billsportsmaps.com

July 7, 2014

Minor League Baseball: 2013 attendance map, the 84 highest drawing teams of all the minor league teams in USA, Mexico and Canada (all teams which drew over 4,000 per game) (affiliated, independent and summer-collegiate teams) (home/regular season average crowds) / Plus illustrations for the 2 highest-drawing MiLB teams of 2013: Sultanes de Monterrey & the Columbus Clippers.

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Minor League Baseball: 2013 attendance map, 84 highest drawing teams





Attendance figures on the map (source)
From Ballparkdigest.com, from Sept. 16 2013, ‘2013 Baseball Attendance by Average [Minor Leagues]‘ (ballparkdigest.com).

From en.wikipedia, ‘Minor League Baseball/ Current system
& ‘Independent baseball league/ Current leagues‘.

    Below is an overview of Affiliated MiLB, its levels, and its relationship to the Independent leagues (or lack thereof)

Affiliated Minor League Baseball is comprised of 18 of the 19 leagues in Organized Baseball
(MiLB is an informal quasi-acronym for minor league baseball.)
Affiliated means that the minor league ball club, though being a separate entity (a separate franchise), has a player-development working agreement (a PDC) with one of the 30 Major League Baseball clubs. An affiliated MiLB team, in other words, is under the protective umbrella of Major League Baseball. I say protective, because, crucially, the MLB team provides players and coaching staff to the MiLB team, and pays their salaries. Affiliated MiLB teams are within a ladder-arrangement on, officially, 4 levels which are below Major League Baseball. But, for all intents and purposes, there really are 6 minor league levels below the Major Leagues (see 2 paragraphs below). Organized Baseball is comprised of the 30 Major League Baseball teams and all their minor league affiliates which are in the 18 MiLB leagues, plus one other league, the Mexican League, which has 16 unaffiliated teams [official name of the Mexican League is Liga Mexicana de Béisbol]. (Note: each MLB team has 7 or 8 minor league affiliates; for example, here are the Boston Red Sox’ farm teams, ‘en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Red_Sox#Minor_league_affiliations‘)

There are affiliated MiLB teams in the United States, Canada, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela, but outside of the Vancouver Canadians (an A-level ball club), all the affiliated MiLB teams above the Rookie leagues are in the USA. (As the name implies, Rookie leagues players are straight out of high school, and by signing with an MLB team, have turned pro.) The MiLB teams themselves never move up or down the leagues-ladder via on-field accomplishments (as with teams in football [soccer] leagues or in rugby leagues in other parts of the world), but once in a while, MiLB franchises can move up or down a level or so (as with the case of the Durham Bulls franchise of Durham, North Carolina, which moved up 3 levels from Class-A to Triple-A in 1998). But the crucial factor (indeed, the whole raison d’être for Organized Baseball’s minor leagues) is, of course, that minor league players themselves can and do move up the ladder all the way to the big leagues, if they have what it takes to play in The Show (the Major Leagues).

The 4 different types of minor league ball clubs:
1). Affiliated teams in Organized Baseball.
2). Unaffiliated teams in Organized Baseball [Mexican Triple-A teams].
3). Independent leagues teams.
4). Summer collegiate baseball teams [amateur teams].
There are 4 types of minor league baseball teams. Two of these types are within the set-up of Organized Baseball. The affiliated teams come from 18 minor leagues spread out within the 4 levels, which are, going from highest-placed-level to the lowest-placed-level…Triple-A (aka AAA), Double-A (AA), Single-A (A-level/see following sentence for further description), and the Rookie leagues. But actually there are really 6 levels in affiliated MiLB, because the A-level is split into three levels of its own…Advanced-A, Class-A, and short season-A (and short season-A teams are from generally speaking, much smaller cities than adv-A or A-Class cities, and are stocked with many Rookie leagues-caliber players, and play in a season about only 50% as long as higher-placed MiLB leagues [the NY-Penn and Pioneer leagues, which are the 2 short season-A leagues, don't start their seasons until June]).

The other two types of minor league ball clubs are the teams from the Independent leagues, and the teams from the summer-collegiate leagues. Both are not connected in any way with Major League Baseball (although Independent leagues teams can sell players to MLB teams). Independent leagues have sprung up in the last two decades, and there are currently [2014] 7 Independent leagues, two of which have teams which draw well enough to have made this map (see 5 paragraphs below). With Independent leagues teams, while there there is a greater chance of financial failure, there is also a wrinkle in MLB/MiLB/Organized Baseball rules which has inadvertently allowed some Independent leagues teams to do very well at the turnstiles (also see 5 paragraphs below). The basic reason why it is much harder for Independent leagues teams to succeed financially is the simple fact that these teams from the ‘outlaw’ leagues must pay salaries to their coaching staff and their players (and some times build their own ballparks), while MiLB teams within Organized Baseball have the safety net of having their coaching staff and players’ salaries paid for by their parent-club (ie, the Major League team which they are affiliated with). Finally there are the summer-collegiate leagues (see 6 paragraphs below).

Attendance measurement within Organized Baseball’s minor leagues & within other MiLB leagues
Of the 19 minor leagues within Organized Baseball, 15 measure paid attendance – all 3 of the Triple-A leagues, all 3 Double-A leagues, all 7 A-level leagues, and 2 of the 6 Rookie leagues also do: the Pioneer League of the central Rocky Mountains, and the Appalachian League of the southern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont region. The other 4 Rookie leagues do not measure attendance (those are the Arizona League, the Gulf Coast League [in Florida], the Dominican Summer League, and the Venezuelan League). The attendance measurement within the Independent leagues and within the collegiate summer leagues is way more hit-or-miss, and some of the Independent leagues don’t publish their attendances (because they are so low I am guessing). Also, some collegiate summer league teams inflate their attendance figures {see this from Ballparksdigest.com/3rd paragraph there} (so it is probably just as well that I decided to draw the line where I did with respect to crowd-sizes on the map).


I made a map of the 122-highest-drawing minor league baseball team 2 years ago {here, ‘Minor League Baseball – Top 122 drawing teams within Organized Baseball and in the Independent Leagues – all teams that drew over 3,000 per game in 2011‘ (billsportsmaps.com).

Map of 84 highest-drawing MiLB teams in 2013
This time, I decided to narrow the focus to about three-quarters of that, to all minor league baseball teams in North America which drew over 4,000 per game in 2013 (instead of all minor league teams which drew over 3,000 per game). So the map here shows the top 84-drawing minor league teams in North America from the 2013 season (from home/regular season games). On the map there ended up being 76 MiLB teams within Organized Baseball (68 of them being affiliated with one of the 30 MLB teams as farm clubs, and 8 being from the Mexican League [which, as mentioned before, is part of the Organized Baseball set-up but whose teams are franchises which have no affiliation with any MLB teams - and in fact have minor league farm clubs of their own]).

The 76 Organized Baseball/MiLB teams on the map
The horizontal bar at the top of the map page lists every Organized Baseball/MiLB team in levels 2 through 6 (see immediately below for description of Organized Baseball/MiLB levels), with the 76 Organized Baseball/MiLB teams on the map in bold type (with 2013 attendance rank), as well listing as all the other Organized Baseball/MiLB teams above the Rookie leagues which drew too low to make the map.
At the far right of the map page, the attendance list includes a column for which level the MiLB teams are in, with:
level 1 being MLB (ie, there are no level 1/MLB teams on the map because this is a map of minor league teams),
level 2 being Triple-A,
level 3 being Double-A,
level 4 being advanced-A,
level 5 being Class-A,
level 6 being short-season-A
(note: no level 7 or Rookie leagues teams made the map).

The 8 Mexican League teams on the map
The 8 Mexican League teams on the map include the highest-drawing minor league ball club in all of North America last year – the Sultanes de Monterrey, of Monterrey, Nuevo León. The seven other Mexican League teams on the map are: Saraperos de Saltillo (the Saltillo Serape Makers), Acereros de Monclova (the Monclova Steelers), Diablos Rojos del México (the Mexico [City] Red Devils), Delfines del Ciudad Carmen (the Carmen City Dolphins), Pericos de Puebla (the Puebla Parrots), Vaqueros Laguna (the Laguna Cowboys), and Leones de Yucatán (the Yucatan Lions). The Mexican League has 16 teams; here is their page on en.wikipedia.org, ‘Mexican League‘.]

The 7 Independent leagues teams on the map, and the ability of Independent leagues teams to circumvent the 75-mile-radius protected-market territory which MLB allows each MLB team to enforce within Organized Baseball [via MLB's anti-trust exemption]
As far as representation from the Independent Leagues – on the map there ended up being 7 teams which are from the Independent leagues. Although they can and do develop players who they then sell to Major League teams, the Independent leagues have no formal connection with Organized Baseball. Thus they are able to place franchises in areas that Organized Baseball has zones of exclusion, or protected territory. Such as in south-east-central Pennsylvania, where Organized Baseball protects the MLB team the Philadelphia Phillies as well as the affiliated MiLB teams the Reading Fightin’ Phils and the Harrisburg Senators from there being any other Organized Baseball/MiLB teams in that region, but where the Independent league team the Lancaster Barnstormers (and the York Revolution) ignore that monopolistic edict and flourish. Also as with the case on Long Island, New York in Nassau and Suffolk counties, where MLB protects the New York Mets (as well as the New York Yankees) from there being any Organized Baseball/MiLB team in that region, but where the Independent leagues team the Long Island Ducks ignore that monopolistic edict and flourish. And also as with the cases of the Kansas City T-Bones and the Sugar Land [Houston] Skeeters, among others.

