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TCL’s Newest Franchise: The Acadiana Cane Cutters

The Texas Collegiate League will welcome an expansion franchise in 2011 – and once again, the league’s newest team won’t call the state of Texas home.

The Acadiana Cane Cutters became the TCL’s eighth franchise on Wednesday in an official announcement in Lafayette, Louisiana. The Cane Cutters join the Alexandria Aces, who joined the circuit last season, as the league’s two entries from the Pelican State.

The Cane Cutters will play their home games at Fabacher Field, a park owned by the City of Lafayette. Management expects the facility to see significant upgrades prior to the 2011 opener, including the installation of a picnic deck and a kids’ play area.

With the addition of Acadiana, the TCL has now added at least one expansion franchise for five consecutive seasons. In 2010, the league added the Texas Tomcats, based in Weimar, as well as the Aces.

If history is any indication, the Cane Cutters could be successful immediately. The Victoria Generals, who joined the circuit in 2009, have won the regular season title two straight years, capping their run with the 2010 TCL championship. The Generals defeated Kilgore’s East Texas Pump Jacks, an expansion team in 2008, who tied for the league’s best regular-season record. The Brazos Valley Bombers, new to the TCL in 2007, have reached the playoffs four straight years and are the league’s top draw at the gate.

Lafayette will be drawing on a baseball history that dates back to 1907, when the Lafayette Browns were members of the Gulf Coast League. More prominent in the city’s baseball lore is its extended run as a member of the Evangeline League, known by such colorful nicknames as the “Pepper Sauce League” or the “Tabasco Circuit.” Lafayette fielded teams named the White Sox, Bulls, and Oilers in the Evangeline for 19 years, capturing three league titles and two regular season crowns. As a member of the TCL, the Cane Cutters will get to renew acquaintances with Alexandria, a former foe in Evangeline League.

After the Evangeline League folded in 1957, it was 18 years before the Double-A Texas League returned summer baseball to Lafayette. The Drillers, an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, spent two seasons in Lafayette. They were named Texas League co-champions in 1975, when they were led by future major league outfielder Jack Clark.

Former major league catcher Paul Bako will help Acadiana tap into the local baseball heritage. A Lafayette native and former star at University of Louisiana-Lafayette, Bako spent 12 seasons in the big leagues with 11 different teams. He will serve as an advisor to the new team, helping attract and develop the squad’s young talent.

The Cane Cutters are owned by Richard and Sandi Chalmers, David and Leslie Alwell, and Randy Bourg. Bourg, whose professional experience includes management positions in both the NBDL and hockey, will manage the team’s marketing and promotions.

The updated league lineup includes Acadiana and Lafayette in Louisiana, and Brazos Valley, East Texas, Texas, Victoria, the McKinney Marshals, and the North Texas Copperheads, who are also based in McKinney.

The TCL has quickly established itself as one of the most respected summer collegiate leagues in the nation. Attracting top college players from across the country, the TCL has seen more than 260 alumni drafted by major league teams in just seven years.

In addition to its continued expansion, the TCL has in recent years extended its schedule to 56 games and instituted a split-season schedule with first- and second-half division winners. The season opens at the beginning of June and ends in early August. Four teams qualify for the postseason, with a best-of-three divisional series preceding the three-game TCL Championship Series.

The league champion is usually crowned by August 15, giving all players ample opportunity to return to campus.

For more news about the TCL, to read about the league’s history, or to follow all the expansion developments, please visit www.tclbaseball.com.

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