No Players Yet, but Six Teams Set to Play Ball : Baseball: Golden State League is ready to throw its first pitch in May with a franchise in the Antelope Valley.

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No players have been signed and stadium sites remain somewhat unsettled, but the Valley-based Golden State Baseball League announced Friday its intention to begin its inaugural season May 10 with a 140-game schedule.

The independent, six-team minor league, brainchild of Chatsworth investment banker Bob Weinstein, plans to field a team in the Antelope Valley. The Ravens are scheduled to play host to Paso Robles on opening day. The rest of the league begins play May 11.

The league, which plans to expand to eight cities by 1996, plans to field two three-team divisions. Antelope Valley, Indio and Brawley form the southern division with Chico, Merced and Paso Robles in the northern division. The regular season ends Sept. 30.


“Finally, we’re getting ready to play ball,” said Weinstein, the league president. “As much work as we have left in front of us, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The GSL is the latest in a series of independent leagues to form as minor-league fever sweeps through North America. Unlike most minor leagues, the Golden State will function without funding from major-league organizations and will own and operate the teams.

In its present form, the league varies significantly from its original design. Weinstein originally pitched to prospective member cities a plan in which the league would erect $5 million multipurpose stadiums in each city in time for the 1995 season.


But the land-acquisition process has been slow, so Weinstein elected to proceed with plans to play at temporary facilities. Each site is expected to include seating for at least 3,000 fans, he said.

“We ran out of time and into some things we didn’t foresee,” he said.

The Ravens, the league centerpiece, have named a manager, former major leaguer Ellis Valentine, but negotiations over a home site are ongoing.

Weinstein hopes to land Antelope Valley College in Lancaster as the temporary home site for the franchise in ’95. Antelope Valley Athletic Director Brent Carder said the school has been negotiating with the league for weeks about site availability and that Weinstein is scheduled to appear before the board of trustees on Monday to make a formal presentation.


Carder called “premature” any agreement between the league and the school.

Valentine has lived in the Antelope Valley for seven years, working as a substance-abuse counselor. He hasn’t been involved in the game since he retired in

1985 after a 10-year career with the Montreal Expos, Texas Rangers, New York Mets and Angels.

“I’m really jazzed,” Valentine said. “I divorced myself from baseball to start a new life. I’m glad to be involved again.”

Valentine declined further comment until the Ravens have a home field secured.

If the league comes to fruition, it would end a long drought for area fans. The Antelope Valley franchise would become the first minor league team to play in the Valley-Ventura region since 1986, when the Ventura Gulls played one season in the California League before relocating. Previously, no minor league team had played in the area in 40 years.

Officials from several league cities said negotiations for permanent stadium sites continue, and the league is proceeding with plans to erect stadiums by 1996, Weinstein said. The league will generate funding for stadium construction through investments from private institutions, he said.

Weinstein said projected ticket sales, advertising revenue and private investors will carry the league through the 1995 season.


Officials in several cities have surveyed residents and said public support is high.

“We have 100% community backing,” said Sherry Johnson, the executive director of the Indio chamber of commerce. “We need something to call our own.”

Johnson said the Riverside County Fairgrounds has been secured as the temporary home for Indio.

“We think it’s pretty exciting,” she said. “This is perking right along. . . . The public is really positive about it.”

Tom Fox, the executive director of the Brawley economic development commission and chamber of commerce, said the league has secured permission to play at Weist Field, a city-owned facility. Fox said Brawley is set to play ball as soon as Weinstein can produce and fund a team.

“Let’s make it happen,” Fox said. “We told him we can move as quickly as he can.”

Weinstein concedes there is plenty of work remaining. To fill its rosters, the league will hold player tryouts at several California sites beginning next month. The league also plans to hold a free-agent draft in February.

Plans call for teams to field a roster of 25 with a monthly payroll of $28,000. The league will not use the designated hitter.


“My bats, my balls, my rules,” Weinstein said.

Four general managers already have been named and along with Valentine will begin earning a paycheck on Jan. 15.

The GSL could be one of two independent leagues operating in Southern California this summer. The Western League, which includes franchises in Long Beach and Palm Springs, is scheduled to open play May 19 and has a better early foothold than the GSL.

The Western League, with eight teams in two divisions, already has secured playing sites, hired managers and staged tryouts. The Western will field teams in California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, and will play a 90-game schedule.

Valentine isn’t the only marquee name in the new independent ranks. Palm Springs of the Western League has hired former Dodger official Al Campanis as general manager and Jeff Burroughs, former American League most valuable player, was named Long Beach manager. Tom Trebelhorn, former manager of the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs, will manage the Tri-Cities, Wash., team.

Previously, the lone minor league in the state was the Class A California League, with 10 teams. Most of the Cal League teams have operational agreements with major-league teams, which supply funding and players.