Pretty soon, baseball fans in Tiffin and the surrounding area won't have to drive to Toledo, Cleveland or Detroit to get their fix of professional baseball.
The Tiffin Saints are coming to town.
Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz announced in a press release Wednesday that starting in June 2014, Tiffin will be home to a semi-pro baseball team in the Independent Baseball League.
"I'm extremely excited. I think it's really going to be a great opportunity for Tiffin," Montz said. "It will be good entertainment for the community. A good example for the kids in younger leagues for people they can look up to. Not the major league players making millions of dollars, but players that really care about the sport and have a passion for it. Guys that are making a little bit of money but also playing for the love of the game."
Saints owner Brian Dutton, a 1978 Tiffin University graduate, said he's excited about coming back to Tiffin and bringing professional baseball with him.
"We were looking to put baseball into the smaller towns that have been overlooked, that don't get to see pro-ball. Towns that are overlooked by organized baseball," he said. "We decided to develop a league where we can go to the smaller towns. Bring baseball for guys who have been overlooked also. Guys that played college ball, that were overlooked to make it to that next level, or guys who were overlooked to even play at college."
Dutton stressed that the games would be "wholesome family entertainment."
He said players would be available after every game to sign autographs and take pictures with fans. He also pointed out that coming to the games would be cost-effective for families.
According to Dutton, for a family of four to go to a Toledo Mud Hens game, the average total cost would be $110 including tickets, concessions and gas. With the Saints, the same family of four could go to a game for $31.
He said the months before the season debuts would include hiring a manager, setting up tryouts, setting up marketing operations and finalizing a deal for a site to host the games. TU's baseball field is one possibility to be the home of the Saints.
An announcement about tryouts will be made at a later date, but will be open to anyone 18 years of age or older.
Dutton said players could come from a wide radius, but he would like to use as much local talent as possible.
"It could be a wide ranging pool (of players) but I would like, to the fullest extent possible, to field a team of players from the Tiffin area and field a competitive team."
Dutton said there would be a two-tier pay scale, where players would be paid a per-game amount, plus a percentage of any team profits.
According to IBL owner Eric Spitaleri, four teams are committed to the league. Other teams will be located in Marion, the Dayton area and Oakland County, Mich.
Spitaleri said he would like to get the league to six or eight teams for its inaugural season. He is in talks to bring teams to the Columbus and Detroit areas.
Spitaleri and Dutton said the first season is likely to consist of 36 games, including 18 home dates.