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New for 2011: North American League

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There's a name on the table for the combined Northern League, Golden Baseball League and United League Baseball: North American League, as reps from the three independent circuits continue negotiations on a game plan for the 2011 season.

To say that baseball in many of these cities relies on the formation of this new league is an understatement: as standalone entities, it would be hard for all three of these leagues to struggle through a 2011 season. Together, of course, it will be a struggle as well, as teams are choosing a plan that features lots more travel in what's still a bad economy, but there's also the greater chance of expansion in the future. Going national, of course, has been the dream of many an indy magnate, and this plan does just that.

It also gives a home to two teams being sold: the Schaumburg Flyers and the Joliet JackHammers, both of the Northern League. Negotiations for the JackHammers sale are in the final stages (a letter of intent was submitted to city officials yesterday) and could be wrapped up this week, subject to due diligence (indeed, the announcement of the new league hinges on the status of the sale), but the potential new owners are not bound to the new entity. Indeed, the word is that this city could end up playing in the Frontier League next season (the team, like all the Northern League teams, has already submitted a FL application). In Schaumburg, the new owners -- who could be in place by the end of the month -- sound very committed to the North American League.

Here are the teams involved: From the Northern League, the Rockford RiverHawks, the Schaumburg Flyers, the Lake County Fielders and (as of now) the Joliet JackHammers. From United League Baseball: the Coastal Bend Thunder, the Edinburg Roadrunners, the San Angelo Colts and the RGV WhiteWings. From Golden League Baseball: the Orange County Flyers, the Edmonton Capitals, the Calgary Vipers, the Maui Na Koa Ikaika, the Chico Outlaws (assuming a lease is worked out) and perhaps a new team, the Tijuana Ambassadors (Embajadores), as GBL officials were down there a few weeks ago to check things out. That's 14, and there's a chance the new circuit could pick up teams in Omaha, where Northern League commissioner Clark Griffith has been working on a deal, and Yuma.

It's been reported that an announcement of the new league could come as soon as tomorrow, but that may be a little optimistic: we hear the holdup is over the status of the Joliet sale.

The plan, we're told, is for each league to play an abbreviated schedule (76 games in the case of the Northern League teams), with 24 or so games against the other two leagues.

RELATED STORIES: Three indy leagues joining forces for 2011?; Seals: Canaries in the coal mine?

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