Independent baseball team might move to Joplin

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Associated Press

Posted on November 12, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 12 at 12:00 PM

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — The owners of the El Paso Diablos, an independent league baseball team, are considering moving the team to Joplin, if the city will renovate and update a city-owned stadium.

The team's general manager, WLD Suarez Baseball, made a presentation Monday night to the Joplin City Council, which voted to continue negotiations. The Diablos are asking the city to renovate and lease Joe Becker Stadium to the team. Suarez executive vice president Matt LeBranche told The Joplin Globe (http://bit.ly/1e1gFtj ) that the team estimates the city would have to spend $5.9 million to bring the stadium up to professional standards.

The Diablos used to be the Springfield Cardinals until becoming independent in 2004. The team is part of the American Association of Independent Baseball, and plays such teams as the Kansas City T-Bones and the Wichita Wingnuts. The players are ex-major leaguers or Triple-A or Double-A players or collegiate players waiting for the draft.

Missouri Southern State University used to play at Joe Becker Stadium but is building its own baseball stadium, forcing the city to find a new tenant, said Chris Cotten, Joplin's parks and recreation director.

Suarez representative Michael Wray said the stadium needs to have about 4,200 seats and be modernized with new lights, new restrooms and other updates.

"We're not trying to build a monument to baseball with Joe Becker," he said. "We feel Joe Becker has a tremendous heritage and history. We're only trying to modernize and enhance and bring it up to modern-day standards."

Wray said Suarez would ask for a 10-year lease of the stadium with an option for another 10 years. He said the team would use the stadium from May until September but would agree to allow established events such as the annual Premier Baseball tournament to use it. The owners also would schedule other types of events for family entertainment, he said.

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Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

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