NEWARK BEARS: Bears Beware ~ The Winds of Extinction Are Blowing In From Worcester.
The Newark Bears are currently in Worcester, wrapping-up a four game series against the Tornadoes. But in truth, both teams are gripped in a fight for survival. The Brick City Nine certainly have their problems. Locally, we are well aware of them. But the Tornadoes are literally up to their batting helmets in debt and face a grim, uncertain future as well. And that future may very well fall upon them no later than tonight.
At least on the outside, their situation appears even more dire than that of Newark's. In a Wednesday article posted on WorcesterTelegram.com, we are told, Tuesday's game between the Tornadoes and Bears was held up by an hour when a service company hired by the Tornadoes showed up to the park demanding owed payments with a court order in hand, that attached, among other items, the team's equipment as assets. Office furniture was even attached to the court order. The matter was supposedly settled when the CanAm League Office stepped in and promised to satisfy Worcester's bill payment. And we thought the Bears had it bad?
For Worcester, that was only the most recent financially induced dilemma. Jose Canseco signed to play with the team earlier this season. He left Worcester when the team allegedly started short-changing him on wages. Canseco was reported as claiming the team was bouncing checks and that other players were also not getting paid. Canseco basically called ownership a joke. Of course we must take what he says with a grain of salt. Just look at the messenger. Never-the-less, Jose Canseco sicked his lawyer on the Tornadoes for less than $8,000 dollars he feels he's owed in back wages.
Since I started putting this post together last night, WorcesterTelegram.com published a follow-up article today, August 16, 2010, stating the Worcester Tornadoes have quite possibly played their last game. Again, the matter is over money, and who the team owes it to. If need be, the League will intercede and assume control of the team. In that case, the club will be stripped of their name, and play the remainder of the season on the road.
They say misery loves company. And with the Tornadoes and Bears in similar situations, at least they have each other. The end of the road may be at hand in Worcester. But the Newark Bears at least do not have bill collectors holding up starts of games as took place in Worcester during this series. Well, not yet. Right? The unfortunate reality for both teams however, is they may soon switch leagues yet again, and join the Atlantic City Surf, Nashua Pride; and Sussex Skyhawks in the defunct circuit. In no revelation, the Worcester Tornadoes, and the Newark Bears are both suffering continued, anemic gate receipts. The Tornadoes and Bears currently only pull in 600, and 700, fans per game, respectively.
According to this report written last season, the Bears owed nearly $800,000 in back rent to the Essex County Improvement Authority. The team was; and I assume still is; making yearly payments that continue to escalate until 2022, when the debt is scheduled to be paid off, according to Jim Paganelli, the executive director of the ECIA. Bill collectors from PSE&G, seed companies and clothiers were asking for their money, and payroll was delayed for some employees last season, according to court papers and interviews with current and past employees. Jim Hague, the team’s former public relations director, who also served as the stadium announcer, resigned in late June, calling the team a "circus".
This season, only the team's unconventional owners know how much the debits and credits ledger has fluctuated since. Ms. Dronett's idea for a TV reality show never made to our living rooms sets. But they, Danielle Dronett and co-owner Doug Spiel, did release a reality video. How much revenue her endeavour generated for the Bears is unknown. I just hope that wasn't their only plan.
As far as the team being a circus, I imagine Mr. Jim Hague was speaking in response to the period after Frank Boulton declared the Bears unfit for the Atlantic League, and about the era under controversial former owner; Tommy Cetnar; then again, through the effective coup orchestrated by the present ownership; which perhaps was for the best. But only time will tell.
On the field, Ken Oberkfell is now the former manager of the Bears. In two short seasons, Ken Oberkfell went from managing AAA-Buffalo in the Mets organization, to managing the Bears this season, to the unemployment line at the present. Officially, he left the team for personal reasons. In his place and making his managerial debut, the Bears named Chuck Stewart as their new field boss.
But even then, things haven't changed much on the field. Both the Bears and the Tornadoes are battling each other to stay out of the league's cellar. After tonight, fifteen games remain in the CanAm League regular season. At the moment, Newark holds the edge after taking two of three games from Worcester heading into Thursday night. Three and one half games separate the Bears from last place Worcester. But that is no consolation when you're facing extinction.
THURSDAY GAME NOTE: As of 8:00pm Thursday evening, the fourth game between visiting Newark and host Worcester Tornadoes was tied up at two apiece, in the third inning. So quite obviously, something or someone stepped in on Worcester's behalf, and payed whatever bills needed to be paid, and thus prevented the U-Haul trucks from taking all their stuff away.
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