The 7 Independent leagues teams on the map –
[Note: here is my Independent leagues attendance map, which I posted earlier in 2014 (please note that some of the text there has been repeated here, below), http://billsportsmaps.com/?p=26979 .
-The Winnipeg Goldeyes [of the American Association] (from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and the only Canadian team on the map besides the Vancouver Canadians).
-The Sugar Land Skeeters [of the Atlantic League] (from the west side of Greater Houston, Texas).
-The Kansas City T-Bones [of the American Association] (from the Kansas side of Greater Kansas City, Missouri).
-The Long Island Ducks [of the Atlantic League] (from Central Islip, Long Island, New York in Suffolk County about 25 miles east of the NYC border).
-The Somerset Patriots [of the Atlantic League] (from what can be referred to as the outer western edge of Greater New York City in Bridgewater, New Jersey).
-The St. Paul Saints [of the American Association] (from the eastern half of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota).
-The Lancaster Barnstormers [of the Atlantic League] (from Lancaster, south-east-central Pennsylvania).

The American Association [of Independent Professional Baseball]
The American Association has 16 teams and is based primarily in the Upper Midwest and the Plains States from Texas to the Dakotas, plus Manitoba and Quebec in Canada, plus a few teams in the Northeast. The American Association has been around since 2006 but features some teams that have been around for over two decades (such as the St. Paul Saints). The American Association was founded by Miles Wolff in 2006. Wolff had previously been founder of the first modern-day Independent league in 1993, with the now-defunct Northern League (of 1993-2010). Here are four excerpts from that former Independent league’s page at en.wikipedia.org…’The modern Northern League was founded by Miles Wolff. Wolff started the league after many midwestern cities contacted him (through his affiliation with Baseball America) asking how they could get a minor league team. After visiting some of them, most notably Wade Stadium in Duluth, he began contacting potential owners to start the league.’/…’The league began in 1993 with 6 teams: Duluth-Superior Dukes (Duluth, Minnesota), Rochester Aces (Rochester, Minnesota), St. Paul Saints (St. Paul, Minnesota), Sioux Falls Canaries (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), Sioux City Explorers (Sioux City, Iowa) and Thunder Bay Whiskey Jacks (Thunder Bay, Ontario). The prospects for the league were originally “cloudy.” Many forecast an early demise especially in St. Paul where competition with the Minnesota Twins led many local sportswriters to consider it a “beer league.” The league, however, was a relatively moderate success, with only the Rochester franchise struggling to draw crowds to their games.’/…’ Following the [2005] season’s conclusion St. Paul, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, and Lincoln announced they were leaving the league to form a new independent league with five teams from the folded Central Baseball League in the southern United States; the new league was to be known as the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.’/…’Following the 2010 season, the Northern League announced that Winnipeg, Kansas City, Fargo-Moorhead, and Gary SouthShore would be leaving the league to join the American Association’ …{end of excerpts}. The Northern League folded in 2010, but its legacy and 3 of its founding teams and 5 more of its expansion teams still exist today as 8 of the 16 franchises in the American Association (the 3 founding teams of the Northern League [1993-2010] which still exist today in the American Association are the St. Pauls Saints, the Sioux City Explorers, and the Sioux Falls Canaries). Miles Wolff, the founder of the influential publication Baseball America, and the modern-day creator of the Independent league-model, was commissioner of the trailblazing Northern League from 1993 to 2002. Wolff is presently commissioner of the American Association (which is headquartered in Durham, NC). Wolff also owns the American Association team the Québec Capitales (of Quebec City, Quebec, Canada), as well as the collegiate summer league team the Elmira Pioneers (see 7 paragraphs below for more on the impressive drawing power of the Elmira Pioneers). Here is the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball’s page at en.wikipedia.org, ‘American Association of Independent Professional Baseball‘.

There is one American Association team that owns its ballpark, the highest-drawing Independent leagues team, the Winnipeg Goldeyes, who play at Shaw Park. Shaw Park, which opened in 1999 and has been expanded twice since, has a capacity of 7,481. It is owned by Sam Katz, owner of the Goldeyes, and, since 2004, the mayor of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Katz, the first Jewish mayor of Manitoba, is in his third term.

Atlantic League [Professional Baseball],
The Atlantic League has 8 teams in their league (and will expand to 10 teams in 2015). The Atlantic League has 7 teams in the Northeast and one team in Greater Houston, Texas, and will expand to two locations in Virginia next season [2015] (adding one new team in northern Virginia in Greater Washington DC [the Loudon Hounds of Ashburn, VA]; and one new team in SE coastal Virginia near Norfolk [the Virginia Beach Neptunes of Virginia Beach, VA]. It might interest you to know that Baseball Hall of Famer/Baltimore Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson (in a consortium named Opening Day Partners) is a co-owner of the Lancaster team & the York team and the Texas team (and 2 other franchises in the Atlantic League). The NY Mets fan favorite, mercurial Shortstop Bud Harrelson, is a co-owner of the Long Island team. Harrelson co-owns the Long Island Ducks with Long Island-native Frank Boulton, who used to own the now-defunct Albany, NY Eastern League franchise, then tried to set up a Long Island-based team still within the Organized Baseball umbrella, but was blocked by MLB and the New York Mets from doing so, then set up the Independent league in 1998. 2 years later, Boulton and the Atlantic League put a franchise in Suffolk County, Long Island, NY, with the Mets powerless to stop him. Boulton thumbed his nose at MLB and built the 6 K-capacity Bethpage Ballpark in 2000, where the Ducks pack ‘em in to this day, setting a consecutive-sellout-record for MiLB along the way. Here is what it says about all that at the Atlantic League‘s page at en.wikipedia.org, {excerpt}…’The creation of the league was the result of the New York Mets’ objection to Frank Boulton’s proposal to move the former Albany-Colonie Yankees because of its territorial rights to the region. Boulton, a Long Island native, decided to create a new league that would have a higher salary cap for its players and a longer season than most of the other independent baseball organizations. He modeled the Atlantic League after the older Pacific Coast League, with facilities that exceed AAA-level standards. Boulton also emphasized signing players of Major League Baseball experience for all Atlantic League teams, raising the level of play above other independent leagues.’…{end of excerpt}.

The Long Island Ducks are one of three Atlantic League teams which own and operate the ballparks they play in (the other two are the Sugar Land Skeeters, and the soon-to-be-expansion team the Loudon Hounds of northern Virginia).

The only amateur team on the map, the Madison Mallards
Finally, there is one amateur team on the map – the Madison Mallards. They are in the Northwoods League, which is one of many collegiate summer baseball leagues in the US. The collegiate ballplayers on these teams only receive a room and board stipend (as mentioned before, all the rest of the teams on the map are from leagues which are professional – and that includes the teams from the Independent leagues). In places such as Cope Cod in Massachusetts and in Alaska and in New England and in Upstate New York and in Wisconsin/Minnesota/Iowa/western Ontario, Canada and in the South Atlantic (as well as several other regions), there are leagues such as this. Actually there are quite a lot of these leagues {see this, ‘List of collegiate summer baseball leagues‘}. With one exception, the summer-collegiate leagues teams do not draw above 3,000 per game, but it must be pointed out that attendances in the collegiate summer leagues have been steadily improving in the last few years. In 2013, there were 7 collegiate summer league teams that drew over 2,000 per game, out of 144 teams from the 14 primary summer-collegiate leagues/{see this from Ballparkdigest.com, ‘2013 Summer-Collegiate Attendance by League‘}. The exception is the Madison Mallards, of Madison, Wisconsin (a city which lost its A-level affiliated minor league team after the 1994 season). The Mallards drew an astounding 6,100 per game in 2013. Think about it – 6K per game of ticket-paying public…and no players’ salaries to pay. Talk about a sweet deal for the Mallards’ owners. Why MLB has not put an MiLB team back in Madison, Wisconsin is an absolute mystery to me.

What the map shows
Below is a list of all minor leagues which measure attendance. The total number teams in the league drawing above 4K per game in 2013 (ie, teams on the map here) are listed in bold type.
Below: List of 2013 MiLB attendance by league (the list includes all 15 MiLB leagues within Organized Baseball which measure attendance plus the top 2-drawing Independent leagues)
List below is ranked in order of highest-to-lowest-drawing, with affiliated-MiLB levels noted, and with season length noted [knowing that total games in season divided by 2 equals the number of home games per team].
(Note: at the top horizontal bar above the map on the map page, these league-average-attendance figures are also shown, but here they are shown from highest to lowest league-average.)
(Please also note: level 1=Major League Baseball {not listed here}; Mexican League is at level 2, but with its teams being unaffiliated; while Independent leagues level is n/a but is probably equivalent to Double-A or level 3-caliber.)
#1, International League (Triple-A/ level/ 2 / 14 teams/ 144 game regular season), 7,041 per game. 13 of 14 teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#2, Pacific Coast League (Triple-A/ level 2 / 16 teams/ 144 game regular season), 6,053 per game. 15 of 16 teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#3, Texas League (Double-A/ level 3 / 8 teams/ 140 game regular season), 5,377 per game. All 8 teams teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#4, Eastern League (Double-A / level 3 / 14 teams/ 142 game regular season), 4,616 per game. 8 of 12 teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#5, Mexican League (Triple-A, but unaffiliated) / level 2 / 16 teams/ 114 game regular season), 4,519 per game. 8 of 16 teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#6, Atlantic League Pro Baseball (Independent league/ level: n/a / 8 teams/ 140 game regular season), 4,152 per game. 4 of 8 teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#7, Midwest League (Class-A/ level 5 / 16 teams/ 140 game regular season), 3,907 per game. 5 of 16 teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#8, Carolina League (Advanced-A/ level 4 / 8 teams/ 140 game regular season), 3,657 per game. 3 of 8 teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#9, Southern League (Double-A/ level 3 / 10 teams/ 140 game season), 3,515 per game. 3 of 10 teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#10, American Association of Independent Pro Baseball (Independent league/ level: n/a / 13 teams / 100 game regular season), 3,435 per game. 3 of 13 teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#11, Northwest League (Short season-A/ level 6 / 8 teams/ 76 game regular season), 3,292 per game. 2 of 8 teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#12, South Atlantic League (Class-A)/ level 5 / 14 teams/ 140 game regular season), 3,262 per game. 5 of 14 teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#13, New York-Penn League (Short season-A/ level 6 / 14 teams/ 74 game regular season), 3,173 per game. 5 of 14 teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#14, Pioneer League (Rookie)/ level 7 / 8 teams/ 76 game regular season), 2,282 per game. Zero teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#15, California League (Advanced-A/ level 4 / 10 teams/ 140 game regular season), 2,275 per game. Zero teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#16, Florida State League (Advanced-A/ level 4 / 12 teams/ 140 game regular season) 1,606 per game. Zero teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
#17, Appalachian League (Rookie)/ level 7 / 10 teams/ 68 game regular season), 894 per game. Zero teams drew above 4K per game in 2013.
-Data for above list at ballparkdigest.com/2013-affiliated-attendance-by-league;
and at ballparkdigest.com/2013-independent-attendance-by-league.

