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Another collegiate baseball team surfaces to play at fairgrounds

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The Watertown Wizards may have competition from another Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League baseball team to play at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds next summer.

City officials confirmed Monday night that a second collegiate baseball team has emerged that wants to play at the fairgrounds this summer.

Parks and Recreation Department Superintendent Erin E. Gardner said Monday night that she received a call last week from an owner who wants to make Watertown his team’s home. Gardner said that the owner, David Smith, told her the league was expected on Monday to approve the team to play next season.

She also confirmed that a minor league baseball team owner from Green Bay, Wis., also contacted her two weeks ago about playing at the fairgrounds. The team plays in an independent league, with teams mainly from the Midwest, she said.

Not much other information was known Monday night about either prospect. The minor league owner was supposed to send her some additional information about that team and the league, but she has not heard a word from him since then.

The collegiate baseball team seems more like a reality, she said. Yet it was unclear Monday night whether the league was trying to push the Wizards out of the PGCBL.

The fairgrounds could host only one team, Gardner said.

“I would assume it would be instead of the Wizards,” she said.

Todd Kirkey, one of three owners and the Wizards’ former general manager, could not be reached for comment Monday night. On Monday, Gardner talked to him about the situation, noting he is seeking to renew the same contract that the Wizards had last season.

With possibly three teams competing to play here, the Watertown City Council instructed City Manager Sharon A. Addison on Monday night to prepare a request for proposals to seek formal applications from the three teams.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham pointed out it would have to be put together quickly because the season is just seven months away.

About a month ago, Kirkey met with the city manager and Gardner about his request for a new contract, but no action was taken. At that meeting, Kirkey also notified the two city officials that the team planned to change its name to the Rams.

Under his helm last season, the team finished with an 18-27 record. The Wizards attracted 11,186 people in 22 home games for an average turnout of 508 per game.

The city and the Wizards have had, at times, a rocky relationship. After the 2012 season ended, the team failed to pay the city more than $6,000 in bills. A day after the story appeared in the Times, Kirkey showed up at City Hall to make good on the unpaid bills.

In April 2011, the Watertown City Council learned that the Wizards had accumulated $46,000 in unpaid bills for seasons that went back as far as 2002, although the team was not owned by the current owners.

The unpaid bills prompted a scathing outside audit of the Parks Department that uncovered tens of thousands in uncollected bills by numerous recreation department users over several years. It also led to the revamping of the Parks and Recreation Department and the hiring of a new management team.

When the new team of owners took over in October 2011, they assured the city that those days of unpaid bills were history.

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