WAILUKU --- Professional baseball appears ready to take another swing on Maui.
The Golden Baseball League, an independent circuit headquartered in San Ramon, Calif., confirmed Tuesday that it plans to have a team play at Maehara Stadium in the 2010 season, which is set to run from May to August.
''We are very excited,'' said Dave Kaval, the chief executive officer for the league, which began in 2005 and currently has teams in California, Utah, Arizona, Canada and Mexico. ''It's going to be a great addition for Maui.''
The Maui team will be run by XnE Inc., a company that operates the Golden League's St. George (Utah) Roadrunners.
XnE said that it has signed a lease with Maui County to play at War Memorial Complex, where Maehara Stadium was home of the Maui Stingrays in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League from 1993 to 1997. The name of the team and management will be announced soon, the company said.
XnE said that it paid $800,000 for sole operating rights in the state of Hawaii, and hopes to add three more teams on other islands in the future.
GOLDEN BASEBALL LEAGUE TEAMS
Calgary (Alberta) Vipers
Chico (Calif.) Outlaws
Edmonton (Alberta) Capitals
Long Beach (Calif.) Armada
Orange County (Calif.) Flyers
San Diego Surf Dawgs
St. George (Utah) Roadrunners
Tijuana (Mexico) Potros
Tucson (Ariz.) Toros
Victoria (British Columbia) Seals
Yuma (Ariz.) Scorpions
''We had long thought about having multiple teams in Hawaii,'' Kaval said when reached by phone.
Efforts to reach county Parks and Recreation Department officials were unsuccessful on Tuesday.
The agenda for Friday's County Council meeting includes a bill proposed by budget director Fred Pablo to amend the budget to account for revenues --- including ''fees, rates, assessments and taxes'' --- created by the Golden League.
Pro baseball history in the 50th state includes the Hawaii Islanders Triple-A team in the Pacific Coast League, the Hawaii Winter League that in 1992 announced plans for four teams --- with two on Maui --- but never played a game, and the twice-defunct HWBL.
The Stingrays led the HWBL in attendance in all five years of their existence, despite playing in 1,500-seat Maehara Stadium as opposed to the 4,382 seats of Murakami Stadium on the University of Hawaii campus.
''When we look at a new market, we look for a place with baseball experience,'' Kaval said. ''Since there has been baseball there in the past, it was a good indication this could work.''
Kaval said the travel plans will be similar to those of the Islanders, who existed from 1961 to 1988.
''If there's only one team in Hawaii, which is most likely the way it's going to be for the first year, the team --- say Long Beach or Tucson or Edmonton --- will come out, basically, for a week,'' he said. ''They'll play a three-game series, then there'll be an off day, and then another three-game series.''
Kaval said he believes that plan will work.
''We spoke to all the other ownership groups about it over the last nine months, about how to make it financially viable for the league,'' he said. ''We're already a league where we travel by air. Some of these markets are very far apart, so the only way to get there is to fly.''
According to Kaval, the league was profitable in 2009. When the league started, it owned all of the teams, but has since sold eight of the teams to individual owners or groups.
In 2009, Kaval said attendance was up 28 percent over 2008 and that the average attendance was 1,700, with several of the tickets in the $5 range.
''Fans here in the U.S. and Canada, it's going to create tourism opportunities for booster clubs, things like that, to come out there,'' he said. ''One of the topics of conversation we had was: 'How many people would make a trip to go see their team in Hawaii?' ''
He said that Maui is the place to start in the Aloha State.
''We want to create rivalries among the islands,'' Kaval said. ''Sometimes you start with a toehold. We're looking long term, and strategically we feel that there can be two to four teams on the Hawaiian Islands. It can be developed over the next three to five years.''
To draw fans, it will take some local flavor, Kaval said.
''It's the intention of all the teams in our league to have a number of players who are local,'' he said. ''It's a good way to tie in with the community, and it's just a good thing to do --- a lot of times, you find good talent that way.''
The league already has a Hawaii tie in commissioner Kevin Outcalt, who lived on Oahu and later the Big Island as a youth.
''When we had ownership groups talking about Hawaii, I didn't think it would be too difficult of a thing to do,'' Outcalt said. ''I understand the sports passion on all the islands.''
Outcalt said the Valley Isle was chosen in part because of the past support of HWBL fans, even when the league sent Oahu teams to Maui in 2007 for a week of games.
''There's a great history of supporting baseball,'' Outcalt said.
''The teams that really capture the hearts and imaginations of their communities tend to be in smaller markets looking for something to support, and looking for family activities.''
Outcalt said the independent aspect of the league will help. The Stingrays sent, among others, Todd Helton and Craig Counsell to Major League Baseball as part of the HWBL, which had minor leaguers from major league organizations mixed with affiliated players from Japan and Korea. Former major leaguers Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco played in the Golden League, as did Waipahu High School graduate Jerome Williams, who pitched for the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals, and Baldwin graduate Gered Mochizuki, a Kansas City Royals draft pick in 2003.
''Independent baseball is the closest thing to Major League Baseball in the way people approach the game,'' Outcalt said. ''In affiliated (minor) leagues, the focus is on developing players. In independent baseball, the focus is on winning championships. Independent baseball doesn't have any entitled players. There's no players with six years in the organization, bonus babies. The guys in the independent league are fighting and scratching to win.''
Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org