    Below are illustrated profiles of the top two drawing minor league baseball teams in 2013 – the unaffiliated MiLB team Sultanes de Monterrey, of Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico (from the Triple-A Mexican League); and the Columbus Clippers, of Columbus, Ohio (the top affiliated ball club of the Cleveland Indians, from the Triple-A International League).

Below: Estadio de Béisbol Monterrey,the largest ballpark in Mexico, and, for the second straight season, the home of the highest-drawing minor league ball club in North America, Sultanes de Monterrey…
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Photo credits for Estadio de Béisbol Monterrey above -
Sultanes cap logo, photo from neweraaustraliasale.com/sultanes-de-monterrey-new-era-snapback-navyred.
Exterior photo, unattributed (uploaded by Jakovo Mtz)at pinterest.com
Aerial photo, unattributed (uploaded by PUMAS AJV) at skyscraperlife.com.
Interior/day-time photo, from sultanes.com.mx.
Interior/night-time photo, unattributed at el-fanatico.com.

Below: Huntington Park, home of the Columbus Clippers…
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Photo credits for Huntington Park (Columbus, OH) above -
Exterior, northbankcondos.com/overview/photovideogallery
Left Field Building, scolinssportsvenuesvisited.blogspot.com/2013/05/122-huntington-park-columbus-oh
Right Field Stands, Tom Reed at cleveland.oh.us/wmv_news/tomreed44.htm.
Panorama, dispatch.com/clippers.
___
Photo credits on map page,
Lexington Legends cap logo, photo from lexington.milbstore.com.
Winston-Salem Dash cap logo, photo from wsdash.milbstore.com.
Pericos de Puebla cap logo, photo from h2b.mx/products/pericos-de-puebla-mexican-pro-59fifty-cap.
Delfines de Ciudad del Carmen cap logo, photo from http://photos-c.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-frc3/t1.0-0/c0.90.540.360/10177312_275182789310312_2283421102371401731_n.jpg.
Long Island Ducks cap logo, photo from t20.glitnirticketing.com/ldticket/store.
Acereros del Norte cap logo from acereros.com.mx.
Winnipeg Goldeyes home cap, photo from Goldeyes’ site at http://www.goldeyes.com/shop/shop-index.
Rochester Red Wing new 2014 cap logo, illustration from milb.com/news/article ['Wings unveil brand new logos'].
Saraperos de Saltillo cap logo, photo from ecapcity.com/saraperos-de-saltillo-new-era-snapback-teal-black.
Toledo Mud Hens home cap logo, photo from strictlyfitteds.com/blog/2013/01/milb-new-eratoledo-mud-hens-fitted-baseball-cap.
Sultanes de Monterrey cap logo, photo from articulo.mercadolibre.com.mx/MLM-447192360-gorra-new-era-5950-sultanes-de-monterrey.

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, ‘Minor League Baseball‘.
Thanks very much to Ballparkdigest.com

May 14, 2014

Independent leagues (unaffiliated minor league baseball): map and chart of the 44 Independent leagues teams in USA & Canada in 2013 which announced attendances (home regular season games).

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: Independent Leagues — admin @ 9:21 pm

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Independent Leagues (Unaffiliated minor league baseball): map & chart of the 44 Independent Leagues teams in USA & Canada in 2013 which announced attendances




Source of attendance data used on map & chart:
Independent baseball league‘ (en.wikipedia.org).
From Ballpark Digest.com, from September 16, 2013 ‘2013 Independent Attendance by Average‘ (ballparkdigest.com).

Before I get started, 3 of the 4 the leagues on this map started their seasons this year in the 3rd week of May; here are links to the 4 Independent leagues featured on the map…
-American Association, at americanassociationbaseball.com;
/ American Association/Can-Am Division (4 teams), at canamleague.com.
-Atlantic League, at atlanticleague.com.
-Frontier League, at frontierleague.com.
-United Baseball League, at unitedleaguebaseball.pointstreaksites.com/view/unitedleague.

The attendance map (click on image at top of this post) is for Independent Leagues teams in North America. There are 7 Independent leagues currently operating [2014], down from 8 last season [2013], as the Can-Am League, was absorbed into the now-16-team AAIPB (American Association). [Note: the Can-Am League might continue to pretend it is an autonomous league of its own, and it might continue to have its own website (see above link), but (since 2012) it plays an integrated schedule with the American Association, and since 2014 it is one of the 4 divisions in the American Association - the 4-team Can-Am Division of the AA; and both leagues are headquartered in Durham, NC, and both are run by the same commissioner, Miles Wolff.]

What the map and chart shows…
The map shows Independent leagues teams in USA & Canada that announced attendances figures (from home regular season games) in 2013. The teams on the map are from the following 4 Independent leagues…
-American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, 12 of the 13 teams (the other one being the now-dormant El Paso Diablos franchise/see note at the asterisk [*] at the end of this paragraph), from the 2013 American Association.
(American Association est. 2006/16 teams*/range: Plains States from Dakotas to Texas; Indiana; Manitoba, Canada.)
-Atlantic League Professional Baseball, all 8 teams, from the 2013 Atlantic League.
(Atlantic League est. 1998/8 teams)/range; Northeast; and Greater Houston, Texas.)
-Frontier League, 13 teams (of the 14 teams, the other one being the travelling-team the Frontier Greys), from the 2013 Frontier League.
(Frontier League est. 1993/14 teams/range: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, western Pennsylvania.)
-United League Baseball 4 of the 5 teams (the other one being the now-defunct Alexandria Aces), from the 2013 United League Baseball.
(United League Baseball est. 2013/range: Texas [south-central and far southern Texas]; [plus, formerly, Alexandria, Louisiana].)
-Can-Am League [Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball], 4 of the 5 teams (the other one being the now-dormant Newark Bears), from the 2013-and-now-defunct Can-Am League.
*Note, the Can-Am League, which existed from 2004-13, was down to 4 teams by late 2013. It was absorbed in 2014 into the now-16-team American Association. (The Can-Am League had 2 teams from Quebec, Canada and 1 team each from New York and New Jersey, and now those 4 teams comprise the Can-Am Division of the 4-division American Association).

Also note that: 3 teams listed on the attendance list at the far right-hand-side of the map page were not placed on the map, as they are as of 2014 either defunct or dormant (the [dormant] El Paso Diablos [who vacated El Paso when the affiliated Triple-A league the PCL put a San Diego Padres farm club in El Paso; the franchise will renew active status in 2015 in Joplin, MO] and the [defunct] Alexandria Aces, and the [dormant] Newark Bears).
One final note: there are no new expansion teams in any of the 4 Independent leagues listed above, but next season, 2015, the Atlantic League will expand from an 8-team to a 10-team league, with the debuts of the Virginia Beach Neptunes of Virginia’s south coast, and the Loudoun Hounds of Ashburn, Virginia (which is 30 mi NW of Washington, DC).

    Independent league baseball

Independent leagues have no affiliation with Major League Baseball – no player development contracts means the Independent leagues teams must pay for personnel. As it says in Wikipedia’s page on affiliated minor league baseball…’Generally, the parent major league club pays the salaries and benefits of uniformed personnel (players and coaches) and bats and balls, while the minor league club pays for in-season travel and other operational expenses…’ (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minor League Baseball/Current system). The positive side of no MLB affiliation means Independent leagues teams are not bound to abide by MLB’s onerous territorial mandates. For example, MLB allows no MiLB (affiliated minor league baseball) teams to be located in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, NY (ie, Long Island) [to protect the NY Mets]; as well as no other affiliated teams in southeast-central-Pennsylvania [to protect the MiLB teams Reading Phils and the Harrisburg Senators]. So Independent leagues teams have sprung up in those 2 areas and have done well at the gates [Long Island Ducks; York Revolution and Lancaster Barnstormers].

