FWBL 2.0

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

— Old Proverb

You may have read my earlier blog articles on the Florida Winter Baseball League. The FWBL was to provide an off-season venue for independent and affiliated minor league baseball players to demonstrate their skills in the hope of attracting a spring training invitation.

The league suspended operations on November 17, leaving players, coaches and other personnel without a valid paycheck. According to various reports, most were eventually paid in whole or in part, but stories abound about league ownership’s general ineptitude.

The damage caused by the FWBL left its impact on baseball in Brevard. Sponsors and advertisers well remember how the Space Coast Surge folded after just three weeks. The newly formed Space Coast Rockets of the National Extreme Baseball League have found potential advertisers who ask if they’re an attempted resurrection of the FWBL. (They’re not.)

When the FWBL suspended operations, president Mickey Filippucci promised to reorganize and finance his league, returning better than ever.

The general reaction among we observers was, “Yeah, right.”

Out of idle curiosity, I checked the old FWBL web site today and found this press release posted May 17:

FWBL planning next season!

Miami, FL – The Florida Winter Baseball League is pleased to announce that it is deep in the planning phase for its relaunch. The FWBL plans launch its next season in October, 2011. After months of working out the fine details, the FWBL has begun a plan to reorganize for 2011. “We take away many valuable lessons from our first season experience and have the confidence to improve on many aspects of our game,” said Mickey Filippucci, the League’s President. Plans include hiring outside accounting, human resources and legal firms to ensure that all past and future business partners feel comfortable supporting the FWBL. “We owe it to the fans, the cities, businesses, players and ourselves to get it right, and we are working hard to do just that” Filippucci added. Florida Winter Baseball League, where tomorrow’s stars play today!

With all due respect to Mr. Filippucci — and after what he did to his players, this writer has little respect for him — he’s got a long way to go to re-establish his credibility with Space Coast baseball fans.

I suspect the only way anyone in Brevard County will give this man a second chance is if he disassociates himself from the league, resigns as president, and lets a true baseball executive take charge.

I will actively discourage baseball players I know from participating in this league until Mr. Filippucci separates himself from FWBL operations and puts someone with a track record in charge.

Even if he does so, I remain deeply skeptical that winter baseball will succeed in Florida. The state’s sports entertainment dollar that time of year is fixated on college and professional football and basketball. We were told the league’s economic model assumed an average attendance of 750 per game, a number many observers thought was not just wildly optimistic but in fact delusional.

We were told privately that the FWBL was prepared to absorb two years of operational losses before folding. It turned out to be three weeks.

To quote the character Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire, “Show me the money.” No one is going to believe that FWBL 2.0 has a snowball’s chance in Miami unless it publicly demonstrates that this time it’s adequately funded.

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