For Rosamond, It Was Only Another Mirage : Baseball: Desert town might have taken to the Ravens, but some citizens just feel taken by Golden State League.

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When Dan Spoor learned months ago that a minor league baseball team was coming to Rosamond, a small desert community in the northern reaches of the Antelope Valley, he saw it as a chance for his hometown to become known for something more than “dirt and wind.”

“I thought it would give us one thing to strut our stuff about,” Spoor said.

But a month after the Golden State League suspended operations because of financial problems, any strutting in Rosamond has been replaced by disconsolate kicking as Spoor and many of his neighbors cope with the loss of thousands of dollars they say is owed them by the first-year independent league.

Spoor, a grading contractor, doesn’t have much hope of ever seeing the $2,600 he says the league owes him for work done on the baseball field at Rosamond High, the short-lived home of the Antelope Valley Ravens. He has received no word from the league concerning his situation.


“They never contacted me,” Spoor said. “I thought that was rather poor business. Everybody just ducked and hid.”

Spoor said he is considering taking legal action against the league to recoup his losses. Others who had financial dealings with the Ravens also are weighing their legal options.

Bob Weinstein, president and owner of the Golden State League, said he is aware his league owes money to a variety of people, including former players and employees.


“They will be taken care of,” he said.

Weinstein, who ran the four-team league out of his Chatsworth home, said he is working on a solution to the problem: finding new investors who will enable him to resurrect the league. If that effort fails and he exhausts his options, he said, the alternative would be to file for bankruptcy.

Weinstein said he lost “hundreds of thousands” of his own money in the failed league, which was plagued by unstable finances that in some instances resulted in bad checks to employees and creditors.

“There’s nothing wrong here that money wouldn’t cure,” Weinstein said. “But right now that’s not my call. It will be the call of new investors.


“If bankruptcy was the easiest choice to make, I could have made that choice already, then I wouldn’t be worrying about any more phone calls. But that’s not what my intention is. I’m trying to put things back together so people get taken care of.”

Gary Wiencek contends Weinstein has no one but himself to blame for the league’s troubles. As the former league commissioner and director of player personnel, Wiencek said he repeatedly advised Weinstein to abandon plans to start the league this year because of a shortage of personnel and money. He said he expressed his concerns to league officials at a meeting April 7.


When his advice went unheeded, Wiencek said, he decided to resign in late April, fully convinced the league would fail.

“I knew it was going to crash and burn,” said Wiencek, who never gave up his job with a sporting goods company. “Basically the league didn’t have enough leadership, time or money. It didn’t have enough qualified people to make it happen.”

Undaunted, Weinstein forged ahead with plans for a 1995 start-up for the league, which by June had shrunk from an original eight-team venture to four teams in three cities. Along with the Ravens, there were the Imperial Valley Brahmas in Brawley and two teams in Yuma, Ariz.--the Yuma Desert Dawgs and the Southern Nomadic Miners.

Several delays pushed back the start of the season to late June. Games were played for two weeks--the Ravens played four games in Rosamond and five games in Brawley--before the league folded July 5.


In a press release, Weinstein cited the inability to “raise sufficient investment capital” as the primary reason for the shutdown.

In other words, Wiencek said, Weinstein failed to snare that one big investor who could have kept the league afloat.

“He never had any kind of strong base to build on,” Wiencek said.

But by using his general managers to drum up support for the league in various areas, Weinstein was able to attract business by presenting the league in a favorable light and failing to divulge its tenuous financial state, Wiencek said.

“The list of people that [Weinstein] touched with this league is so long, it doesn’t surprise me that a fair share of people are owed money,” Wiencek said.

“He told people what they wanted to hear.”

Said Weinstein: “[Wiencek] can say what he wants. I won’t address those comments.”

Aside from Spoor, those who say they are owed money by the Golden State League include:

* Ellis Valentine, an ex-major leaguer who was the Ravens’ manager until resigning a week into the season, says the league owes him more than $2,000 for the last two-week pay period.