Also, Organized Baseball usually does not put its affiliated minor league teams within the 75-mile-radius territory of the 30 MLB teams – with a few exceptions such as Tacoma, WA; Reading, PA; Toledo, OH; San Jose, CA; and, recently (in the last 20 years) in Dayton, OH; and in Lakewood Township, NJ; and in Brooklyn and in Staten Island, NY. But Independent leagues teams, again, can ignore MLB’s territorial edicts, hence the (successful) Independent leagues teams like the Kansas City T-Bones of Kansas City, KS (right next to MLB’s Kansas City Royals); and the Independent leagues team the Sugar Land Skeeters of Greater Houston, TX (right next to MLB’s Houston Astros); and the Independent leagues team the St. Paul Saints (right next to MLB’s Minnesota Twins); and the Independent leagues team the Somerset Patriots (relatively close by to MLB’s NY Yankees and NY Mets).

The fact that in the 2013 off-season one league was absorbed into another Independent league and that 3 teams closed up shop is nothing new when you are talking about Independent leagues/unaffiliated minor league baseball. Without the protection of a Major League Baseball team’s affiliation…the sort of protection which is enjoyed by all the teams in Triple-A baseball (except the Mexican League), and in Double-A baseball, and in the three A-League levels, and in the Rookie Leagues…an Independent league team is very vulnerable to economic insolvency. That is particularly the case if decent crowds (like over 1,500 or so) fail to materialize. In the last two decades (since 1993), there have been some real success stories in Independent leagues baseball (as you can see in the top 6-drawing teams profiled below), but the field is also littered with several dozens of defunct ball clubs (as you can see, for example, in this list of defunct Can-Am teams {en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Former_Can-Am_League_Franchises}).

Below are short profiles of the two highest-drawing Independent leagues…

The American Association [of Independent Professional Baseball]
The American Association has 16 teams and is based primarily in the Upper Midwest and the Plains States from Texas to the Dakotas, plus Manitoba and Quebec in Canada, plus a few teams in the Northeast. The American Association has been around since 2006 but features some teams that have been around for over two decades (such as the St. Paul Saints). The American Association was founded by Miles Wolff in 2006. Wolff had previously been founder of the first modern-day Independent league in 1993, with the now-defunct Northern League (of 1993-2010). Here are four excerpts from that former Independent league’s page at en.wikipedia.org…’The modern Northern League was founded by Miles Wolff. Wolff started the league after many midwestern cities contacted him (through his affiliation with Baseball America) asking how they could get a minor league team. After visiting some of them, most notably Wade Stadium in Duluth, he began contacting potential owners to start the league.’/…’The league began in 1993 with 6 teams: Duluth-Superior Dukes (Duluth, Minnesota), Rochester Aces (Rochester, Minnesota), St. Paul Saints (St. Paul, Minnesota), Sioux Falls Canaries (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), Sioux City Explorers (Sioux City, Iowa) and Thunder Bay Whiskey Jacks (Thunder Bay, Ontario). The prospects for the league were originally “cloudy.” Many forecast an early demise especially in St. Paul where competition with the Minnesota Twins led many local sportswriters to consider it a “beer league.” The league, however, was a relatively moderate success, with only the Rochester franchise struggling to draw crowds to their games.’/…’ Following the [2005] season’s conclusion St. Paul, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, and Lincoln announced they were leaving the league to form a new independent league with five teams from the folded Central Baseball League in the southern United States; the new league was to be known as the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball’./…’Following the 2010 season, the Northern League announced that Winnipeg, Kansas City, Fargo-Moorhead, and Gary SouthShore would be leaving the league to join the American Association’ …{end of excerpts}.

The Northern League folded in 2010, but its legacy and 3 of its founding teams and 5 more of its expansion teams still exist today as 8 of the 16 franchises in the American Association (the 3 founding teams of the Northern League [1993-2010] which still exist today in the American Association are the St. Pauls Saints, the Sioux City Explorers, and the Sioux Falls Canaries). Miles Wolff, the founder of the influential publication Baseball America, and the modern-day creator of the Independent league-model, was commissioner of the trailblazing Northern League from 1993 to 2002. Wolff is presently commissioner of the American Association. Wolff also owns the American Association team the Québec Capitales (of Quebec City, Quebec, Canada), as well as the collegiate summer league team the Elmira Pioneers.

There is one American Association team that owns its ballpark, the highest-drawing Independent leagues team, the Winnipeg Goldeyes, who play at Shaw Park. Shaw Park, which opened in 1999 and has been expanded twice since, has a capacity of 7,481. It is owned by Sam Katz, owner of the Goldeyes, and, since 2004, the mayor of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Katz, the first Jewish mayor of Manitoba, is in his third term.

Atlantic League [Professional Baseball],
The Atlantic League has 8 teams in their league (and will expand to 10 teams in 2015). The Atlantic League has 7 teams in the Northeast and one team in Greater Houston, Texas, and will expand to two locations in Virginia next season [2015] (adding one new team in northern Virginia in Greater Washington DC [the Loudon Hounds of Ashburn, VA]; and one new team in SE coastal Virginia near Norfolk [the Virginia Beach Neptunes of Virginia Beach, VA]. It might interest you to know that Baseball Hall of Famer/Baltimore Orioles Third Baseman Brooks Robinson (in a consortium named Opening Day Partners) is a co-owner of the Lancaster team & the York team and the Texas team (and 2 other franchises in the Atlantic League). The NY Mets fan favorite, mercurial Shortstop Bud Harrelson, is a co-owner of the Long Island team. Harrelson co-owns the Ducks with Long Island-native Frank Boulton, who used to own the now-defunct Albany, NY Eastern League franchise (an affiliated team in Double-A baseball). Boulton sold that team, then tried to set up a Long Island-based team still within the Organized Baseball umbrella, but was blocked by MLB and the New York Mets from doing so, then set up the Independent league the Atlantic League (originally a 4-team league), in 1998. 2 years later, Boulton and the Atlantic League put a franchise in Suffolk County, Long Island, NY, with Major League Baseball and the NY Mets powerless to stop him. Boulton thumbed his nose at MLB and built the 6 K-capacity Bethpage Ballpark in 2000, where the Ducks pack ‘em in to this day, setting a consecutive-sellout-record for minor league baseball along the way. Here is what it says about all that at the Atlantic League page at en.wikipedia.org, {excerpt}…’The creation of the league was the result of the New York Mets’ objection to Frank Boulton’s proposal to move the former Albany-Colonie Yankees because of its territorial rights to the region. Boulton, a Long Island native, decided to create a new league that would have a higher salary cap for its players and a longer season than most of the other independent baseball organizations. He modeled the Atlantic League after the older Pacific Coast League, with facilities that exceed AAA-level standards. Boulton also emphasized signing players of Major League Baseball experience for all Atlantic League teams, raising the level of play above other independent leagues.’…{end of excerpt}.

Here is a very recent article from CBS/New York, by Peter Schwartz, from May 2, 2014, about the continued success of the Long Island Ducks, ‘15 Years Later, Long Island Ducks Are Still Quacking‘. (newyork.cbslocal.com/category/sports)

The Long Island Ducks (see illustration below) are one of three Atlantic League teams which own and operate the ballparks they play in. The other two are the Sugar Land Skeeters (see illustration below), and the soon-to-be-expansion team the Loudon Hounds of northern Virginia.

Below are illustrated profiles of the 6 highest-drawing Independent leagues teams…

    The Top 6-drawing Independent Leagues Teams in 2013 (3 teams from the American Association and 3 teams from the Atlantic League)…

Winnipeg Goldeyes (American Association), 5,880 per game in 2013 (best attendance in Independent leagues in 2013).
winnipeg-goldeyes_shaw-park_highest-drawing_independent-leagues-team_2013_c_.gif
Photo credits above -
Winnipeg Goldeyes home cap, photo from Goldeyes’ site at http://www.goldeyes.com/shop/shop-index.
Shaw Park front-entrance, photo by Ccrryyee at ‘File:Winnipeg Goldeyes Baseball Club entrance.JPG‘ (en.wikipedia.org).
Shaw Park interior photo by Charlie at charliesballparks.com/st/MB-Winnipeg-CanWest.

Sugar Land Skeeters (Atlantic League): 5,537 per game in 2013 (second-best attendance in Independent leagues in 2013).
sugarland-skeeters_constellation-park_2nd-best-attendance_independent-leagues_2013_b_.gif
Photo credit above -
timstanleyphotography.com/constellation-field.

Kansas City T-Bones (American Association): 5,420 per game in 2013 (third-best attendance in Independent leagues in 2013).
kansas-city-t-bones_community-america-ballpark_3rd-best-independent-leagues_attendance_2013_b_.gif
Photo credit above -
James Hilchen at stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/communityamerica-ballpark-s239/images.

Long Island Ducks (Atlantic League): 5,303 per game in 2013 (fourth-best attendance in Independent leagues in 2013).
long-island-ducks_bethpage-ballpark_4th-best-attendance_independent-leagues_2013_d_.gif
Photo and Image credits above -
LI Ducks’ back-to-back Atlantic League champions logo from liducks.com.
Photo of Bethpage Ballpark (then called Citibank Park) by Eric and Wendy Pastore at digitalballparks.com/Atlantic/Citibank.

Somerset Patriots (Atlantic League): 5,223 per game in 2013 (fifth-best attendance in Independent leagues in 2013).
somerset-patriots_td-bank-ballpark_5th-best-attendance_independent-leagues_2013_c_.gif
Photo credit above -
atlanticleague.com/ballpark-somerset.

