The rivalry between the San Luis Obispo Blues and San Luis Obispo Rattlers summer collegiate baseball teams may occasionally still exist on the field in coming years, but it will no longer exist financially.
Blues officials announced at a news conference held at their offices Tuesday morning that the organization has absorbed the Rattlers through a joint operating agreement, an effort by each club to save money and solve longstanding scheduling difficulties.
Each franchise will retain control over its own roster and staff, but a three-person oversight board — Blues owner Jim Galusha, Rattlers general manager Dave Hite and a third member yet to be named — will control the scheduling and fundraising of both.
The Blues franchise, which was reformed in 1994 following a hiatus after its original incarnation in 1946, will remain in the California Collegiate League, which is widely respected as one of the best leagues of its sort in the country.
Meanwhile, the Rattlers, who started playing in 2007, will no longer be in the CCL, and instead will be a lower-level outfit with more of a focus on developing local high school talent for the future, similar to the Santa Maria-based California Wahoos club.
The Blues will be able to take on Rattlers players if they see fit, “kind of like major leagues-minor leagues, if you want to look at it that way,” Blues coach Chal Fanning said.
Travel expenses in the CCL, which already incorporated a team in Las Vegas, didn’t get any cheaper this offseason when the Santa Maria Packers left for similar reasons and the league added organizations in Glendale and Orange.
“It just got to a point where it just wasn’t feasible to keep going the way we were going (in the CCL),” Rattlers coach Roy Howell said. “It was a financial situation where it became, ‘What can we do to keep it alive, to keep playing on the field?’
“The bottom line is having opportunities for the guys to play,” Howell said, “just trying to keep the local kids around so they can play and can be seen by all kinds of scouts.”
The Rattlers had already comprised their rosters in recent years of more local graduating prep seniors and freshman-level college players than the Blues, a nationally ranked program featuring nearly entirely Division I standouts from all over the country.
The Blues’ preliminary 34-player roster for this upcoming season, for instance, features 23 players from outside the state, including several from power conferences such as the Big 12 and SEC. By comparison, of the 30 players on the Rattlers’ roster in 2010, 13 of them had ties to San Luis Obispo County (either being a graduate of a county high school or playing at Cal Poly or Cuesta College), and 12 others were also from California.
The Blues finished 32-17 in 2010, second in the CCL with a 24-12 mark, and ranked No. 23 nationally by PerfectGame.org. They finished behind only the Santa Barbara Foresters (45-11, 29-7), who were ranked No. 6 nationally. The Rattlers finished 20-27 overall, including a last-place 11-25 mark in the CCL.
The two clubs will continue to share the city-owned stadium located at Sinsheimer Park, which became maxed out in terms of scheduling during the summer, thanks also to little league and other occupants vying for time.
The situation created conflicts for both clubs in trying to arrange the most profitable two-month slate of home games they could.
“We will no longer be competing off the field (managerially),” Galusha said.
The Rattlers can continue to play the Blues in nonleague games in the future. However, even though the Rattlers are staying put at the same facility, given their freelance standing, they’ll likely play fewer games than they have in the past, Blues general manager Adam Stowe said.
“It had become fairly complicated,” Stowe said of scheduling. “Putting all the pieces together was always a bit of a challenge. This is taking a step towards making it easier for everyone involved.”
Galusha was unable Tuesday to outline specifically how future revenue will be shared between the two clubs. Hite said those details are still a work in progress, although banner sales will be under one umbrella, simplifying the choice for potential advertisers.
“The financial side of it was always a struggle,” Hite said. “Part of the thing we were looking to achieve when we did this (agreement) was that it helped some expenses be spread out. Instead of two clubs having identical everything, we could share some of the field, equipment and concessions, so we weren’t double-spending.
“Rattler baseball is going to go forward,” Hite said. “Last year we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to go forward. This agreement is going to ensure Rattler baseball stays around.”