The Elkhart County Miracle project has stalled.
Now the clock is ticking again.
It did not appear as if the independent baseball team would be up and running in 2014 when the movement in the Northern League of Professional Baseball was slow last fall and building on a new stadium site at the former American Countryside Farmers Market did not start before the harsh winter kicked in.
No Miracle baseball in 2014 was confirmed Thursday, April 3, by owner Craig Wallin. The primary reasons he gave were that private venture capital — money that will go toward closing costs and stadium construction — is not yet available and the Northern League of Professional Baseball is not ready for a full compliment of teams in the Midwest.
"We still were believing," said Wallin. "The overall progress of the league didn't allow for that."
With the way leagues work, field staff need to be in place long before the first pitch of a season. And then there's ticket sales, marketing and myriad other little details.
Nick Desrosiers, chairman and executive director for the Northern League, said an unpredictable economy has made it difficult to get the league going this year.
Last summer, the Miracle and a team in Dyersville, Iowa, were the only ones announced by the league, which hopes to have teams in the Midwest, East Coast and possibly southern Ontario.
Desrosiers said Friday, April 4, that the league could have begun with temporary facilities in some East Coast locations in 2014, but league leadership decided against it.
"Anytime you rush something it could jeopardize the project," said Desrosiers, who is based in New York. "2015 is the best target date to get everything done.
"We want to come out and show our new venues and new markets."
Desrosiers said he expects to announce more league franchises by the end of April.
If the Miracle is going to be part of the 2015 Northern League mix, prospects will be known by the end of the summer.
"By September, you are pretty much rolling out the next season," said Wallin in describing how soon a team needs to get the ball rolling in a professional or summer collegiate league. "For 2015, we are going to have to start rolling by September."
Will Wallin get a stadium built and bring the Miracle to the field?
We will have to wait.
It's a concept familiar to Wallin.
Since he had the idea of bringing a baseball team — first summer college, then independent professional — and a new stadium to community, it has been about six years.
Attempts to put a stadium in two locales on C.R. 17 did not move forward in 2010 and 2013.
"It does take time," Wallin said. "There are unexpected obstacles in any big project.
"I know people are disappointed that we won't have baseball in 2014. No one is more disappointed than me."
Wallin noted that it took about 14 years for Target Field in Minneapolis — admittedly a much bigger project — to happen.
While the putting together of a team has been put on hold with no full league to join, Wallin, the original radio play-by-play voice of the South Bend White Sox (now Silver Hawks), said as of this moment the Elkhart County building project will move forward and there are plans to build a park that will accommodate 4,000 spectators.
"Things can change," said Wallin. "It is a bit of a fluid project, but we trust we'll be able to move rather quickly once the weather breaks."
While he has not yet amassed a paid staff — that will come when the league is greenlighted — Wallin meets regularly with a small group of advisers and marketing people and has been told by architects and contractors that the project should begin this summer.
The basic design remains as it did last summer, but there could be some "tweaking."
"We may try to make it a little bit bigger," Wallin said. "We should be able to get the stadium up within 10 to 12 months."
We should know if Miracle baseball is going to happen in 2015 much sooner than that.