Yuma baseball future up in the air
Desert Rats cease operations
The America West Baseball League announced Thursday that the Yuma Desert Rats have ceased operations.
Details of the split between owner Tim Ferguson and league CEO Michael Cummings were not available – Ferguson said there was a non-disclosure form signed between the two parties.
Ferguson said he originally was hoping to go forward with pro baseball in Yuma this season, just not in the AWBL. But Cummings said that was not possible.
“When he went in and bought the Yuma franchise, acquired the rights to the Yuma franchise, he also purchased the corporation from us,” Cummings said. “The lease is under that corporation's name, and he did not fulfill his obligations as far as acquiring that corporation. So one, he has to return that corporation so he can't do that; two, he has an operating right agreement that states he cannot play professional or collegiate baseball without paying us a substantial amount of money; and the third thing is the lease is in the corporation's name, and we have plans to possibly put someone else there in that location. So he'll end up in legal battles with me.”
Cummings said it was a fiscal issue, and that it was too early to tell the future of independent baseball in Yuma.
“We're looking at some ownerships that have come to us and discussed the possibility of going out there,” Cummings said. “We knew there was a problem financially with Tim to fulfill his obligations to the league and so forth, and we tried everything we could to accommodate him. I think at the end of the day he decided he couldn't or wouldn't honor those, so he's no longer here. But we're working on the possibility of bringing a team there.”
Ferguson, who moved his family to Yuma from south Florida, said he is still hoping to be involved in baseball in Yuma. There were projects he was working on – youth tournaments, academies – that he said he hopes can still go forward.
The lease with the city is under Yuma Panthers LLC, although last summer the team didn't play a game. Cummings said he still wasn't sure if Yuma would be a part of the summer league. The winter league was supposed to have started Thursday but did not go forward.
Ferguson said it will be up to the city to determine how the lease is interpreted and that will determine how and if baseball is played here this summer.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the Yuma Desert Rats will not be playing in the AWBL this season,” Ferguson said in the release, adding in a phone interview he had no hard feelings toward the AWBL. “We believe it is in the best interest of our fans, the City of Yuma, our corporate partners and sponsors to take some time to explore the best way that we can add value to the Yuma community through the game of baseball.”