By Marc Tobias
The rumors that the Grand Lake Mariners were going to fold can be squashed, for one season anyways.
General Manager Wayne Miller, assistant GM Richard Van Horn and skipper Mike Stafford have all committed themselves to next season, and Stafford has already signed roughly 13 players for the summer collegiate baseball season.
Miller and Van Horn did say that this would be their final season running the team, and for the Mariners to exist past the summer of 2005, it appears new management will be needed as well as continued support from the community.
"We wouldn't exist without them," Miller said about the support from the community. "No one that I know of has deep enough pockets, some of the organizations are supported by one person, or two or three people. Naturally they try to get community support, but it's basically a small group operation. We would not be able to continue the Mariners in any way, shape or form without the community."
Community support is very evident as a number of teams have folded in the past couple of years, including last season's Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League champion Lima Locos. Miller said he would like to see a new GM commit as soon as possible, because the Mariners fund-raisers will begin in a month.
"We're starting right now with the chicken barbecue coming up on October 28th and within the next two or three weeks, both Richard and I are going to be trying to gain advertising support from people in the community," Miller said. "It's a year 'round operation, we have to have some kind of feel for where our financial support is by the first part of the year, because at that time you start to make out your schedule."
The Mariners will have their traditional fund-raisers this year such as their sports auction in February, golf outing in June and a second barbecue in the early spring.
Miller will be entering his ninth season as GM. When he took over, the Mariners were on the verge of folding as they were $900 in debt, but each season he and Van Horn along with countless others have helped keep the team afloat.
"Oh I'll miss it, no question," Miller said. "My wife is also the secretary and treasurer, and she does all the books, but besides that we're really going to miss being so close to the kids. That's what has really kept us going, but there comes a point in time with each year that passes you become a step slower."
"We sure hope somebody can step forward. I'll be available, it's not that I'm going to quit totally, but we'd like to have somebody transition in this year and we'd like to have someone on board as quick as possible," Miller added.