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Professional baseball will likely return to Ozark this summer.
The Ozarks Pro Baseball League plans to use Ducks Stadium as an operating base for a 10-team league with 250 players. The league held tryouts in Palm Springs, California and in Ozark, as recently as this past weekend. If the league launches as planned in June, it will mark the first time a professional team has played at Ducks Stadium in 10 seasons.
Tony Hutchinson established Ozarks Pro Baseball, LLC in March 2015, according to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office. Hutchinson says more details about the league will be made public once the company finishes negotiations for property leasing with the city of Ozark, which owns the property surrounding the stadium, including its parking lot.
“We’ve got coaches, we’re trying to bring independent baseball back,” Hutchinson said. “We want to bring back a good product, maybe a little more affordable for families.”
Hutchinson says more information about the independent league will be made public soon.
Enigmatic minor league sports owner Horn Chen became interested in Ozark in 1998. Chen made his fortune in the Chicago real estate market and began buying and establishing minor league sports franchises around the Midwest.
An estimated crowd of 5,000 attended the first Ozark Mountain Ducks home game on June 10, 1999. The high volume of cars heading to the stadium that evening caused traffic on U.S. 65 to back up for more than a mile.
The Ducks sold more than a thousand season tickets in their first season and ranked second in the Texas-Louisiana League in overall attendance in 1999, but attendance began to drop in 2002.
The Ducks’ final season in 2004 marked the franchise’s lone effort in the Frontier League, an independent minor league which still exists to this day. The Springfield Cardinals debuted at Hammons Field the following year.
Since 2009, Ducks Stadium has hosted an average of 400 games a season. Kids ages 10-19 compete through the spring and summer in the Springfield Metro Baseball League.