BILLINGS — The A's may be heading to Las Vegas, but professional baseball will live on in Oakland.
On Tuesday the independent Pioneer Baseball League announced that it will add a new expansion team, the Oakland Ballers, in a newly planned Pacific West division.
The Ballers — who will also be known as the B's — will be an independent professional team that has reportedly been initiated by dozens of Oakland-area fans in response to the A's planned move to Las Vegas.
"I am so excited to usher in the next chapter of the Pioneer League's future with our expansion to Oakland, California," stated league president Mike Shapiro in a press release. "Launching our first club in Oakland underscores the PBL's spirit of innovation and commitment to providing the very best fan and player-development experiences. The richly diverse Oakland community, with its historic baseball heritage, is a perfect first step for the PBL's expansion beyond its foundational roots in the Mountain West states."
According to the press release issued Tuesday by the Pioneer League, the Ballers and its co-founders, East Bay-natives Paul Freedman and Bryan Carmel, were introduced at a press conference attended by Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, rapper Mistah F.A.B. and the Baller's named manager, former MLB player and coach Micah Franklin.
"I strongly believe that the real value of a sports team is in its relationship to the community it serves. Baseball is a sport with deep roots in this country and a rich legacy in the East Bay. That's why with the Oakland B's we intend to build a team committed to honoring that legacy and our community. With the Oakland Bs, we are going to bring joy back to the game and give Oaklanders something to be proud of," said Paul Freedman, co-founder of the Oakland Ballers.
The press release states:
The Oakland Ballers have obtained $2 million in initial funding from nearly 50 investors linked to Oakland and the wider East Bay region.
The Ballers also announced a formidable coaching and operations team, including the appointment of Don Wakamatsu, serving as the executive vie pres of Baseball Operations for the Ballers. Wakamatsu, a former professional baseball player, notably made history as the first Asian-American manager in MLB history during his tenure with the Seattle Mariners.
Franklin, a native of San Francisco, joins as the team's manager, boasting 17 years of experience in professional baseball both as a player and scout. Additionally, Ray King, also with major league pitching and coaching experience, will assume the role of the Ballers' pitching coach.
"As a proud Bay Area native, it is a tremendous honor for me to step into the role of Manager for the Oakland Ballers. This opportunity is not just about baseball; it's about honoring the Bay Area baseball community and legacy. I am honored to be a part of a movement to prioritize fans, celebrate our unique culture, and build community. Together with the Oakland Ballers, I am dedicated to bringing a new era of championship baseball to (Oakland)" said Franklin.
In addition to the Ballers, there will be another PBL team located in Northern California that will be announced in January.