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Tricky Ricky is Gracious Enough to Extend His

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JrEh   Saturday, 08/28/10 05:33:14 PM
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Tricky Ricky is Gracious Enough to Extend His Sports Management Expertise to the World of Minor League Ball..

From the Yuma Sun

GBL CEO eyes legal options
Comments 5
August 16, 2010 8:50 PM
The Golden Baseball League's recent short-lived affiliation with the Golden Gloves Professional Baseball has left league CEO Dave Kaval searching for answers.

The answer to one of those questions — What to do now? — has already been answered. Kaval said he is exploring the league's options and is planning to seek legal action against GGPB president Ricky Smith.

The answer to another question — How did this happen? — is a lot more complicated.

If the lawsuit goes through, it's just one of many payroll-related legal issues Smith has had over the past decade, mostly stemming from his time as CEO of the World Hockey Association Junior Hockey League, including a $4.3 million judgment against the organization for dilution of the company's stock.

Kaval said he was unaware of the legal battles in Smith's past. According to Kaval, the league vetted and then signed an affiliation deal with the Venezuela Baseball Federation and its president, Edwin Zerpa, in hopes of building the Scorpions into a successful team. After the deal was signed, Zerpa brought in Smith to run the operations in Yuma.

“When we signed the deal, it was primarily signed with an entity called the Venezuelan Baseball Federation,” Kaval said. “Our negotiations started with (Zerpa), and (the federation) seemed almost like part of the state government, like the U.S. Olympic Committee. They were the ones we originally dealt with. They were the ones that brought Ricky to the table as someone who could help implement it. ... He was well-regarded in the highest circles in Venezuela in the government and with the professional teams.”

However, Zerpa said he barely knew Smith and that Smith represented himself as president of the GBL.

“We are totally separated from him,” Zerpa said. “We have nothing to do with him, there is no relationship with him. ... I never met him in person. I wasn't in Venezuela when he came to talk to the players. He said he was the league president and we don't even know if that is true.”

Zerpa said repeatedly that Smith “doesn't have our support” and only came into contact with Smith through Romy Acevedo. He said that Acevedo contacted him about Smith, who is her husband.

“We investigated her and learned she was wanted by Interpol, so we cut off all connections to her,” Zerpa said.

However, both Kaval and GBL commissioner Kevin Outcalt said Zerpa never informed them about this development. Kaval said he doubted the validity of Zerpa's statement.

An affiliation deal with the Colombian pro league in 2009 resulted in a league-worst record of 29-47 for the Scorpions. Kaval said the league was interested in making sure a more competitive team was put on the field than in 2009.

“The key thing we were trying to vet was his ability to bring talented players to the team,” he said. “The year before, the team wasn't good enough, so our primary focus was making sure they had good players.”

But Zerpa said the players Smith brought were not affiliated with the VBF.

“(Smith) came looking for players and they went on their own,” said Zerpa, who added there was no legal contract with the federation.

However, Kaval said not only did the players tell him they were contracted through the VBF, he met many of the players who would become Scorpions on a trip to Venezuela. Outcalt made a preseason trip to Venezuela to hammer out the affiliation deal and met with top federation officials and was introduced to players by the VBF who would later become Scorpions.

Wherever Smith came from, Kaval's hopes of a competitive team were fulfilled as the team finished in a statistical tie for first place but lost out on the tiebreaker.

The team may have been competitive, but the salaries certainly weren't being paid. On July 11, Scorpion pitching coach Bill Pulsipher told the Yuma Sun that most players had not been paid for nearly a month and a half as Smith withheld their paychecks. He continued that trend with local businesses, including the Shilo Inn, which housed several of the team's players during the season. Yuma Police Department public information officer Leanne Worthen said the Shilo Inn was considering pressing charges against Smith for not paying $15,000 he owed, but decided to pursue the case in civil court.

Smith was named as a defendant in multiple court cases during his time as CEO of the WHA Junior Hockey League. According to a public records site, his junior hockey league, which was based out of Vancouver, Canada, had 10 cases filed against it, at least four of which involved non-payment of personnel.

Multiple calls to Smith seeking comment went unanswered and his cell phone voicemail box was full.

According to legal documents, this is a pattern Smith established with the WHA. There were at least four prior instances of the WHA not paying bills and being sued by those who were owed money.

In a case involving Osoyoos, British Columbia, in 2007, Smith and the WHA were ordered to pay five staff members $22,000 in back pay, according to the Osoyoos Times. Smith and the league appealed the decision, but eventually settled. Similar cases happened in New Westminster, British Columbia, and Golden, British Columbia, with their WHA teams. According to local newspapers, both cities were owed money and threatened lawsuits.

The only suit filed with a judgement, according to the Canadian market website Stockwatch, was one filed by Vancouver Tours, which won a settlement of more than $70,000 for unpaid bus fares.

Sun sports editor Matt Maxson and staff writer Mara Knaub contributed to this report.

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