Steve Palleschi, left, and Jake Bessey are coaches for the Augusta Surgin’ Sturgeon of the Greater Northeast Collegiate Baseball League, a college wooden-bat league that also has teams in Old Orchard Beach, Bangor, Sebago and Gorham. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Alec Allred is normally against having a pitch clock in baseball. But the ambitious North Carolina businessman is in a race against time to get his Greater Northeast Collegiate Baseball League up and running by its opening day Saturday.

And he couldn’t be more excited.

Allred, 29, is the chief executive officer of The Players League, a North Carolina organization that acquired the Maine-based summer wooden-bat collegiate league in March from founder Max Salevsky, who will stay on as commissioner.

In just a few weeks, Allred has lined up owners, facilities and coaches for the five-team league.

The new GNCBL is comprised of five Maine teams — the Augusta Surgin’ Sturgeon, Old Orchard Beach Bugs, Bangor Babes, Sebago Slamming Salmon and Gorham Lightning. The Augusta team will play at Morton Field at the Capital Area Sports Complex.

The Surgin’ Sturgeon get their name from the Kennebec River’s most celebrated fish. The Babes come from Babe the Blue Ox, the sidekick of Paul Bunyan, whose statue is a Bangor landmark. The Bugs honor those pesky insects that frequently outnumbered fans when The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach was the home of the Triple-A Maine Guides in the 1980s.


When the GNCBL launched in 2017, it was relatively informal, with teams playing anywhere and everywhere around the Portland area. It resembled the old Twilight League, which featured the Portland area’s top collegiate and adult players.

Allred said he hopes the reimagined GNCBL will provide fans and players another option this summer. 

“Our process has been to restructure it more into a traditional summer college baseball league format,” Allred said.

New England is saturated with summer baseball, including the Cape Cod League, New England Collegiate Baseball League and Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

Maine has just one team from those leagues — the Sanford Mainers of the NECBL.

“The northeastern area obviously produces a lot of great baseball talent,” said Allred, who played at William Peace University in North Carolina, followed by four years in independent minor league ball. “It’s also very much an untapped area in comparison with other parts of the country. Cape Cod in Massachusetts is obviously the most notable, but as you get into Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, it’s kind of wide open.”


The Players League also operates the 22-team Old North State League, a North Carolina summer wooden bat league. Allred said he hopes to launch as many as seven other leagues across the country.

Building a business — and a bond

Unlike the nonprofit NECBL, the GNCBL is a for-profit venture. 

While The Players League owns the GNCBL, individual teams are privately owned. Wasabi Sports Ventures, a venture capital firm in Florida, owns the Augusta, Old Orchard and Bangor franchises. Wasabi’s other operations include racehorses and a pair of summer wooden-bat teams, including the Old North State League’s Clayton Clovers. 

Jeff Musgrove, the Wasabi operating partner who co-founded the firm with TK Kuegler, said his company has invested at least $20,000 in startup costs, including bats, uniforms, equipment and ballpark leases.

“Our model and Alec’s model is to try to create a situation where you have the best of all worlds, which is you have a league that is very focused on the player, and the development of the player,” Musgrove said from his office in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“At the same time,” Musgrove added, “there is also a focus on the team-fan experience. For us, it’s all about building a community. So if we can attach the fans and the experience, and create that bond between the fans and the team and the city, that is an absolute home run for us.”


The league’s top priority now, Allred said, is to fill teams with recognizable players, whether from a Division I powerhouse or a local community college.

“We want our rosters to be built around guys that play college baseball that live within 30 minutes of their home ballpark,” Allred said. “Because that’s really what beings the community out and ties the community to the team.

Augusta Surgin’ Sturgeon coaches Jake Bessey, left, and Steve Palleschi pose at Morton Field in Augusta on Wednesday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“A lot of times those are Division I players, but sometimes those are Division II players, Division III players, junior college players, and that’s fine with us. We just want them to be good players and good people.”