St. Paul Saints (American Association): 4,886 per game in 2103 (sixth-best attendance in Independent leagues in 2013).
st-paul-saints_6th-best-attendance_independent-leagues_2013_midway-stadium_b_.gif
Photo credit above -
Steve Cuddihy at twincitiesdailyphoto.com/2008_08_01_archive.
___
Thanks to NuclearVacuum, at Wikimedia Commons, for the base map (blank map) of North America, at ‘File:BlankMap-North America-Subdivisions.svg‘ (commons.wikimedia.org).
Thanks to Winnipeg Goldeyes site, for photo of their cap logo, http://www.goldeyes.com/shop/shop-index.
Thanks to Long Island Ducks site, for the photo of their cap logo, t20.glitnirticketing.com/ldticket/store.
Thanks to Camden RiverSharks site, for photo of their cap logo, shop.riversharks.com/shop.
Thanks to CruiseFashion.co.uk, for photo of Amarillo Sox cap logo, images.cruisefashion.co.uk/images/products.uk/90909603_3plat_a1.jpg.
Thanks to Francois Gervais for his photo of Trois Rivieres Aigles players, at lapresse.ca/le-nouvelliste/sports – I used a segment of the photo for the Aigles’ cap logo on the map.
Thanks to Jav at OOTP Developments.com/board (forums) for San Angelo Colts logo, at ootpdevelopments.com/board/ootp-mods-logos-graphics-html/147410-san-angelo-colts-request.html.
Thanks to Flickr.com for the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings cap logo, at farm7.staticflickr.com/6008/5945116566_10de6d0092.jpg.

Thanks to Ballpark Digest.com for continuing to have reliable posts on MLB, MiLB, and Independent Leagues attendance.

February 16, 2014

MLB: attendance map for 2013 (home/regular season average attendance), including change from 2012 and percent-capacity figures.

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: MLB attendance — admin @ 6:37 pm

http://billsportsmaps.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/mlb_attendance2013_segment_.gif
MLB: attendance map for 2013 (home/regular season average attendance), including change from 2012 and percent-capacity figures




MLB attendance in 2013 was 30,514 per game as a league total, which was down from 30,895 in 2012 – in other words, crowds last season in the Major Leagues were down -1.2 percent from 2012. Here is an article at USA Today from October 1 2013, ‘MLB attendance drops 1.2 percent this year‘ (usatoday.com/story/sports). Nevertheless, 2013 was the sixth-highest drawing season for MLB (for full seasons/ the MLB league attendance record was set in 1993, the year before the last players’ strike, at 31,337 per game) [you can see year-by-year league-attendance averages, from 1980 to 2013, in the link above].

    Biggest attendance increases and worst attendance drop-offs for 2013 in Major League Baseball

{MLB attendance figures here (espn.go.com)}.

In 2013, the Toronto Blue Jays, owing to pre-season excitement in Ontario, Canada about the Jays’ big signings (that flopped), had the highest increase at the turnstiles, going from 25,921 per game (in 2012) to 31,315 (in 2013) – which was an increase of 5,394 per game or +20.8 percent. The Blue Jays ended up only winning one more game (than in 2012) last season, finishing in last in the AL East at 74-88. But that spike in attendance could see some positives, as this article from the Toronto Star from Sept. 20 2013 by Brendan Kennedy points out, {‘Blue Jays: Boost in attendance could mean payroll increase‘ (thestar.com/sports/bluejays)}.

The only other team with a crowd-size-increase above 10 percent last season was the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won the NL West and drew best in MLB in 2013 at 45,216 per game at Dodger Stadium (an increase of of 4,176 per game or +12.6% from 2012, when the Dodgers drew 41,040 [for 5th-best in MLB in 2012]). So the LA Dodgers, now under new and non-dysfunctional ownership, reclaimed their status as the highest-drawing baseball club on Earth – they last led the Major Leagues in attendance in 2009. Look for the Dodgers to repeat as the top drawing ball club in 2014.

Other success stories in MLB in 2013 with respect to crowd-size increases could be seen at the following ball clubs.
Baltimore Orioles: attendance increase of +9.3% [18th-best attendance in MLB in 2013 at 29,105 per game], which was an increase of +2,495 per game. This on the heels of a playoff-season in 2012 for the O’s; in 2013 they went 85-77.
Washington Nationals: attendance increase of +9.1% [11th-best attendance in MLB in 2013 at 32,745 per game], which was an increase of +2,735 per game. This, like nearby Baltimore, was also on the heels of a playoff-season in 2012 for the Nats; in 2013 they went 86-76.
Cincinnati Reds: attendance increase of +7.9% [15th-best attendance in MLB in 2013 at 31,288 per game], which was an increase of +2,310 per game. Attendance in Cincy continues its gradual rise, as the Reds made the playoffs again in 2013 (and for the 3rd time in 4 years)…in 2013, the Reds drew their best since their move to their then-new ballpark in 2003.
Pittsburgh Pirates: attendance increase of +7.8% [19th-best attendance in MLB in 2013 at 28,210 per game], which was an increase of +2,062 per game. Attendance was of course boosted by the Pirates’ successful playoff run, as Bucs made the playoffs for the first time in 21 seasons (previously in 1992).
Oakland Athletics: attendance increase of + 7.7% [23rd-best attendance in MLB in 2013 at 22,337 per game], which was an increase of +1,609 per game. The A’s, under GM Billy Beane, have written the book (well Michael Lewis did, with Moneyball), on how to exploit market inefficiencies for the last decade-and-a-half. But Oakland has had traditionally poor attendance, and in 2009, 2010, and 2011 had the lowest in the league (in the 17-18K range). But a party-like atmosphere there at the Coliseum and a second straight AL West title saw the A’s inch up to 22.3 K per game in 2013.
Colorado Rockies: attendance increase of +6.2% [10th-best attendance in MLB in 2013 at 34,491 per game], which was an increase of + 2,017 per game. The Rockies were bad once again, finishing in last in the NL West, but they continued to draw well. The Rockies were aided by 5 high-drawing inter-league home games in 2013: three home games versus the Yankees in May, and two home games versus the Red Sox in August…those 5 games averaged over 40,000. {See this article by David Martin at Rockies Review blog from Sept. 12 2012 that accurately predicted this attendance upswing for the Rockies, ‘Colorado Rockies will get great attendance in 2013 regardless of disappointment‘ (rockiesreview.com)}.

Meanwhile the Miami Marlins (at their new instant-White-Elephant of a stadium) had the worst drop-off at the turnstiles, going from 27,400 per game [and 18th-best in 2012] 2 seasons ago, to an abysmal 19,584 per game last season [second-worst in MLB in 2013, better only than their fellow Floridians, the perennially lowest-drawing MLB team, the Tampa Bay Rays]. That was a drop-off of over 7,500 per game for the Marlins compared to 2012. This in a brand-new stadium.

Below is a chart I put together that shows the 8 MLB teams which had the highest average attendance increases in 2013 (Blue Jays, Dodgers, Orioles, Nationals, Reds, Pirates, A’s, and Rockies); and the 8 MLB teams which had the most drastic average attendance decreases in 2013 (Yankees, Cubs, White Sox, Rangers, Brewers, Twins, Phillies, and Marlins).

mlb_2013_average-attendance_best-increases_worst-decreases_versus-2012_c_.gif
Data for chart above from – http://espn.go.com/mlb/attendance/_/year/2012.
___
Thanks to ESPN for all MLB teams’ 2012 and 2013 attendance figures (and for Boston Red Sox’ 2013 home percent-capacity figure), at espn.go.com/mlb/attendance.
Thanks to mlb.com/shop for 29 of the MLB teams’ home cap photos.
Thanks to sportsstation1.com for the photo of the Baltimore Orioles’ home cap.

July 3, 2013

Minor League Baseball: the Appalachian League (Advanced-Rookie Classification).

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: MiLB >Rookie — admin @ 6:28 pm

milb_2013_appalachian-league_post_.gif
Minor League Baseball: the Appalachian League (III) (Advanced-Rookie Classification)



Minor League Baseball attendance – ‘2012 Affiliated Attendance by League‘ (ballparkdigest.com).

There are 6 leagues within Organized Baseball which are Rookie Class leagues: the Appalachian League, the Pioneer League, the Arizona League, the Gulf Coast League, and 2 foreign-based leagues, the Dominican Summer League, and Venezuelan Summer League. But in only two of them are attendances measured. Those 2 are also classified a bit differently, as Advanced-Rookie. They are the Appalachian League and the Pioneer League.

The Advanced-Rookie classification
From the en.wikipedia.org page ‘Minor League Baseball‘,…{excerpt}…”Leagues in the Rookie classification play a shortened season…starting in mid-June and ending in late August or early September. … Advanced Rookie leagues (Appalachian and Pioneer) play between 67 and 75 games… .
The Appalachian and Pioneer leagues are actually hybrid leagues; while officially classed as “Rookie” leagues, eight major league teams have their highest-class short season teams in those leagues. These eight teams also maintain Rookie-level teams in other leagues as well. The Gulf Coast and Arizona leagues are informally known as “complex” leagues, nicknamed for the minor-league complexes where most games in those leagues are played.” …{end of excerpt}.

{Excerpt from the ‘Pioneeer League‘ page at en.wikipedia.org} …”Classified as a Rookie league, the Pioneer League [as well as the Appalachian League, are]…predominantly made up of players out of high school and [are] almost exclusively the first professional league many players compete in.”…{end of excerpt}.

