College Park college baseball team ceases operations
Financial issues force Ripken League's Bombers to shut down
Financial problems have forced the College Park Bombers of the Cal Ripken Senior Collegiate Baseball League to cease operations. The team will not participate in the 2010 season this summer, and its future is uncertain.
Bombers founder and owner Gene Bovello said it costs about $14,000 each summer to keep the team in the Ripken League, an NCAA-sanctioned summer circuit for current college players. Bovello said he still owes the league nearly $8,000 to cover various equipment and umpire fees for last season, adding that he does plan to make good on the debt.
"I am going to pay it off because I am not happy about it," Bovello said. "I came to the decision that I wasn't going to be able to keep it going because of finances. We tried to keep it going, but the economy was so bad that people just aren't spending. I just couldn't afford to keep it going."
Alex Thompson, the Ripken League's executive director, said the league was aware the Bombers were in trouble and made the decision that the club was not financially viable moving forward. The league added the Southern Maryland Cardinals from the Clark Griffith Collegiate Baseball League to take the Bombers' spot. The Cardinals changed their name to the Nationals and will begin play this summer.
Thompson said the eight-team Ripken League has not previously lost any teams in its five-year history.
"The one thing we have tried to do since we started the league was keep turnover to a minimum," Thompson said. "The Bombers have been driven by the personality of Gene for so long, we kept wondering what they would do when he stepped aside. We love the Bombers and hope they are able to right the ship because we would love to have them back."
The Bombers ran into trouble in 2009 when they were forced to abandon their home park, the University of Maryland's Shipley Field, due to financial issues. The team played its home games last summer at Riverdale Baptist School in Upper Marlboro and Montgomery College in Germantown.
Bovello, 80, said no one has approached him about taking control of the team, which he started in 1998. The Bombers played in the Maryland State Baseball Association prior to joining the Ripken League in 2005. If another prospective owner did come along, Bovello said he would have to really know the person to allow them to take over his team.
Thompson said the Ripken League would like to maintain an even number of teams. If the Bombers are able to come back in the future, the league would likely try and add another team to create two five-team divisions.
Regardless of what happens to the Bombers, Thompson said Bovello has done much for the league, and that his contributions would not soon be forgotten.
"The league is financially viable and is growing at a good rate," Thompson said. "It's unfortunate what happened to Gene and the Bombers. We understand that it's a complicated situation and we hope they can clean it up for the future."
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