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Effort to bring minor league ball to North County called out this year

COAST CITIES — Carlsbad resident Jim Hoynes has a passion for baseball.That much is evident by his attempt to bring professional minor league baseball to North County this season.

But being unable to secure a partnership with Cal State San Marcos, and with no other useable baseball diamonds available to play on, the hope for bringing a team to fruition this season is over.

“We were pretty close,” Hoynes said about opening the season this year.

Hoynes purchased a franchise team from the AWBL (American West Baseball League) last year, and was to serve as the team’s owner and general manager, to what would have been the North County Cannons.

The Cannons were slated to open the season in early June and play through early September.

Cal State San Marcos Director of Athletics Jennifer Milo said the school had been in talks with Hoynes and the league since early summer last year about the team using the school’s field.

But with the league’s requirements for facility upgrades, a lack of donors and a looming timeline, the school decided the project wasn’t to going to be feasible.

Some of the upgrades required were to have lights installed, locker rooms and upgraded seating.

“With regards to their need for facility upgrades, we just don’t have the money to put in to put lights on the field right now,” Milo said. “And I know that was one of their big requirements. And they needed locker rooms and we just simply don’t have locker rooms so, from a facilities standpoint, it just wasn’t a match based on their needs.”

With the help of a naming rights donor, Hoynes was planning to install about 2,500 seats, lighting, a press box and the installation of dugouts in the ground.

But a donor was never found.

“I was hoping there would be,” Milo said. “In order to make this happen, there needed to be a donor at the level of $2 million to make this happen.”

Cal State’s baseball field was opened on Jan. 28, 2011, and hosts the Cougars’ baseball team, a second field hosts the women’s softball team.

Upgrades to the baseball and softball fields are one of the school’s fundraising priorities, including the building of a multi-purpose arena on the campus, Milo said.

The upgrades on their wish list also include the additions of lighting, permanent dugouts, improved seating and landscaping, according to Milo.

Milo added that the school is out talking with donors but cultivating that type of money in the millions of dollars takes time, and to find the right donor that is interested in that type of project.

The AWBL held tryouts in December and Hoynes, a retired Marine Corps officer, drafted and signed several players and was working to sign a manager.

Of the players that Hoynes had drafted and signed, five of the eight were from the San Diego County area.

Hoynes contacted all of the players weeks ago to tell them there wouldn’t be a team this season, but that they may still be able to secure a tryout with another team or go for some other kind of league.

One player, Hoynes said, opted to accept a coaching position in Tennessee; another player was granted his outright release and joined a team with the Independent Professional Baseball Frontier League.

“I have just a great bunch of players,” he said. “I feel badly. I expressed that to them but it’s not going to happen for us here in North County. There’s obviously other opportunities they can seek in some other leagues in Arizona or other places.”

According to the AWBL website, Michael Cummings, the league’s founder and CEO, said he decided “to create a new league that would support the team members and their organizations, provide an opportunity that ball players would be looked at by scouts and other leagues, all the while providing Friendly Family Entertainment.”

The league is slated to begin its inaugural season this summer, but no official opening day has yet been announced.

Still, Hoynes said he’s more determined than ever before to bring minor league baseball to North County.

“This is the place to bring minor league ball, not only (to) North County, but I think (to) all the outer edges of San Diego County, East County, South County.

“Just the response, the overwhelming enthusiasm I received from the Chambers of Commerce I joined, and the events I went to, it’s amazing. People are really excited to have this kind of family entertainment venue and I know it’s going to be a big success.

“I had all kinds of sponsors lined up that wanted to participate with it and equity investors. I wouldn’t take any of their money because I didn’t have a stadium lease,” he said.

“But I think they’ll be there waiting for the future to participate in it,” he said.