    A brief history of the Appalachian League, with present-day locations of teams noted

The Appalachian League (III) is the third league which has used that name, the first being located in eastern Tennessee, far western North Carolina, and far western Virginia in the early part of the 20th century. The original Appalachian League (I) existed for 4 seasons from 1911 to 1914, and was a totally Independent league (with no teams having any Major League affiliation). The 6 teams in the first season were – Asheville (NC) Moonshiners, Bristol (VA) Boosters, Cleveland (TN) Counts, Johnson City (TN) Soldiers, Knoxville Appalachians, and Morristown (TN) Jobbers. [1911 was the first appearance of 2 locations which have present-day teams [2013] in the Appalachian League – Bristol, Virginia, with the present-day Bristol White Sox (CWS); and Johnson City, Tennessee, with the present-day Johnson City Cardinals (STL).].

The second Appalachian League (II) existed for 5 seasons from 1921 to 1925 and again was entirely comprised of Independent teams (this is probably the reason why the first and second versions of the Appalachian Leagues both failed). The 6 teams in the first season of the second version of the Appalachian League (II) in 1921 were – the Bristol State-Liners, the Cleveland Manufacturers, the Greeneville (TN) Burley Cats, the [second iteration of the] Johnson City Soldiers, the Kingsport (TN) Indians, and the Knoxvlle Pioneers. [1921 was the first appearance of 2 locations which have present-day teams [2013] in the Appalachian League – Kingsport, Tennessee, with the present-day Kingsport Mets (NYM); and Greeneville, North Carolina, with the presnt-day Greeneville Astros (HOU).].

The third version of the Appalachian League was a D-level minor league, which was the lowest level in the pre-1963/64 Organized Baseball set-up. The Appalachian League (III) started in 1937 and had 4 teams, one of which, the Elizabethton Betsy Red Sox of Elizabethton, Tennessee, had an affiliation with a Major League Baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. That was the first Appalachian League team in leagues (I), (II), or (III) to have a Major League affiliation. The 4 teams in the first season of the present-day Appalachian League in 1937 were – the Elizabethton Betsy Red Sox (BOS-AL), the [third iteration of the] Johnson City Soldiers (Independent), the Newport (TN) Canners (Independent), and the Pennington Gap (VA) Lee Bears (Independent). [1937 was the first appearance of one location which has a present-day team [2013] in the Appalachian League – Elizabethton, Tennessee, with the present-day Elizabethton Twins (MIN).].

Unlike many other minor leagues, the Appalachian League was not forced to cancel seasons during World War II, but it did play with a smaller league-size of only 4 teams. After the War in 1946, in the 10th season of the Appalachian League (III), the league expanded from 4 to 8 teams with the inclusion of teams from West Virginia (2 of them) for the first time with the Bluefield Blue-Grays (BOS-NL) (located in Virginia and West Virginia, with the ballpark, Bowen Field, sitting right on the border of the two states); and the Welch (WV) Miners (Independent). The two other new teams in 1946 were the Pulaski (VA) Counts (Independent); and the New River (VA) Rebels (Independent). By this time the majority of teams in the Appalachian League had been able to attain affiliation with a Major League ball club (affiliation with an MLB team basically increases the likelihood of the minor league team’s survival), with the exception in 1946 being 3 of the 4 aforementioned new teams. [1946 was the first appearance of 2 locations which have present-day teams [2013] in the Appalachian League – Bluefield, Virginia/West Virginia, with the present-day Bluefield Blue Jays (TOR); and Pulaski, Virginia, with the present-day Pulaski Mariners (SEA).].

The Appalachian League shrunk back to a 6-team league in 1951, and it continued as a D-level minor league up to 1955. In 1956, the league was forced to go dormant for one season due to several teams having financial problems. In 1957, the Appalachian league re-started. It continued as a D-level minor league until 1962. In 1963, as part of Major League Baseball’s re-organization of their minor leagues [which occurred in 1963 and 1964], the Appalachian League was re-classified as a Rookie League.

Here are the 6 teams in the 1963 Appalchian League (III), which was the first season the league played as a Rookie class league – the Bluefield Orioles (BAL), the Harlan (KY) Yankees (NYY), the Kingsport Pirates (PIT), the Middlesboro (KY) Cubsox (Independent), the Salem (VA) Rebels (SFG), and the Wytheville (NC) Twins (MIN).

To round the first-appearance of each present-day Appalachian League location, here are all the first appearances of 2013 teams’ locations -
1911, in Appalachian League (I): Bristol, VA and Johnson City, TN.
1924, in Appalachian League (II): Greeneville, NC and Kingsport, TN.
1937, in Appalachian League (III): Elizabethton, TN.
1946, in Appalachian League (III): Bluefield, VA/WV and Pulaski, WV.
1986, in Appalachian League (III): Burlington, NC [present-day team called the Burlington Royals (KC)].
1988, in Appalachian League (III): Princeton, WV [present-day team called the Princeton Rays (TB)].
1993, in Appalachian League (III): Danville, VA [present-day team called the Danville Braves (ATL)].

Of those 3 most recent new locations of present-day Appalachian League franchises, 2 can be seen as representative of an expansion-of-range by the Appalachian League, because two of those locations – Burlington, North Carolina and Danville, Virginia – are not really in or near the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, but are in the Piedmont region of the American Southeast {see this, ‘Piedmont (United States)‘ (en.wikipedia.org)}. You can see the difference in topographic terms, because both Danville and Burlington are the only locations in the Appalachian League that are under 650 feet elevation, while all 8 other Appalachian League teams are well above 1,000 feet elevation and a few are well above 2,000 feet elevation. Princeton, WV is the highest-elevation Appalachian League location, at around 2,438 feet (or .46 of a mile high), and Bluefield VA/WV is the second-highest-elevation Appalachian League location at around 2,389 feet [note: elevations are listed on the map page for each teams' location, right above each team's large logo within their profile boxes, as well as in the 10 illustrations at the bottom of this post.]

In 2012, the Appalachian League averaged 914 per game. That was up 32 per game from the 882 per game that the Appalachian League averaged in 2011. Attendance for the Appalachian League is the smallest of all the 15 minor leagues, from Triple-A-level to Rookie-level, within Organized Baseball in which attendance is measured. But that is mostly a function of the fact that Appalachian League locations are among the smallest municipalities in the USA to have pro baseball teams. Several Appalachian League municipalities – 6 of them – have city or town populations under 16,000, and even the largest, Johnson City, TN, has a city population of only around 63,000 (note: metro-area populations also listed below)
Populations of Appalachian League teams’ locations -
[note: all figures from each municipalities' Wikipedia page and are from 2010, except Kingsport, TN from 2008, and Pulaski, VA from 2000.]
[Note: Johnson City, TN and Elizabethton, TN are part of the Johnson City metropolitan area, which has a population of around 193,000 {2008 figure}. Kingsport, TN and Bristol, VA are part of the Kingsport, TN/Bristol, VA/Bristol, TN metropolitan area, which has a population of around 302,000 {2008 figure}.]
-Johnson City, TN : city, 63,152 population/ metro-area, ~193,000 population {see above}.
-Kingsport, TN: city, 48,205 population/ metro-area ~302,000 population {metro-area combined with Bristol, VA}.
-Bristol, VA: city, 17,853 population/ metro-area ~302,000 population {metro-area combined with Kingsport, TN}.
-Burlington, NC: city, 49,963 population/ metro-area, ~148,000 population.
-Danville, VA: 43,055 population.
-Bluefield VA/Bluefield WV: {5,444 + 10,447} ~15,891 population.
-Greeneville, TN: 15,198 population.
-Elizabethton, TN: 14,176 population.
-Pulaski, VA: 9,473 population.
-Princeton, WV: 6,432 population.

So Princeton, West Virginia has around 6,400 inhabitants, and it’s pro baseball team drew 816 per game in 2012. That means 12.5 percent of the equivalent population of the community, on average, went to Princeton Rays baseball games last season. Now that is what you call community baseball.

    The 10 teams of the Appalachian League [2013], with photos of their stadiums and with notable former players listed

Appalachian League East Division

Bluefield Blue Jays, est. 1963.
Notable Bluefield/ Appalachian League alumni: Boog Powell (1959), Sparky Lyle (1964), Eddie Murray (1973), Cal Ripken, Jr. (1978), Jayson Werth (1998).
bluefield-blue-jays_bowen-field_.gif
Photo credit above – littleballparks.com/Bluefield.

Burlington Royals, est. 1986.
Notable Burlington/ Appalachian League alumni: Jim Thome (1990), Manny Ramirez (1991), Bartolo Colon (1994), C.C. Sabathia (1998).
burlington-royals_burlington-athletic-stadium_c.gif
Photo credit above – careeringcrawdad.wordpress.com//labor-day-and-the-end-of-baseball-season-2012.

Danville Braves, est. 1993.
Notable Danville/ Appalachian League alumni: Jermain Dye (1993), Andruw Jones (1994), Rafael Furcal (1998), Jason Marquis (1998).
danville-braves_american-legion-field_e.gif
Photo credit above – stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/american-legion-field .

Princeton Rays, est 1988.
Notable Princeton/ Appalachian League alumni: Carl Crawford (1999), Josh Hamilron (1999), Jonny Gomes (2001), Jeremy Hellickson (2005).
princeton-rays_hp-hunnicutt-field_c.gif
Photo credit above – littleballparks.com/Princeton.

