Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

September 7, 2018

Open letter to the community
on the future of Melville Millionaires baseball

First, on behalf of the Melville Millionaires Baseball board of directors, the players and coaching staff, I would like to extend a thank you to all of our 2018 sponsors, groups that bought advertising, fans, billet families, and those who supported our fundraising efforts, most notably the cash lotto and sports banquet.

The 2018 Melville Millionaires Western Major Baseball League (WMBL) season didn’t go as planned — on or off the field. There were many high hopes going into the season. The club came out firing on all cylinders, winning their first three games. From there the squad lost some close games, but was still competitive with many of the best teams in the league. Off the field, the 2018 season for the Millionaires ended the way the pre-season started — owing a massive debt. On the books, this year’s team came close to breaking even.

I will be frank: the Millionaires Baseball Club is in trouble financially. When I became president of the team we were over $57,000 in debt. After two spring meetings before the season (one with the league, and the other with the regional park), I was handed more outstanding bills, some dating back to as far back as 2014, for an additional amount of $30,000. So before we even threw a pitch this season we were more than $75,000 in the hole. Some may think, why did you go ahead with the season? That is a good question and it comes down to timing. Teams have to commit to the league in November. We were committed and the league schedule was made.

Board of directors had a plan to pay debts

When I became the interim president on Jan. 1, 2018, the board thought we were $58,000 in the red. A business plan was made and fundraising proposals were brought forward. As a board, we thought we could work toward paying off much of the debt and still run the season, if all went according to plan. A commitment was made to the league to enter the season, a schedule was made, a coach was in place, players were recruited, advertising and marketing began, billet families were sought, and much more. We were fully committed to the 2018 season. We had a lot of things in motion before we learned about the additional $30,000 and it was too late to back out. We had to move forward with the season trying to run the team and pay our back debt.

Fundraising efforts like the cash lotto, the sports banquet, season ticket sales and drawing people to the games would all need to be a priority. At this point we knew as a board we had to work extremely hard to move the team in a positive direction and try to draw people to the field for games.

What it really boils down to is the mismanagement of the past. Two years ago, I learned the Millionaires were close to $20,000 in the hole. Personally, I have been a long-time business sponsor or season ticket holder. I proposed to help out by putting together the first Millionaires Baseball Banquet. We were able to raise close to $23,000, which meant the team would start 2017 out of debt. However, shortly after the banquet was over, unpaid back bills started to show up. These were invoices not handed in by past leadership that the current board was not aware of. For example, league bills, bus expenses, Melville Regional Park bills, maxed out credit cards, etc.

This year’s operation, on paper, showed we nearly broke even. However, we have the back bills and owe money to a lot of businesses and billet families. That was because we tried to take care of the past as well as the present. Think of it as trying to run three seasons in one year. The combination of not having enough board members and volunteers hurt us. We were taxed with multiple duties and couldn’t raise the funds needed to carry us through to reset our financial statement.

The Mils will now launch a campaign looking for people who want to help out. The idea is to try and raise the funds we need to pay off or pay down the back debt and move forward for next season. The proof is in the pudding. If we get the back debt paid, we can make a solid go of this. As I mentioned, without the previous debt, we would have been around the break-even point and we would have been optimistic about the future. Now we need to launch two separate campaigns: one to try and pay back the debt, the other to raise money to move the club forward.

League governors will decide fate of franchise

The WMBL wants to meet with us within a month and again by the end of October where the board of governors will decide the fate of the team. If we lose the club, we will never get it back. Melville is the smallest market in the league, however we can compete with the largest franchises in the league, but if we have it taken away, we won’t get another chance. There is a tremendous benefit to our community to have this ball club here. The team brings in an estimated $400,000 to the local economy through hotel stays, restaurant meals, the aforementioned billet fees that go to families who house the players, the disposable income of the players who stay here, as well as the various tourism spinoffs from the more than 20 families who frequent our city for a weekend or more while visiting their sons, brothers, and boyfriends — our players.

There’s also the priceless value assigned to the Millionaires WMBL franchise. When families of the players come to Melville for a short time and then head back to their hometowns, they know where to find us on the map and may refer us to someone for a future visit and if the right person comes to town, you just never know who may stay long term and what they could contribute to our community. I also know the impact the community has on the boys. Many like the small town living and the community they play in. Many players actually have asked to come back to Melville and play her next year if they could because they have enjoyed themselves this year.

Club needs community support to survive

This is a long letter, but I want to be transparent. We have a massive debt and need to move forward with fundraising if the 2019 season is to happen. The club is a major benefit to the city, and we now need the community to rally behind the club.

We started the season with a small group of board members; unfortunately not enough to handle all the tasks that are needed to run the organization. The ball club is looking for more board members to be active with the operations with the club. We are also looking for people who would like to help raise funds to pay off the back debt and raise money for the future. We need the community.

Without the community supporting the team, fans, and sponsors, the team will no longer be around to enjoy baseball at the level the Millionaires bring to town.

I can be reached at 306-521-0429. We need your support folks!

Darren Wandy, president

Melville Millionaires Baseball Club