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You May Ask Yourself, 'How Did I Get Here?'

For the last 14 weeks, I've been in the front seat for the wildest ride of my life. A few months helping run a team and then a league in independent baseball -- the main reason I haven't been able to write many posts (or catch my breathe). What follows isn't Syracuse related, so please bear with me or simply ignore my self-indulgence. Otherwise, I hope you take some enjoyment from the pure insanity that was Summer 2015 for yours truly.

Never bury the lead or "lede," if you're so inclined. Writing an article or simply telling a story, don't make your audience wait for the good stuff. But, while trying to get them hooked early, don't give away the bread and butter too quickly either. You have to stay interesting while building to a crescendo.

It can really be tough painting a pretty picture with words, verbally or written.

Which is why the story of what the hell just happened, about 14 weeks of pure insanity, is frustrating me. There are so many leads and so many twists and turns when it comes to the Watertown Bucks, a professional independent baseball team, and 2015. I could start it all about a million different ways but I'm not sure I can truly capture the essence of the craziness.

Truth be told, I've deleted over 1,500 words already! Sitting in my office, like I've done since May, thinking back on it all. Those 15-hour days blurring together. But the difference now is the sound, or lack there of. Lights off, daylight creeping in through the windows and the computer screen highlighting what I need to see as I tie up loose ends, or attempt to tie everything up. The season is over and decompression has begun.

I mean, it's quiet and actually a little, dare I write, lonely here at the ballpark this cool late August afternoon. It's not like anyone is around anymore to come barging in.

Like that time in June when this guy from Texas, or maybe it was New Mexico, showed up in the office, suitcase in tow, demanding that I talk to his agent to finalize his contract. Mind you, this was about an hour before a game and (here's a funny kicker) I had no freaking clue who the hell the guy was. He said something about being a brother of a Major League player and that he is super talented and wanted guarantees before playing for one of the teams in our league. My reaction? Laughter and a lot of it.

Oh! Here's a good one: In early July, I'm called up from my office to the "media" booth for something minor. But while up there someone taps me on the shoulder and says the Bucks manager needs me. I'm thinking, since it's the fifth inning, that a player is hurt or someone's uniform ripped, something typical. Holy shit was I wrong. When I get to the dugout our manager says, and I'm not making this up at all, "There's a guy near our bullpen with a rooster. The rooster got out of its cage, hopped the little fence, and got into the bullpen. The guy is now in our bullpen chasing a f*#&% rooster."

That was real life. My real life, even if I felt like I was in a prolonged drunk stupor.

There were hundreds of other times this past season when someone came to me with something mind-blowingly crazy. A baby bird fell out of a nest in the opponents dugout -- a baby bird so young it didn't even have feathers yet. The time a storm rolled through, knocking out the power for about fifteen solid minutes, which was the same night I learned we didn't have flood lights in the offices. Game four of the season was pretty bananas for me, too, because that afternoon I realized we didn't have enough baseballs just a few hours before first pitch. The surreal part was when I got a phone call from the local post office telling me a shipment of baseballs was waiting for me -- baseballs sent in randomly by one our player's dads. I was practically in tears pulling out of the parking lot with that big-ass box of baseballs propped in my trunk.

Who could forget about the day I probably came closest to my first recorded stroke? That was the time where on one road trip we needed three buses because ALL OF THEM broke down.  It was so bad that we had to send nine players and the starting pitcher on a tiny bus that eventually arrived for the game about fifty minutes prior to it starting. And after the three-game set there on the road, the team victorious in all three contests, wouldn't you know it, the bus to take them home...didn't start!

(Our Orange Out with Eric Devendorf and Mookie Jones was a major highlight for fans and for myself, by the way.)

Orange Out

But the craziest thing about it all, the entire season with players, managers and teams, is that NONE of it was supposed to happen in the first place.

