It is a dream that most every young man had as a child. And today, maybe a few young women, too.
The opportunity to be in the show. To be signed to a professional baseball contract. To be a pro.
Ron Baron, the Continental Baseball League's commissioner and also part owner of the Corpus Christi Beach Dawgs, grew up in New York with that dream. So did Bob Ibach, his CBL partner and director of baseball operations who later spent nine seasons with the Chicago Cubs as a front office executive. Both men never made it to the show as a player. "But my son (Kevin) did sign a pro contract, so I got close to seeing that dream through him," said Ibach.
But now, as the CBL enters its second season of independent league play, Baron and Ibach are offering fans 21 and older a chance to sign an official CBL contract that the owner can hang up in his or her office. The one-day contract will include an opportunity to take batting practice before a CBL regular season game and get evaluated by a professional manager or coach. Along with this opportunity will come the chance to throw out the first pitch before a CBL game, take the starting lineup to home plate and get introduced during the game by the public address announcer.
But it is a limited offer for the 2008 season-only the first 200 fans will get this chance.
"It's the ultimate gift idea," said Baron, "and we're only making this available to the first 200 fans who sign up throughout the league. It will be open to fans from the four cities, and from anywhere else in the United States. What a nice gift idea for Father's Day, for a birthday or just as a nice idea to reward a special person who loves the game of baseball.
Imagine getting a chance to step on a pro baseball field and take batting practice and get your swing evaluated by a pro coach. Hey, you never know just how good you are? And, of course, having that one-day official CBL contract to hang on the wall to show to all of your friends will certainly be a great conversation piece for the owner.
The cost, which includes the framed signed official CBL contract, is $290 per person, with 20 percent being donated to youth baseball teams for equipment in the area of the home team.
"We want to give back to the community so that some of the money can go towards helping youngsters who watch CBL games get a chance to live out their dreams on the youth league baseball diamonds," Ibach said.
These days, many executives pay $5,000 to $7,500 to play in pro fantasy camps for a few days alongside their heroes of yesteryear. At that price, Baron figures only those of wealth can afford such an opportunity.
"With our concept, and at this price level, we want to get the everyday baseball fan involved, and at the same time also do something good for youngsters in each of our markets," Beach said.