Pulaski Mariners, est. 1982.
Notable Pulaski/ Appalachian League alumni: Dave Justice (1985), Jason Schmidt (1992), C.J. Wilson (2005).
pulaski-mariners_calfee-park_c.gif
Photo credit above – baseballdiaries.blogspot.com/2012/01/pulaski-mariners-vs-danville-braves

Appalachian League West Division

Bristol White Sox, est 1969.
Notable Bristol/ Appalachian League alumni: Lance Parrish (1974), Lou Whitaker (1975), Alan Trammell (1976), Carlos Lee (1995).
bristol-white-sox_boyce-cox-field-at-devaault-memorial-stadium_c.gif
Photo credit above – ballparkbiz.wordpress.com/impressions-of-a-ballpark-hunter-surrealism-in-bristol

Elizabethton Twins, est. 1974.
Notable Elizabethton/ Appalachian League alumni: Kent Hrbek (1979), Gary Gaetti (1979), Kirby Puckett (1982), Justin Mourneau (2000).
elizabethton-twins_joe-obrien-field_2012-champions_c.gif
Image credit above – ‘Twins Win Championship [2012]‘, (Screenshot of video at Elizabethtoon Twins’ page at milb.com/multimedia.

Greeneville Astros, est. 2004.
greeneville-astros_pioneer-park_.gif
Photo credit above – ‘Attendance History‘ (milb.com/[Greeneville]).

Johnson City Cardinals, est. 1937.
Notable Johnson City/ Appalachian League alumni: Terry Pendleton (1982), Jeff Fassero (1984), Coco Crisp (2000), Yadier Molina (2001).
johnson-city-cardinals_howard-johnson-field_.gif
Photo credit above – appalachiantreks.blogspot.com/howard-johnson-field.

Kingsport Mets, est. 1969.
Notable Kingsport/ Appalachian League alumni: Dale Murphy (1974), Darryl Strawberry (1980), Dwight Gooden (1982), José Reyes (2000).
kingsport-mets_hunter-wright-stadium_.gif
Photo credit above – kingsporttn.gov.

___

Attendance data from milb.com, here.
Base map of USA byThesibboleth at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Blank_US_Map.svg.

Photo credits on the map page –
Bluefield Blue Jays/ Bowen Field, Heath Bintliff at network.yardbarker.com/bowen_field_bluefield_wv .
Burlington Royals/ Burlington Athletic Stadium, littleballparks.com/Burlington-NC.
Danville Braves/ American Legion Field, littleballparks.com/DanvilleVA.
Princeton Rays/ H.P. Hunnicutt Field, writeopinions.com.
Pulaski Mariners/ Calfee Park, baseballdiaries.blogspot.com/2012/01/pulaski-mariners-vs-danville-braves.

Bristol White Sox/ Devault Memorial Stadium, thesportstraveleronline.com/byrce-cox-fielddevault-memorial-stadium.
Elizabethton Twins/ Joe O’Brien Field, ballparkreviews.com/Elizabethton.
Greeneville Astros/ Pioneer Park at Tusculum College, charliesballparks.com.
Johnson City Cardinals/ Howard Johnson Field, appalachiantreks.blogspot.com/howard-johnson-field.
Kingsport Mets/ Hunter Wright Stadium, littleballparks.com/Kingsport.

June 27, 2013

Minor League Baseball: the Florida State League (Class A-Advanced).

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: MiLB Class A — admin @ 7:58 pm

milb_2013_florida-state-league_post_c.gif
Minor League Baseball: the Florida State League (Class A-Advanced)



2012 Minor League Baseball attendance – ‘2012 Affiliated Attendance by League‘ (ballparkdigest.com).

The Florida State League was founded in 1919 and has played seasons from 1919 to 1928; from 1936 to 1941; and currently, every year since 1946.

The 12-team Florida State League is one of 3 Advanced-A level minor leagues within Organized Baseball, the other Advanced-A leagues being the 10-team California League and the 8-team Carolina League.

The Florida State League draws very poorly. And, you know, Florida is a pretty populous state – Florida is the 4th-most populous state in the USA, with around 19.3 million people {2012 figure}. Yet only 2 teams currently in the Florida State League are drawing above 2,000 per game. In 2012, the Florida State League averaged 1,592 per game. Compare that to the other 4 leagues in the Class A or Advanced-A levels, which are the Class-A Midwest League (which drew 3,730 per game in 2012), the Advanced-A Carolina League (which drew 3,520 per game in 2012), the Class-A South Atlantic League (which drew 3,279 per game in 2012), and the Advanced-A California League (which drew 2,293 per game in 2012).

In fact, not only does the Florida State League draw considerably worse than the 3 Class-A leagues one tier below them (see previous sentence), but the Florida State League also draws considerably worse than both leagues which are 2 tiers below them – in the two Short Season-A leagues – the New York-Penn League (which drew 3,290 per game in 2012) and the Northwest League (which drew 2,979 per game in 2012). The Florida State League even draws worse than one league 3 tiers below them at the lowest rung of the Major League/minor-league ladder, in one of the Rookie Leagues – the Pioneer League (which is located in some pretty small towns in the Rocky Mountain states of the West, and which averaged 2,317 per game in 2012).

Florida does have a couple of very good drawing minor league baseball teams – in the north of the state, where people speak with a southern accent. While the Florida State League, which is located in central and south Florida, draws very low crowds, two Florida-based minor league teams from the north of the state draw well. Granted, they are placed one minor-league-level higher, in Double-A ball. Both are in the Southern League (a Class AA league) – the Jacksonville Suns, from Jacksonville in furthest north-east Florida; and the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, from Pensacola in furthest north-west Florida. The Jacksonville Suns are the oldest continuous member of the Southern League (43 straight seasons now; see this small write-up of the J-ville Suns within my post on the Southern League from 2 years ago, here/ Jacksonville Suns section is at the very end of the post}; the Pensacola Blue Wahoos are a new team that moved to the Florida panhandle in 2012, leaving North Carolina [they were first incarnation of the Carolina Mudcats (I)] {see this illustration explaining Pensacola, FL/ Zebulon, NC/ Kinston, NC MiLB franchise shifts of 2012, which I posted last year in my post on the Carolina League, here}. These two teams were first and second best in attendance in the Southern League in 2012, with Pensacola drawing 4,826 in their first year in 2012, and Jacksonville drawing 4,309 in 2012. Those two average attendances are more than twice as high as what most Florida State League teams draw.

Why does the Florida State League draw so poorly? Because, generally, people in central and south Florida don’t really like baseball. Try to convince them that going to a minor league baseball game is a fun and very inexpensive summertime activity, and you’ll just get vacant stares. Many central and south Floridians probably find baseball to be too slow and relaxed and nuanced. Look at how bad both MLB teams in Florida draw, regardless of how well they both do. The Tampa Bay Rays are, these days, year-in-year out, a competitive ball club, and they won the 2008 AL pennant, while the Marlins have won 2 MLB World Series titles (in 1997 and 2003). But they both draw terrible. OK, we’ll give Rays fans, or lack thereof, the benefit of the doubt, because their dreary fixed-dome stadium is located on the wrong side of the bay in Tampa/St. Petersburg and is hands down the worst venue in MLB. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays/ Rays have been perennially among the lowest-four-or-five-drawing MLB teams each year; ditto the Marlins until 2012, and their new stadium/fiasco. Here are the recent years when both Tampa Bay and Florida/Miami were among the 5 worst-drawing MLB teams: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, and currently (June 27th/ after 38 to 40 home games) in 2013 {attendances from ESPN, here}. Now, after the Marlins’ cynical off-season fire-sale, no one in Miami wants to go to the instant White Elephant that is the Marlins’ new ballpark. The Miami Marlins have become the benchmark for dysfunctional-fan-base-with-owner-from-hell. So that’s the state of big league baseball fan-bases in central and south Florida. When you factor into the equation lower level minor league baseball – well, forget about it.

    The Florida State League is a waste of space.

Independent league baseball’ (en.wikipedia.org).
2012 attendances for all Independent-league teams in North Americ (ie, all un-affiliated teams): ‘2012 Independent Attendance by Average (ballparkdigest.com).

The Florida State League is a waste of space, and its franchises should be placed in other parts of North America where folks actually support lower-level minor league baseball. In 2011, 19 Independent league teams drew over 3,000 per game. In 2012, 20 Independent league teams drew over 3,000 per game. When you look at the very impressive attendance figures {see link directly above}, for more than a dozen-and-a-half Independent minor league baseball teams within the four primary Independent leagues (the Atlantic League, the American Association [of Independent Professional Baseball], the Frontier League, and the Can-Am League), you realize that Organized Baseball is doing many thousands of baseball fans a real disservice by ignoring them and not bringing into the fold the ball clubs these folks support. The sad truth is, the Florida State League has about ten teams that are being wasted on an uncaring populace, when their coveted status as affiliated minor league baseball teams could be better put to use with a supportive populace in say, Greater Houston, Texas, where the new Independent league team the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League drew 6.6 K in their first season in 2012. Or in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where the Independent league team the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the AA (American Association of Independent Professional Baseball) drew 5.7 K in 2012. Or in Central Islip, New York, where the Independent league team the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League drew 5.5 K in 2012. Or in Kansas City, Kansas, where the Independent league team the Kansas City T-Bones of the AA drew 5.2 K in 2012. Or in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the Independent league team the the St. Paul Saints of the AA have thrived for two decades now and who drew 4.9 K in 2012. Or in Lancaster, Pennsylvania or in York, Pennsylvania, where two Independent league teams in the Atlantic League draw well – the Lancaster Barnstormers drew 4.6 K in 2012; and the York Revolution, drew 4.0 K in 2012.

