Five years ago last month, Eric and I started Bus Leagues Baseball.
I’ve always remembered the site’s creation as being pretty simple, with a late night Gmail chat about a possible collaboration on minor league baseball inspiring Eric to start a WordPress blog (with a name taken from an expletive-filled line uttered by Crash Davis in the film “Bull Durham”, which always served as our inspiration. The movie, that is, not the language) and add me as an author. That’s one reason why, for the longest time, I always made sure to clarify the issue of paternity – Eric was the father and I was the guy who had been lucky enough to grab on at the very beginning of the ride.
That history isn’t entirely accurate, however. As I looked back through some emails when I started working on this post, I realized that we had exchanged more correspondence than I realized. It was an exciting time, with an exciting idea, and the random stuff that turned up in my email archives shows that we were both pretty pumped at collaborating on something with such promise. Eric started the blog, I jumped on board within a day, and then we basically looked at each other (via email, which was kinda weird) and said, “Okay, what now?”
Five years have passed, and I’m not sure we have ever managed to really answer that question to our satisfaction. Instead, we threw ourselves into the project, headfirst, and just did whatever felt right. It was somewhat slow-going at first – for starters, we kicked things off in friggin’ late September, which baseball savvy readers will probably note is at the END of the minor league season; also, Eric’s college basketball site “Storming the Floor” was still in full swing and I had yet to reach the point where I considered Bus Leagues, not One More Dying Quail, my regular blog – but by 2009 I was devoting a lot of time to just writing about whatever the hell seemed right.
Clueless or not, we’ve had a lot of fun.
Every year, though, I found myself wondering how long I wanted to continue with this. There was always that nagging voice in the back of my head, telling me it wasn’t worth it to keep working so hard on something that was pretty much a vanity project. It made me feel good, earned us some recognition, and helped us get some interesting work on other projects, but never really felt like the kind of thing that was going to blow up into something bigger.
I always managed to push that feeling away – taking it easy over the winters tended to help – but it would just come back the next season and stay even longer than before. It affected my mood and my interactions with people both on and offline, and this year, it never really went away.
So on July 31, I sent Eric an email to let him know that when the season was over and the book was done, so was I. I was Crash Davis after the stint in Asheville that netted him his minor league movie record 247th homerun: “…I’m tired and I don’t wanna think about baseball, and I don’t wanna think about quantum physics, and I don’t wanna think about nothing. I just wanna be.” It may be a bit melodramatic, but I think by this point Eric has come to expect a heaping helping of that from me.
The only question was what to do with the site.
As recently as last year, I figured that when I had finally had enough, we’d just pull the plug and be done with it. Eric was busy with a career that actually paid him something close to a living wage for his words and didn’t have much time to contribute anymore, so I knew that if it came to that, he wouldn’t have much of a problem, and while Mike, Scott, and others had put a lot of work in already, I still viewed the site as mine.
In that year, year and a half, though, everyone put a lot of work into making Bus Leagues a better place. Mike not only contributed on the writing side (even after heading off to Afghanistan for a year), he also handled a lot of behind the scenes, technical stuff that Eric and I never had the knowledge or patience to deal with. He led the push to make the site more physically attractive and easily navigable, and if we butted heads on a lot of things, I think the end results were often worth it. Bus Leagues ultimately improved in many ways.
Scott, meanwhile, emerged as our workhorse. At some point last spring, I approached him with the idea of producing daily content. I’d tried to do it myself, more than once, and had finally come to grips with the idea that it was not something of which I was capable. But Scott was. From April 5 to September 16, he was there almost every morning with a recap of the best stories from the previous day. He took what I asked him to do, no matter what it was, and ran like hell with it.
So yeah, the effort displayed by those two guys in particular complicated things (I would recommend either of them for any writing job, in a heartbeat), and I haven’t even mentioned Chris, Trish, Jessica, Tamara, Andrew, Will, Phil, and Eric Marinbach (I hope I’m not forgetting anyone), all of whom contributed to varying degrees over the past few years.
Still, while we had to consider the feelings of everyone involved, the truth of the matter was that Bus Leagues still belonged to Eric and I. We talked briefly about ceding editorial control of the site to Mike and Scott and fading gently into the background, but we both knew that neither of us would be happy with that. “In my mind, it’s always gonna be our site,” I wrote in an email to Eric, “and I’m not sure how I would feel about someone else being “in charge” of it.”
So that was that. We have the utmost respect for everything Mike and Scott did for us, but in the end, we just couldn’t bear the thought of handing someone else the keys.
I decided to share our decision with the two of them soon after it was made because I didn’t want them to start thinking farther ahead, to next season, only to be disappointed when they learned that there wouldn’t BE a next season for us. We didn’t receive a reply from Scott (I just kind of assumed he was disappointed, but he has never seemed like the type to complain about anything), while Mike made it clear that he was unhappy with the decision. That wasn’t unexpected; while I have had my occasional fits of, “BUS LEAGUES COULD BE THE BEST BASEBALL WEBSITE EVER!” mania, Mike lived in that realm. He always believed that Bus Leagues could be something amazing.
He did offer to buy the site from us, but we turned him down. There might be a price at which we would have considered selling, but as I said to Eric, “I have a sneaking suspicion that it would always be worth just a bit more than he offered.” Again, it ultimately didn’t feel right to put the site in someone else’s hands.
Also, I suppose it should be noted that Mike and I disagreed on a lot of things. Some of his ideas were good ones that I just didn’t come around to right away, if at all, and that’s a failure on my part. But some of them were sort of antithetical to the idea that Bus Leagues, a niche website about a niche sport, wasn’t really designed as a money-making endeavor. In the end, we could never really rationalize those competing points of view. I suppose that also plays a role in this decision – why would we hand over control of the site to Mike, knowing that he would probably move things in a direction with which we didn’t agree but could no longer influence?
Mike is a very smart guy who is good at putting himself out there and getting his work published in various places. If he wants to, I have no doubt that he could put together a solid website on the topic of his choosing and make it successful. I hope someday he has that opportunity, whether through a site that he inherits or one he begins himself. Unfortunately, however, this is not that opportunity.
So there you have it. While our third Bus Leagues Experience compilation will be on the way soon, this is the last post that will appear on the site. I hope it’s not too self-indulgent – the main reason for it is so that when people arrive here in the future, they will know that our shutdown was a conscious decision; it’s an explanation for a ghost town, in a sense.
The site will remain up – we’ve posted some good stuff over the years and I’d like people to be able to make use of it if they can – but our Twitter account will be deleted (I’m sure most, if not all, of us will continue to be active on our personal accounts). Our Facebook page was Mike’s creation and domain. He built it and grew it, and while I don’t like the way it was used several weeks ago to publicly disseminate this news, I had told him that he could continue updating it if he wished and I intend to honor that. It’s up to him if he wants to do so.
Finally, we would like to thank everyone who read, linked, and otherwise supported our work over the past five years. It was always nice to know that people cared, and a positive comment or response always seemed to appear just when we needed it most. I won’t speak for anyone else (really, this whole post should be considered as my point of view; I can’t speak for anyone else, except for those parts where I presumed to speak for Eric), but I know I will miss that.