Tiffin semi-pro team in question

The Tiffin Saints may not be marching into Tiffin afterall.

Or if they do, it will be doing so to the beat of a different drum major.

Independent Baseball League founder and owner Eric Spitaleri said Friday night that Brian Dutton, a 1978 Tiffin University grad, will no longer be the owner of the semi-pro baseball team that was slated to begin play in 2014.

Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz said Spitaleri reached out to him earlier this week.

“He said he was exploring other options as the financing was in question,” Montz said. “He said he’d still like to bring a team here.”

Montz said it was disappointing news but there was still light at the end of the tunnel.

“I think it’s disappointing that it may not happen,” Montz said. “I’m encouraged though after talking with (Spitaleri) that it’s still a real possibility.”

Spitaleri said communication breakdowns were the reason Dutton was no longer part of the league picture. The founder said he tried to reach Dutton a number of times, but was only hearing back sporadically from him. It was a concern because Dutton was going to own both the Marion franchise as well as the Tiffin team.

“I had another (ownership) group in Marion reach out to me about the team,” Spitaleri said. “When I have owners not communicating, and I had a group coming to me out of Marion, and I thought it was best to make a change. I told (Dutton) about the changes for Marion and told him he could still have Tiffin and he said no.”

Presently, there are just three teams signed up at this point: Marion, Oakland County, Michigan and a Detroit area team. Spitaleri said he’s in negotiations currently with two to three teams, which he said he’s close to finalizing.

“We’re starting next summer and I’m hoping to hit six to eight teams. We’ll play the first season with four if we have to. But my hope is for six to eight,” Spitaleri said.

And he’s still hoping one of those teams is Tiffin.

“I would love to have a team in Tiffin. It fit into demographically into what I want from this league,” Spitaleri said. “It’s a nice small city. It’s a college town. It’s a nice area. I think with the locations I have in mind with Michigan, Western Ohio and Indiana, it fits perfectly. I want to keep it as regional as possible.”

And he’d like to keep the owner local too, if possible.

“I’ve talked to someone today,” said Spitaleri, who declined to elaborate on who the person was, but did say it was a local person. “We talked today and they were going to get back to me in the next few days.”

Spitaleri said an owner would likely be looking at an investment of about $40,000 per season for a team.

“There’s no franchise fee for this league. I want to get the league built,” Spitaleri said. “The owner is going to be responsible for player salary, facility rental, travel, uniforms, baseballs and umpires. If the owners do it right with attendance, concession and merchandise, they can make a profit the first year.”

Spitaleri said the prospective owners can reach out to him directly at 330-731-1824 or via e-mail at info@indybaseballleague.com