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Friday, December 11, 2009

RoadRunners will not return in 2010

Just found out the news this morning. Three seasons ago, the GBL sold the rights to one of its six franchises, and the St. George RoadRunners became the second independently-owned team in the league. Three years later, it appears the Runners have closed there doors after falling on hard times.

It's never a good thing when a team goes through this, and it hurts even more after seeing a team have it's best season ever (by a LONG shot) and then not have a chance to follow it up. Remember, this team won only 7 games during it's first half of 2007, but they continued to build, and achieved the best record in the South Division in 2009.

Here's the official article from The Spectrum newspaper in St. George:

Roadrunners call it quits

ST. GEORGE - The St. George Roadrunners made tremendous strides during the 2009 season - just not enough to stay in business.

Rick Berry, general manager of the St. George Roadrunners, said the team will not be renewing its contract with Bruce Hurst Field next season in a move that marks the end of the three-year franchise in Southern Utah.

Behind a franchise best 48-34 record, the Roadrunners secured its first Southern Division championship in the Independent Golden Baseball League this past season.

"We made the decision last weekend that the St. George Roadrunners will not be back next season," said Berry, part of the Triple Play Group that owns the team. "We were very optimistic about returning (for a fourth season) toward the end of last season, even releasing ownership opportunities to the public, but there just wasn't enough support.

"We tried our best to weather the storm for three years on one of the lowest operating budgets in the Golden Baseball League, but financially we were unable to turn a net profit or break even financially."

Despite success on the field, attendance numbers were still low for home contests. According to, St. George averaged 1,168 fans per game, the second lowest total attendance (paid and complimentary tickets) in the nine-team league.

Berry said the low attendance combined with a drop in sponsorship revenue was too damaging for Roadrunners majority owner Todd Vowell to keep operating beyond this point.

"It's been a rough-go of it here lately," said Cory Snyder, Roadrunners manager who spent eight years as a player in Major League Baseball. "The economy's been bad for a while. I'm just saddened by this whole thing. I really feel for Todd (Vowell) and his family. They've done everything possible to keep this franchise going in St. George. To keep losing money year in and year out eventually takes its toll."

The end result contradicts Vowell's assertion of St. George being a major part of the GBL in 2010 following the Roadrunners' first round loss to Tucson in September.

Vowell welcomed XnE's (Xcellence in Entertainment) purchase of the Triple Play Group in August. Vowell, along with Berry, were to also oversee XnE's four-team GBL expansion in the Hawaiian Islands. In a letter to shareholders in early November, XnE projected combined annual sales revenues exceeding $25 million.

However, Berry said Wednesday the deal had been reversed and Vowell is not in business with XnE in any capacity. Berry will remain as a consultant to XnE's Hawaiian project.

Vowell, a Dixie High alumnus, did not return several phone calls requesting comment.

Although this outcome didn't come as a surprise to Snyder, it was to the players, including three-year Roadrunners veteran Ryan Stevenson.

"I heard it might be a possibility, but I'm pretty sad that it actually happened," said the center fielder who hit .311 with 34 RBIs in 82 games last season. "It was a good experience. I really enjoyed the organization, the fans and the host families."

Stevenson didn't find out St. George's fate until Tuesday when he made a phone call to Berry to catch up and see how things were going. The 26-year old was under contract for 2010 and has rigorously been working out for the upcoming season.

Utility player Juan Serrano hit .290 with 31 hits in 34 games last season. Like many others in the organization, he enjoyed his time in St. George. He credits ownership for building a winning team in just three years and for being personable with both players and coaches.

Serrano said it takes time for any organization to build a fan base.

"You got to give it time," Serrano said. "I think it takes four to five years to get the fan base behind the franchise. And in St. George I feel like ownership cut it a little bit too short."

In tough economic times, Berry acknowledges there will be approximately 25 jobs lost, most of those coming within stadium positions like concession and memorabilia stands - many filled by high school and college students.

For Snyder, though, the three-year St. George manager has options open. He's spent time working with Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians spring training program. The veteran manager wants to be coaching in 2010.

"One thing I like about the GBL is I get to be both the manager and hitting coach," Snyder said. "There have been some inquiries from GBL teams during the winter meetings, but nothing is official yet."

Serrano credits Snyder for turning the Roadrunners (.306 batting average, 543 runs in 82 games, and 69 home runs) into GBL's second ranked offense and improving players' hitting throughout the season.

St. George didn't go without making news during its brief three-year stint.

Earlier this year, Darin L. Kracl, who was part of the original ownership group and doubled as the pitching coach in 2007, was convicted of running an investment scam. The 41-year-old used investors' money to buy cars, jewelry, travel and pay his tithing. He spent $327,000 to purchase his share of the Roadrunners, which he relinquished in 2008.

Kracl served a 90-day sentence for securities fraud and the Utah Attorney General's Office sold valuable memorabilia from Kracl's collection to repay $4.6 million.

This marks the second Southern Utah Independent baseball franchise to fold this decade. The Zion/St. George Pioneerzz (1999-2001) went out of business due to the entire Western Baseball League closing up shop.

1 comment:

Joe Caca said...

Hello folks, it's been a while since I've blogged, but here I go.

First of all, sad to see the St George team leave the GBL. I made alot of new friends while they were in the GBL. Not only the players, but some of there fans that would make the trips to LB.

Second of all, maybe the Armada can get Ryan Stevenson back. He is still somewhat a fan favorite at Blair Field.

Third, I'm sure the new teams in Palm Springs, and Hawaii will take most of the St G team members.

Im looking forward to seeing new teams, players and fans in 2010.

May can't come fast enough for this baseball fan.
Have a happy holidays and may 2010 bring us a GBL championship to LB.