ROCKVILLE – The Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League (CRCBL) has decreased in size, from 10 teams to six teams for this summer’s season. However, league officials say they continue to look toward the future.
The Baltimore Redbirds, Baltimore Dodgers, Loudoun Riverdogs and the Rockville Express have departed the league, reducing its total amount of teams to six. Each team that left did so under different circumstances.
The Baltimore Dodgers are regrouping and restructuring their board after losing three board members, according to league commissioner Jason Woodward. Woodward said he hopes to have the team back in the future.
Rockville has moved to the Maryland Collegiate Baseball League, another wooden bat league that, like the CRCBL, has college baseball players to play over the summer.
“They’re very strong in that league, in that franchise; they will do very well there,” said Woodward about the Rockville Express’s move to a different league.
One of the co-champions of the 2018 CRCBL season, the Baltimore Redbirds, disbanded after two executives, owner John Carey and general manager Dave Sutor, decided to end the program after 10 years. The Baltimore Redbirds have historically been one of the most successful teams in the CRCBL, winning the championship five times since 2012 and reaching the CRCBL Championship Series in each of their 10 seasons.
“After 10 successful years of supporting high-level college baseball programs and providing a great summer experience for players, we are very proud of what we delivered each year to grow the game,” Sutor said in a press release.
“They always beat us or usually beat us, but they were good competition,” President of the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts Ed Sharp said.
The Loudoun Riverdogs join the Baltimore Redbirds as the other team that was disbanded after the end of their season.
“It’s tough to see teams leave. Whether they’re a good team or bad team, it’s tough to see them leave,” said David Schneider, president and general manager of the Bethesda Big Train.
The teams that remain the league are the Gaithersburg Giants, Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts, FCA Braves, Bethesda Big Train, D.C. Grays and Alexandria Aces.
Schneider says that the league is going in a good direction and that the teams are all collectively looking to improve and get better.
The CRCBL has a set of requirements that must be met for a team to join, and the success of each team is contingent on meeting certain standards as well. According to Woodward, there is a $10,000 fee to join, and, on top of expenses such as uniforms and fields. Teams also do charity work, recruit players from colleges and seek hosts for the players. All of this is an intense load on each team.
The CRCBL is looking toward the future and has even received interest from other teams. The difficulty rests in the required standards and geography that are needed so that franchises are not impeding on the territory of other franchises. A market under exploration is Germantown, for example, and another Northern Virginia team may be a possibility, although at this stage it is all hypothetical, according to Woodward.
Fans will see their team play every other team more frequently — eight times — but the season is still 40 games long, according to Woodward.
This setup has resulted in a unique advantage for each team. The more often they play each other, teams will understand their opponents, according to the D.C. Grays’ Team President Michael Barbera.
Transportation has become less of a hassle as well. With the loss of the two Baltimore-based teams out for the 2019 season, the league has become more geographically compacted, making it easier for teams to get around, according to Barbera.
With the shortened league, the standings also become more competitive. Barbera aims to make the best of the reduced number of teams, but also thinks that the league will grow again.
“It’s not the number of teams; it’s the quality of the organizations,” said Barbera.