Paul Simmons has put his blood, sweat and tears into making the Watertown Wizards a successful enterprise over the past 11 years.
But Simmons has finally had enough of the haggling with city hall. He and his family, majority owners of the city’s collegiate baseball team, have put the club up for sale.
“I’m done dealing with the City of Watertown,” Simmons said prior to Tuesday night’s Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League doubleheader with the Cooperstown Hawkeyes at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. “It’s not worth the heartache for myself or my family any more.”
Simmons, who started the Wizards over a decade ago as a member of the New York Collegiate Baseball League, said he’s already negotiating with two potential buyers. One from an outside group that definitely wants to move the team out of the city. And another from a local group that may or may not keep the team here.
“Both groups have seen what we’ve had to deal with,” Simmons said. “It’s a sad day for me personally, my family and all of those people and sponsors who have been so loyal to us over the years.”
Simmons started the team for a mere $1,000 in 2000. Today, he estimates it costs between $150,000 and $200,000 to run a club in the PGCBL, a new circuit that enticed several former NYCBL teams to join for this season.
“The new league has been great for us and the team,” said Simmons. “But the city keeps wanting more and more. They already take a big part of the concessions, and now they want to sell outfield ads. What is there left for us?”
Simmons said part of the Wizards’ success has been helping out community groups and families spend time together. He estimates the Wizards have given out over 20,000 free tickets over the years, and have raised between $225,000 and $240,000 for community events.
“My paycheck and my family’s is the same as the day we started. Zero,” Simmons said. “We do this because we love baseball and we love helping people have fun.”
Earlier this summer the Wizards ran a YMCA Baseball Camp for some 100 kids. All for free. “Anywhere else that would have cost about $10,000,” Simmons said.
The Wizards also sponsor several local youth teams and have worked hand-in-hand with the Jefferson County Fair to bring quality entertainment to the city and Jefferson County
Simmons said he feels especially bad for many of his loyal sponsors, some who have been with him since day one.
“The first year we had eight main sponsors,” he said. “This year we have 52 And most of the originals are still with us.”
Wizards’ general manager Todd Kirkey said, “Paul has put his heart and soul into this team. He isn’t just a boss, he’s a great friend. It’s a sad day for baseball in the city.”
Simmons said he hopes to have the team sold by Oct. 1. He did indicate that if a local team decides to keep the team in the city, he would be willing to help out as a consultant.
Kirkey also said he’d would to listen to an offer from new owners.
He added the whole ownership situation may hinder the recruiting process for new players. “A lot of the guys on this year’s team would like to come back here because they’ve enjoyed themselves so much,” Kirkey said. “Now, that might not be a possibility.”