Aaron Izaryk, the general manager of the NECBL Mainers, said he sees no conflict between his team and the new-look GNCBL. Izaryk noted that the Mainers previously had GNCBL alumni, and Sanford tends to draw more players from national Division I leagues.

Twenty-two of the Mainers’ 32 players this season attend Division I schools.

“We’ve had a good relationship with that league,” Izaryk said. “I do think that there’s a way they can both exist and pursue their own missions and do it well.


“Everybody’s welcome to start their league and grow their league, and growing baseball’s a good thing. … If we start competing for the same players, then we start competing with 20, 25 other leagues for players (nationwide).

The Maine attraction

Augusta Surgin’ Sturgeon co-coaches Steve Palleschi and Jake Bessey are tasked with quickly finding good players.

Bessey, the new University of Maine at Augusta coach, is working on the roster while Palleschi focuses on the business side of the operation with Wasabi.

Bessey said he’s sent several e-mails and texts to college coaches and prospective players throughout Maine.

The roster is expected to include players from Thomas College, UMaine-Farmington and Central Maine Community College, as well as alumni from Maine high schools Mt. Blue, Edward Little and Monmouth Academy.

“The story that I’m really enjoying is that college players from the state of Maine are plentiful,” said Palleschi, who also is an assistant coach at Monmouth. “I mean, we’re not going to have a 30-man roster, but we’re going to have a solid roster that’s going to be very competitive. These guys are going to have a perfect opportunity to showcase their skills against all the other great baseball players from Maine.”


The Sturgeon open their season at 5 p.m. Sunday against the Sebago Slamming’ Salmon.

The Old Orchard Beach Bugs are in a slightly different situation. Coach Max Salevsky — the son and namesake of the GNCBL founder and commissioner — has been involved with the league since Day 1, dating to his playing days at Plymouth State.

The Hollis resident estimated that at least 20 players on his 30-man roster were in the GNCBL last year, and more than half play for Maine colleges, including UMaine, the University of Southern Maine and Bowdoin College.

“It was nice being able to contact some of the guys I’ve had on my roster in previous seasons, and get them to be able to come back and play,” said Salevsky, who also is an assistant coach at Falmouth High and, like Palleschi and Bessey, has worn multiple hats as opening day draws near.

Brian Chamberlain, the Capital Area Babe Ruth League president and the Sturgeon general manager, hopes the team can help grow the game in Augusta from the youth level on up. 

The infusion of Wasabi money should also help pay for improvements to the Capital Area Sports Complex, said Chamberlain, 47, whose son plays for Cony High. He hopes those improvements can benefit city youth baseball and reverse what he said is a decline in participation. 


“Besides some new monies coming into our complex, I’m also looking at it as (something) that will rejuvenate the community atmosphere with baseball,” he said.

Moving forward 

Musgrove, the co-owner of the Sturgeon, Bugs and Babes, plans to price tickets at $5. “We just want people to give us a chance and let us show them what we can do,” he said. 

The plan is to build an audience for the future. Chamberlain noted that management has made a long-term commitment to Morton Field, and coaches Palleschi and Bessey have praised Wasabi for sinking time and resources into the Sturgeon operation.  

Salevsky, the OOB coach whose father founded the league, said the new management will bring a new vision to what was a grassroots operation.

“I’m excited to see (what happens),” he said. “Obviously this year is kind of the first reincarnation of it, but going forward I think you’ll see a lot of exponential growth in the next couple years as far as marketing and fan engagement.

“We have five teams this year, but we’d love to see the league continue to grow, and to get up to the six-to-eight mark next year would be great,” said Salevsky, who added that the GNCBL could eventually expand outside Maine.

But for now the league is keeping everything simple, including the game on the field. There will be ghost runners for extra-inning games, but don’t expect pitch clocks, robotic umpires, super-sized bases or other experimental measures Major League Baseball has added or considered in recent years. 

The game will remain pure, Allred said, even as he envisions the GNCBL to be the perfect blend of sports and entertainment.

“I always like to say we’re in the business of entertainment, not necessarily the business of baseball,” he said.

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