* Gene Melchers, a general contractor from Rosamond, says the league owes him approximately $4,000 for groundskeeping services, advertising and a $165 season ticket for Raven games. Melchers said he planned to take his grievance to small claims court.


* Terry Landsiedel, real estate broker and former president of the Rosamond Chamber of Commerce, says the league owes him more than $2,000 for advertising and two $224 season tickets.

* Paul Mangold, owner of Artistic Signs in Palmdale, says the league owes him approximately $1,000 for six advertising banners, five of which were to be hung on the outfield fence at Rosamond High.

* Mike Richardson, superintendent of the Southern Kern Unified School District, says the league owes the district approximately $1,000 for unpaid usage of the Rosamond High field and parking fees.

* Michael Schindler, vice president of sales and marketing for Baden Sports in Seattle, says the league owes his family’s company approximately $8,000 for baseballs.

* Al Ruegsegger, owner of Sportsrobe in Culver City and co-owner of Adventures In Sports in South El Monte, says his sportswear companies were left holding the bag on a $65,000 order for uniforms and merchandising apparel by the league. Fortunately, Ruegsegger said, most of the order can still be used. “But initially I’m out of pocket,” he said.

* Jim Byers, owner of Desert Industrial Fence in Palmdale, says the league owes him more than $7,800 for new fencing that his company put up around the Rosamond High field.


Byers, who received a partial payment of $6,800 for a fencing job that cost him more than $14,600, said he regrets signing a waiver that protected the Southern Kern Unified School District from liability for work performed at Rosamond High.

“I wish I hadn’t done that,” Byers said. “But at the time, the Golden State Baseball League sounded like a big deal to me. But . . . they’re nothing. Bob Weinstein is the Golden State Baseball League.”

Byers, 63, said his financial loss hit him at a particularly bad time.

“We’ve had a dying economy for four years here,” he said. “Nineteen ninety-four was the worst year I’ve had in 20. . . . We came into 1995 looking pretty fair, but to lose this in the second quarter, that’s not too good.

“I don’t know whether to get an attorney or sit on it and hope someday I’ll get the money. I don’t know what to do.”

Richardson, the school superintendent, said he was sympathetic to the plight of Byers and others who did work on the Rosamond field without getting paid. Weinstein was turned down by the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster before reaching an agreement with the Southern Kern district to establish a team in Rosamond.

“I’ve talked to a couple of people who are out money,” Richardson said. “I regret that happened. It’s a tough issue. Some people in other communities say they looked into it and [concluded that] Bob Weinstein didn’t have enough money to make it go. But the community of Rosamond appreciated the entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to make it work.


“I’ve talked to some people who are out money who feel, ‘Well, it was a try.’ ”

Others, though, are not as forgiving.

Valentine remains bitter about the demise of the Golden State League. He has been contacting representatives of other independent leagues, trying to place Raven players with other teams. Valentine’s managerial contract would have paid him $40,000 a year, Wiencek said.

“I’m very upset and Bob [Weinstein] is aware of it,” Valentine said. “Emotionally I can’t minimize it. When you’re expecting a certain agreement, a certain person to follow through on his word and plans, and your family is supposed to receive benefits, sure it has [affected me]. I’m really angry now.”

Valentine, 41, a Palmdale resident whose 11-year career in the major leagues included a stint with the Angels, was hoping to use the Golden State League as a springboard to re-enter baseball.

With those plans dashed, Valentine said he’s exploring the possibility of starting his own business.

Perhaps no one in Rosamond wanted to see the Golden State League succeed more than Landsiedel. The real estate broker promoted the Ravens with area businesses, purchased $1,500 in advertising and shelled out $448 for a pair of reserved-seat season tickets. “Some of the people in our community feel cheated,” he said.

Asked what he would tell people like Landsiedel, Weinstein replied, “Be patient.”

But Landsiedel and others say their patience with Weinstein is wearing thin.

“I don’t know how long Bob wants people in our community to sit back and do nothing,” Landsiedel said.


“We feel he owes us an explanation.”