USPBL News: Dates set for open player tryouts; potential expansion coming?

The United Shore Professional Baseball League, commonly known as the USPBL, is set to embark on its third season, beginning on May 11.

The independent baseball league based out of Utica, Michigan has already put together two successful seasons, creating a minor league baseball atmosphere in metro Detroit while also seeing nearly two dozen of its players graduate and sign deals with minor league affiliates of Major League Baseball clubs.

Before its four resident teams — the Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers, Eastside Diamond Hoppers, Utica Unicorns, and Westside Woolly Mammoths — begin the 2018 regular season next month, the rosters for each club need to be finalized. Some players are holdovers from last season, while others have moved on. That leaves opportunities for former high school and college players wanting to continue pursuing a career of playing pro baseball to try out for the USPBL.

The league will be holding a four-day tryout period at two different sites at the end of April. Like virtually any other open tryout for baseball, these will be geared towards the hopefuls showcasing their tools as a player while USPBL coaches and scouts put them in game situations to see how they perform. Our very own Paul Rochon went through the process prior to the 2017 season, highlighting the extensive scouting and player development implemented by the USPBL.

There is an age limit on who is eligible to try out. Players must be at least 18 years of age and no older than 26 (prior to January 1 of this year).

League founder, owner, and CEO Andy Appleby has done a terrific job in bringing “affordable family fun in the form of a well-run baseball league” to the Macomb County-based ball field and the attendance is reflective of that. The USPBL averaged roughly 3,200 fans in year one and saw a small uptick in that last season, with 60 of its 75 games in 2017 being officially sold out. Jimmy John’s Stadium seats 4,500 patrons.

[Click here to read the interview with Appleby and our own Michael Whitaker from April of 2017]

Appleby has recently said that the success of the USPBL has received attention nationally, to the point where an announcement on expansion could come sometime during the season.

“We have, literally, 35 different communities around America that would love to build our ballpark in their community,” Appleby said. “But I would say they have to get a little more creative in terms of financing.

“If I had a favorite, I would tell you, but they’re all very much working toward solutions of how they can finance those ballparks.”

Appleby said his original expansion plans included having sister stadiums of Jimmy John’s Field constructed in primarily Midwest cities, but with the attraction reaching as far west as Colorado, it’s opened even more possibilities.

His latest vision? Have up to eight cities house at least two teams for an even more expansive USPBL.

“My initial thought process on this league was to make it more Midwest,” Appleby said. “But I’m starting to think with some of these communities that are so fantastic and have everything you want, which is a lot of people, a lot of businesses, a lot of families, even if it costs another $100,000 for travel, it’s worth it if they want a real build a real nice ballpark in one of those communities.”

Appleby has also taken advantage of something most baseball fans dread early and late in the season: the unpredictable weather, particularly in areas of the country like Michigan. The Rochester native and former owner of the Fort Wayne-based minor league team used that experience to help devise the scheduling for the USPBL.

“We play all our games in the very best weather that Michigan has to offer, as opposed to most major and minor league teams that have to start April 1,” Appleby said. “From a business perspective, when we had our team in Fort Wayne, for eight years I literally just wrote off the first two months of the season.

“No mom is coming out in 25-degree weather with her kids.”

Again, the 2018 season for the USPBL will begin on Friday, May 11 in downtown Utica, featuring a 2017 championship game rematch between the reigning champion Beavers and the Woolly Mammoths. All-Star weekend will take place July 6-8 and Championship weekend is slated for September 7-9.

Written by Alex Muller

MSU Graduate. Just a city boy born and raised in south Detroit. Baseball is life, a pitcher at heart. Freelance writer for MIPrepZone (News-Herald, Press & Guide).

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