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Watertown franchise waits for deal to be finalized

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Watertown’s franchise in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League has already gone through some notable changes during its offseason, including shedding its traditional nickname and purple and gold colors.

The team’s name change from Wizards to Rams, confirmed on Monday, is tied to a sponsorship agreement with local car dealer FX Caprara of Watertown, and the team will field a new coaching staff as well, according to team co-owner Todd Kirkey.

Yet the team still has to finish working out an agreement with the city to be able to return to the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds so the Watertown Rams can take to the field next summer.

Kirkey says the franchise, a charter member of the league that has competed in the PGCBL since 2000, is close to renewing a contract with the city.

“We’ve been in negotiations with the city to update our lease from the previous year,” Kirkey said. “We’ve had discussions and we’ve talked things out and we’re talking about some minor changes. We don’t have a deal in place, but we’re working towards one.”

While the deal still has to be finalized, the team isn’t in any danger of being pushed out of the city, said Kirkey, although Parks and Recreation Department Superintendent Erin Gardner said Monday that two other teams, including one from a collegiate league, are each making a bid to relocate to Watertown.

“When somebody else calls in regards to putting a team in Watertown, they certainly have to listen and we certainly understand that,” Kirkey said. “(Watertown) is a pretty good spot to be and the good year we had last year in cleaning things up and working with park and rec makes this an attractive place for someone to come right now.”

PGCBL president Jeff Kunion said on Tuesday “there’s no other team in our league that’s looking to move into Watertown.”

Gardner said an owner of an independent minor league baseball team from Green Bay, Wis., has also contacted her about moving the team to Watertown.

But as far as Watertown’s current baseball franchise, Kirkey said “we’re not worried about it. We’ve got a team in the PGCBL and we’re looking forward to 2013.”

“It’s not a negative situation, because in the past we haven’t any competition,” Kirkey said. “In our relationship with Erin Gardner of the parks and recreation department, we’ve always had communication of how to better things down at the baseball field. I don’t think we have a lacking relationship with the city of Watertown — not the current team — we have a great relationship with parks and rec.

“The deal is not basically done ... there are some wordings that need to be changed.”

Kunion added that the PGCBL is past the date of approving any new franchises for the 2013 season.

The Watertown Rams will don black and silver uniform colors with the Dodge Ram symbol as the team logo, as part of the partnership agreement with the local car dealer.

“But we are going full steam ahead,” Kirkey said. “We will be launching a new web site, our roster is online, we’ll be announcing a new coaching staff and we have our schedule dates submitted to the league. We are pretty excited about everything.”

This isn’t the first time a New York state team has turned to sponsorship in this fashion. The original Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association after several successful seasons, which included two championships and affiliation with the New York Knicks, changed their name to the Capital Region Pontiacs in 1992 and sported the car’s logo, but relocated to Connecticut the next year.

The Watertown franchise, which went 18-27 last season, finishing seventh of nine teams, hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007 when it competed in the New York Collegiate Baseball League.

“We certainly feel we have a lot to offer,” Kirkey said. “With the name change and everything else, we’re really geared up and pumped about next season and feel we can improve on last season.”

Yet Kirkey hopes the franchise’s lease agreement with the city will be renewed soon.

“To be honest I don’t think this is an issue, but we feel a need for speed here,” Kirkey said. “Last year went well, but there were some things to improve on because we got something done so late. There was a lot of visibility on alcohol policies and other things that needed to be worked out and we got the contract agreement done in the city in April. And it’s very difficult to put a season together in that time frame.

“I think both parks and rec and the city council understand that and we’re all trying to work as quickly as we can to come up with a good deal for both of us.”

While two teams have officially moved to the PGCBL — the Adirondack Trail Blazers and Utica Brewers — the Oneonta Outlaws will not play in the 2013 season “while the ownership group looks to relocate to the Saratoga area,” according to the league website.

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