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  Tue, June 15, 2004


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NFL CANADA




New Majors owner works though growing pains
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

All of you who thought Scott Dart was nuts when he bought the London Majors baseball team, raise your hands.

That would make it pretty much unanimous.

Why would anyone buy a baseball team that doesn't draw well in a city that doesn't like baseball?

Arden Eddie owned the London Majors of the Intercounty Baseball League a long time. They'd been for sale for just as long. It didn't look as if Eddie was ever going to get rid of it, at least not for money.

But Dart was interested in buying a baseball team. When his attempt to buy the St. Thomas Storm fell through, he gave Eddy a call and a new era for the Majors began.

"It's been pretty exciting. It's been a big learning curve. But it's been fun. How often do you ever get to say you own a sports team of any sort and I love baseball. I've definitely had those thoughts every now and again (why did I buy this team?). But the hardest part is finding out what's expected . . . I'm working through some of those little growing pains."

No one needs to tell Dart what a tough sell baseball is in this town. Whenever a new team comes into town, there's an immediate spurt of interest that soon turns to abject indifference. The Majors have been around so long that except for a small (emphasis on the small) hard-core group of fans, everyone else has skipped the spurt of interest and gone right to abject indifference.

Eddie knows. He did all he could to make a go with this team, including selling his car.

Dart is determined to make a go of it. He's a hands-on sort of guy who is waiting to learn the lay of the land before he determines what he needs to make a go of it. He is putting emphasis on entertainment and establishing an air of professionalism around the team.

"It's so hard to even say I'm going to hire somebody for a specific position because I don't even know what all the positions are that I need . . . I'll have a better idea after this year what the infrastructure is going to look like.

Dart may not be an expert at owning a team but he is learning what others have learned.

Two-headed baseball teams may be an attraction but baseball on its own needs some other form of entertainment to attract fans, at least in this town.

For whatever reason, Londoners love fireworks. Announce a few sparklers and firecrackers and watch out for grandma because here comes the rush.

"There are some other things we have in the works," Dart said. "I recognize (that) to get people in there, it has to be an entertaining experience, so it can't just be baseball. We're looking to bring a wrestling match in there, which will bring in a whole different type of clientele. One night Re/Max is going to land their balloon in the park and we'll raffle off a few rides."

His only disappointment has been the lousy weather. Everything else has been warm and fuzzy.

Dart's smart enough to walk before trying to run. He wants to average about 1,000 fans a game next year. He wants to make the organization look and act more professional.

Dart started with a slick new website and program. He's pleased with the professionalism his club has shown on the field.

"I'm excited by the talent. If you have a good product on the field, it will bring more attention and make people want to come out."

He needs to keep trying new ideas, which means never thinking you know it all.

"I haven't pretended to be a guy with all the answers. I'm not the most creative individual. There are a lot of people out there who have fantastic ideas.

"If they are willing to keep supplying those ideas, they'll only wind up helping me. Why wouldn't I listen?"

Hey, with the number of people this franchise has attracted in the last 20 years, he's got nothing to lose.