There is apparently a new baseball team in the city of Oakland. Announced yesterday, the Oakland Ballers will be joining the Pioneer League, an independent baseball league in the American West.
The Ballers will become the 11th team in the league, and the first from California. According to a Pioneer League press release, the league will shuffle the previous division structure to create a new “Pacific West Division”. The league plans to add another team in northern California for the 2024 season, but to this point is unannounced.
The team reportedly has nearly 50 investors and has raised more than $2 million in startup funding. The club’s co-founders are Paul Freeman and Bryan Carmel, both natives of the East Bay.
The club has named former MLB player Micah Franklin as its manager for the upcoming season. Franklin spent parts of 12 seasons in nine different organizations. He played in 17 games at the major league level in 1997.
Franklin has prior coaching experience, having spent the last nine years working for the Mariners, Diamondbacks, and Nationals in several different roles.
In addition to Franklin, former major league pitching coach Ray King will join the coaching staff. Former Seattle Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu will serve as the Ballers’ Executive Vice President.
Will the Ballers compete with the A's for attendance?
Typically, independent league teams don’t have exceptionally high attendance. However, with the way the Athletics have treated the fans and community over the past few years, it’s up for debate whether the Ballers will compete attendance-wise with the A’s.
Athletics fans have already put out word about boycotting the first A’s game of the season and judging the temperature of the fanbase, it’s fair to assume that attendance at the Coliseum will be down compared to 2023.
Many supporters of the Ballers have noted that the city of Oakland deserves to have a team in town that values the relationship it has with the community. The Ballers will strive to build a strong bond with the citizens of the East Bay and to give back to the community that has had it’s major league franchise ripped out from under them.
As of now, the plan for the Ballers is to play at the field at Laney College. The college is right across the street from one of the former sites the A’s had eyed for a new ballpark.
Ultimately, the Ballers success in Oakland will be dependent on their commitment to providing an entertaining product for fans. It’s possible they’ll be able to drive community engagement and be a positive force in the East Bay for the foreseeable future.
It might not scratch the itch for someone who wants to watch major league ball, but regardless of what happens with the A’s, you’ll still be able to catch a professional baseball game in the East Bay.