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Pro baseball could remain in Yuma

March 04, 2002|By RICHARD MYERS

Sports Editor

YUMA — Play ball!

There will be professional baseball in Yuma this spring after all, and a lot of Imperial Valley residents couldn't be happier.

Early last week there was a report the Yuma Bullfrogs, a member of the independent Western Baseball League, were ceasing operations. Later in the week, though, a plan was unveiled to save baseball for the city an hour's drive from the Valley.

"It gives those guys who are young enough and can still play baseball a chance to do what they love," said Southwest High baseball coach Mickey Carter.

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Under a plan drawn up by the WBL, the city of Yuma, the Bullfrogs and the WBL's Valley Vipers, the Bullfrogs have granted territory rights to the Vipers, who will move to Yuma and play the 2002 season in the 7,300-seat Desert Sun Stadium.

"This announcement reflects a total team effort by the Western Baseball League members, the owners of the two teams, and the city of Yuma to keep baseball here in our city," Yuma Mayor Larry Nelson said. "Now is the time for us — the fans of Yuma — to show our support by buying Bullfrogs' tickets and enjoying the family atmosphere that Bullfrogs' baseball brings."

The Vipers played their inaugural season in the WBL in 2000 in Scottsdale, Ariz., but sat out last season while searching for a new locale.

"The ownership of the Valley Vipers (Jim Goldsmith and Jim Ryan) have been true friends of the city of Yuma and have been working around the clock to keep the Bullfrogs in play," noted Bullfrogs' majority owner Pete Dunn. "They have gone the extra mile and agreed to move their team to Yuma. It is a good day to be a baseball fan in the Desert Southwest."

WBL President Sam Pepper said the league realizes what a viable baseball city Yuma is and it is willing to do whatever it can to keep Yuma in the WBL fold.

While Carter said he thinks the Yuma Bullfrogs are good for the area, he admitted, "to be honest, I did not get to any of their games last year."

Carter said he wanted to go to a few games but it just never worked out.

"Hey, I could drive one hour to watch them, or drive one and one-half hours and watch the Padres," Carter said. "Naturally I drove to watch the Padres."

Even though he did not get to see the Bullfrogs in person Carter still followed the team's progress last year in the news.

"They played a decent brand of ball, from what I saw," Carter said.

Carter said the players who were on the Bullfrogs didn't get rich like a lot of Major League Baseball stars but they still were fulfilling their lifelong dreams of playing baseball professionally.

Brawley Union High coach Pedro Carranza said local professional baseball teams could help feed the need people have for some sort of local recreation.

"People always complain that there's nothing to do around the Valley, but then you have something like this," said Carranza. "My guys have always wanted to go down to watch the Bullfrogs as a team, but for some reason or another it just hasn't worked out.

"Really, I would love to see something like that here in the Valley. I think that there's enough people around here, like myself, that would go to games here in the Valley on a regular basis," added Carranza.

Former Brawley Union High standout Tim Howard played for the Bullfrogs.

"I would like for them to have a team," Howard said. "It was convenient for me."

Plus, Howard added, "I was glad I had the chance to play in front of family and friends."

Another local coach happy to hear the Bullfrogs will field a team this spring is Calexico High's Alex Flores.

"This area needs a professional baseball team," he said.

While Yuma is not in the Imperial Valley it is still close enough, Flores added.

Flores said he has been to a few Bullfrogs games and welcomes the opportunity to continue going to the contests.

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