursday night – there was no coach present before the game or in the dugout until the bottom of the first inning – with no communication. These things are unacceptable, not just in a collegiate league setting, but at any level of baseball. The team had no ball bucket (which is issued to each team), pre-game structure, or any lineup cards. We were admittedly unaware of the severity of the situation.

The players who were present on Thursday night were given the option to be dispersed to other teams in the league to participate in the NWCBL Tournament, but they chose not to. It was obvious that team morale was low, and many players were ready to move on. What is most concerning about this situation is the players who wanted to continue to play and compete in the tournament, and to those guys, we truly apologize for how this summer ended. Unfortunately they are the ones who have been penalized and won’t be able to play their final two games. This is not a course of action that was taken lightly, and it was not what we wanted to do. The number of players in the Snowcaps dugout has significantly dwindled in the past two weeks. We could not risk having less than nine players show up on Sunday for the opening game of the NWCBL Tournament.

I accept full responsibility for the Rainier Snowcaps not being able to play in the Tournament, and did not make this decision in haste. I spoke to the players on the Snowcaps after their doubleheader on Thursday night to inform them that the head coach would not be leading them moving forward since he had not been present for the past two weeks.

We are still a new league and we are learning how we can continue to improve for the benefit of college baseball players in the Northwest and beyond. We are not shying away from what happened; we are trying to be as transparent as possible with this particular situation, and we intend to continue to earn the trust of all NWCBL stakeholders. I communicated this information to all the players who were there after the Snowcaps games on Thursday night, and personally stayed after to talk with some parents who deservedly wanted to know more information regarding why this decision was made.

Having respect for the game is something that can never be taken for granted, and we will never let our values be compromised. We feel this is one blemish that will not affect the positive feedback we have received for the past two years. With any new venture there are going to be things that don’t go well, and mistakes made, but we stand by this decision and are willing to accept the consequences.

The other four teams in the league this summer, and our semi-pro team the North Sound Emeralds, have taken tremendous steps forward in the past year and we are looking forward to improving on those successes in 2016.

-Spencer Stark, President



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