04/08/2004 9:36 AM - As well, the Northern League of Professional Baseball announced Friday evening that Calgary and Edmonton have been awarded expansion teams, effective for the 2005 season.
The new ownership groups will be introduced at the Northern League Spring Owners Meeting on Saturday in Peoria, Arizona.
The Northern League, which is the oldest Independent League in professional baseball, will expand to 12 teams with the addition of the two franchises. Calgary and Edmonton, both located in Alberta, join Winnipeg, Manitoba, to give the Northern League three teams in Canada.
Calgary Baseball, LLC was awarded to an ownership group headed by Hiro Misawa, Owner, International Baseball Academy, of Los Angeles and Naoto Higuchi of Japan. Peter Caliendo, Owner, Caliendo Sports International, of Chicago will serve as the President of the club.
Baseball Edmonton, LLC was awarded to P. Daniel Orlich of Naples, Florida, who is the sole owner of the franchise. The organization will be headed by Mel Kowalchuk, who spent nearly two decades running the Edmonton Trappers of the Pacific Coast League. He is returning to Edmonton after serving as General Manager of the PCLs Albuquerque Isotopes.
"The Northern League is proud to add Calgary and Edmonton as our 11th and 12th members, commented Northern League Commissioner Mike Stone. The league directors were very impressed with these outstanding ownership groups, and we are looking forward to them beginning play in 2005.
Professional baseball will be returning to Calgary for the first time since 2002, as the PCL Calgary Cannons relocated to Albuquerque after that season. Edmontons PCL club will move to Round Rock, Texas after the 2004 season.
This marks the Northern Leagues first expansion since 2002, when Gary, Indiana and Joliet, Illinois gave the circuit ten teams. The Northern League opens its 12th season and 96-game schedule on Thursday, May 20. In 2003, the ten Northern League teams combined for an average of 4,371 fans per game, fifth best among all professional minor league and tops among Independent Leagues.