The Bucks

Originally the Watertown Bucks, with me as general manager and along with our owner, were set to join a league "owned" by a Guy From Canada. I'll refrain from specific details, at least here, but if you want to know the inner workings just buy me a few beers and I'll unload. See, The Guy From Canada was the reason I left a career to help run an independent baseball team. Indy sports is a crazy world, where nothing is guaranteed. But The Guy From Canada told myself and our owner that he was ready to unveil a six-team league and thought Watertown would be perfect.

What he didn't tell us, although we questioned him almost daily, was the fact he had no money, no help, no real plan and probably never even expected his "league" to ever play a game. What he did do, however, was lie to us and even go as far as to fabricate bank accounts and doctor his voice on phone calls, as to pretend to be a business partner.

I've met many a character these past few months.

Yet, from March, when I took the position, through to early May, despite so many reasons to believe otherwise, The Guy From Canada kept his ruse going. It was that first week in May, his "league's" spring training set to take place, when the walls officially crumbled. Nearly 200 players along with roughly ten managers and coaches showed up in Delaware and you know who didn't? The supposed owner of the "league." The Guy From Canada also didn't pay for the facility being used, which had a price tag of over $19,000.

That's about the time when everyone had one common thought: We're screwed.

There is so much more drama in this part, like the million phone calls we all made trying to figure out something. Or the dozens of people who said they would invest in the league only to bolt. How we ran to and from the office from our car to avoid any potential encounters with curious bystanders or local media, all wanting answers as to what exactly was happening with our team and that "league." The only answer I could give was that "we were over promised and undersold" when it came to The Guy From Canada.

It was all a few days of fairly public hell. I mean, for me alone, I had left a career to take this attempt and here I was, about to swing and miss in a pretty big way. Failure, for so many reasons out of our control, seemed imminent.

So how did I get all the way to here?

To still be the GM of a team, helping run a league, attempting to digest the last half-year. Sitting in an office I never thought I'd even get to enter. An office that became the eye during the many figurative and literal storms that hit. Well, when all else failed, the owner of the Bucks stepped in with a plan to create the North Country Baseball League. A four-team league, running from northern New York to near New York City and all the way over to Maine, that he and I effectively ran.

It's incredible that we all did it. The mangers and players all making indescribable sacrifices to be a part of the game they love. The hardworking GM of the team in Maine, who, through his effort, was a big reason why we were able to piece everything together. And the fans in the North Country and in Maine giving us a chance despite so many reasons to stay away. We played an entire season, postseason, and crowned a champ! There were four new indy leagues to start the season and one finished it. You're DAMN right I'm proud of that fact.

And I still go back to the night the owner of the Bucks and I stayed in the office, no plans to go home, attempting to craft a new schedule and put the particulars of a new league together...FOUR DAYS before Opening Day. Two newbies to running a team, much less running a league.

That's the other thing. Our old "league" officially collapsed on a Monday and we, our owner and the players and the managers and our amazing staff, somehow, someway pulled together to play the first official game in NCBL history that Sunday. Holy hell, how did we do that?

Our owner never swayed from his decision, though: If we're saving this league by creating a new one with a collection of the other teams, we're playing ball this weekend. Someone who turned out to be the best team owner and league owner maybe in the history of sports. Although, I remember, even with our work to try and salvage everything, telling my wife that Wednesday morning, "I think we're done. I just can't believe we'll be able to do this, all of this."

We did.


And I am at a loss as to how to even explain it, or to properly tell our story. Everyone said The Guy From Canada was lying and leading us down a bad trail, but no one knew until it was pretty much too late. Everyone then said, once the truth was figured, "You're done, bail on everything." And here I am, looking at the field where the Watertown Bucks play. From a concept in a restaurant back in the fall of 2014, to turmoil most thought would end us, all the way to freaking reality. And all of that craziness of the first season? Yeah, I expect and want it back, year after year. This is my life and I really don't think I would change a damn thing at this point.

The North Country Baseball League: Never a truer underdog and never a truer unbelievable story.