I could go, and also mention other successfully-drawing Independent league ball clubs in Fargo, North Dakota; and in Laredo, Texas; and in El Paso, Texas; and in Somerset, New Jersey; and in Camden, New Jersey; and in Traverse City, Michigan…but I’m sure you get my point. And if you think all these success-stories are spread too far apart to make an economically feasible theoretical-new-affiliated-minor-league, I would submit that the Atlantic League has already proven that a slightly truncated version of the geographical spread of all the locations I just mentioned is feasible, because the Atlantic League has ball clubs spread from the Gulf Coast of Texas to Long Island, New York. And 7 teams in the Atlantic League and more than a dozen other Independent league teams in the other Independent leagues are outdrawing scores of affiliated minor league teams who have the economic-protection of a Major League Baseball affiliation, but still can’t draw decent crowds – because they are stuck in locations where people refuse to support lower level minor league baseball.

The MLB/Organized Baseball rules prevent many of these Independent league teams from being affiliated teams because of their proximity to teams in Organized Baseball – like in the cases of Lancaster, Pennsylvania and York, Pennsylvania – where MLB/MiLB protects the territory of the Reading Phils and the Harrisburg Senators (regardless, they all draw well). But meanwhile, it is OK with Major League Baseball that two MiLB teams play in the 5-borough-New-York-City jurisdiction despite the 2 MLB teams there (NY Yankees and NY Mets), but then the territorial-protection rules in place decree that there is not allowed to be any affiliated team in all of Long Island, NY (ie, Nassau and Suffolk counties). Talk about artificially protecting the NY Mets from any sort of competition. Hence the very-well-drawing Independent team the Long Island Ducks. What I am trying to say is that MLB /MiLB rules for protecting certain teams’ territories is pretty arbitrary, and could be better worked out. Why not exploit market forces? People want affordable lower-level minor league baseball in certain parts of the country, and the success of “outlaw” league teams playing within some of the more densely populated areas of the country proves this.

However, for one simple reason (see next paragraph), all those populations in more-baseball-supportive parts of the country will probably never be getting affiliated minor league teams, even if the territory-rules were relaxed. This problem of horrible attendance in the Florida State League while other areas of the country must settle for Independent league teams looks like it is institutionally guaranteed to never go away.

Basically, the Florida State League would have been defunct several decades ago – like defunct by the late 1960s or the early 1970s – and would not still exist if it weren’t for one fact. And that fact is that so many Major League Baseball teams – 15 MLB teams – have their spring training facilities in the state of Florida. [There are 15 MLB teams who have spring training in Florida and 15 MLB teams that have spring training in Arizona {see this, 'List of Major League Baseball spring training ballparks' (en.wikipedia.org}.]

First of all, as mentioned, none of the teams in the Florida State League draw above 2,600 per game, and 10 of the 12 teams draw below 2,000 per game, and over half of them can barely even get 1.5 K per game. So there is no real market-driven demand for the product there in central and south Florida. Most franchises in the Florida State League would not be financially viable without the affiliation and support of Major League Baseball clubs. And MLB clubs would not want lower-level minor league teams of theirs to be located in places where there is so little actual demand for the product – except for the fact that there are venues there already in place. All eleven of the ballparks in the Florida State League exist solely because the ballparks are part of Major League Baseball teams’ spring training facilities. Those ballparks were all built by municipalities to attract MLB teams for spring training. Of the 11 stadiums where Florida State League teams currently play in 2013, one was built by a city’s Sports Authority (Tampa’s George M. Steinbrenner Field); 6 were built by a city’s municipal government (the ballparks in Bradenton, in Clearwater, in Daytona Beach, in Dunedin, in Fort Myers, and in Lakeland); and 4 were built by a county government there in Florida (the ballparks in Brevard county, in Charlotte county, in Palm Beach county, and in St. Lucie county). None of the ballparks in the Florida State League were built to attract a minor league baseball team. They were all built to attract a Major League Baseball teams’ very lucrative spring training custom.

[Note: the reason why the number of venues in the Florida State League is 11 and not 12 is because the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals share a facility in Jupiter, FL (17 mi. north of Palm Beach, FL), and so do 2 Florida State League teams - the Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) and the Palm Beach Cardinals (STL).]

    The 2 highest-drawing teams in the Florida State League -
    the Clearwater Threshers & the Daytona Cubs

The Clearwater Threshers drew 2,570 per game in 2012. The Clearwater Threshers are an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.
clearwater-threshers_bright-house-field_d.gif
Photo credits above -
fansedge.com/Clearwater-Threshers-Home-Cap.
mopupduty.com/dunedin-day-2-part-2-bright-house-field/.

The Daytona Cubs drew 2,346 per game in 2012. The Daytona Cubs are an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.
daytona-cubs_jackie-robinson-ballpark_b.gif
Photo credits above -
shop.neweracap.com/MiLB/Daytona-Cubs.
baseballpilgrimages.com.
bing.com/maps.

___

Photo credits on the map page -
Brevard County Manatees/ Space Coast Stadium, thpoe.wordpress.com.
Clearwater Threshers/ Bright House Field, digitalballparks.com/SpringTraining/Brighthouse4.html; http://www.digitalballparks.com/.
Daytona Cubs/ Jackie Robinson Ballpark, ballparkreviews.com.
Dunedin Blue Jays/ Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, bing.com/maps.
Lakeland Tigers/ Joker Marchant Stadium, milb.com.
Tampa Yankees/ George M. Steinbrenner Field, bing.com/maps.

Bradenton Marauders/ McKechnie Field, baseballpilgrimages.com via oldbucs.blogspot.com.
Charlotte Stone Crabs/ Charlotte Sports Park, abaesel at flickr.com.
Fort Myers Miracle/ Hammond Stadium, Harry Hunt at flickr.com.bing.com/maps.
Jupiter Hammerheads/ Roger Dean Stadium, milb.com.
Palm Beach Cardinals/ Roger Dean Stadium, charliesballparks.com.
St. Lucie Mets/ Mets Stadium, facebook.com.

___
Thanks to Theshibboleth at en.wikipedia.org, for the USA blank map, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Blank_US_Map.svg.
Thanks to Eric Gaba (Sting – fr:Sting) at en.wikimedia.org, for the Florida location map, ‘File:USA Florida location map.svg‘.
Thanks to milb.com for attendances, http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=milb&t=l_att&lid=123.
Thanks to the following site for some population figures, http://recenter.tamu.edu/data/pop/popm/cbsa15980.asp.
Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, ‘Florida State League‘.

Thanks to the always excellent minor league attendance posts at http://ballparkdigest.com/.

June 7, 2013

Minor League Baseball: the California League (Class A-Advanced).

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: MiLB Class A — admin @ 8:26 pm

milb_2013_california-league_.segment_d.gif
Minor League Baseball: the California League (Class A-Advanced)




I tried something different on this map. I have always been curious about population distribution within the state of California, so I decided to find city and metro populations in California. I listed them on the map and then I added circles radiating out from city-centers, to show where the greater metropolitan areas spread out to. {Note: see bottom of post for population sources.} All of the circles-which-represent-metro-areas emanate out from as central a point within a given city as I could depict, with the exception of Greater Sacramento, with the central-point being far to the east, because that is how the US Census Bureau defines Greater Sacramento. It makes sense, because most folks in the far outer reaches of the north-eastern edge of the Greater San Francisco/Bay Area metro-area wouldn’t be caught dead going to Sacramento for any reason. In Sacramento’s defense I must point out that their PCL ball club the Sacramento River Cats are one of the highest-drawing teams (at 8,455 per game last season) in the entire Organized Baseball minor league system (See link below).

2012 Affiliated Attendance by League [all minor leagues in Organized Baseball which charge for attendance (15 leagues)]‘ (ballparkdigest.com).

The California League is a 10-team Class A-Advanced level league, which is 3 levels below the Major Leagues. The other Class A-Advanced leagues are the Florida State League and the the Carolina League. The California League gets pretty bad attendance, especially considering how populous central California is. According to the Ballparkdigest.com site {http://ballparkdigest.com/201209075507/attendance/news/2012-affiliated-attendance-by-league}, the California League averaged 2,293 per game in 2012, with just 2 of its 12 teams averaging over 3,000 per game (those two teams with the best attendance in the California League in 2012 were the Lake Elsinore Storm and the San Jose Giants). That means in Organized Baseball in 2012, of the 15 minor leagues which measure attendance, a whopping 6 leagues placed at the same level or lower than the California League outdrew the California League. Those leagues are: the Midwest League (1 level lower in Class-A level) at 3,730 per game in 2012; the Carolina League (in the same level as the California League) at 3,520 per game in 2012; the New York-Penn League (2 levels lower, in the Short Season-A level) at 3,290 per game in 2012; the South Atlantic League (1 level lower, in the Class-A level) at 3,279 per game in 2012; the Northwest League (2 levels lower, in the Short Season-A level) at 2,979 per game in 2012; and the Pioneer League (3 levels lower (!), in the Rookie League classification) at 2,317 per game in 2012.
[Note: here is a mitigating detail - If you throw out the worst-drawing California League team (Bakersfield Blaze, at 637 per game in 2012), the league average increases 183 per game to 2,476 per game in 2012 {see further below}.]

OK, so California has over 38 million people. And every California League team has several hundreds of thousands of people living within 1 hour’s driving distance of their ballparks. There is, with the notable exception of a few teams in the New York-Penn League and the Midwest League, by far more people nearby to every California League team (except High Desert Mavericks) than to most teams in the leagues listed in the previous paragraph. So why, with all those many hundreds of thousands of people close to every California League team, is it so hard for a Class A-Advanced team in California to even draw a paltry 2,500 people to a game?

What is the reason why Class A baseball in California is ignored by the vast majority of people in California? Maybe all the local news shows at the network stations in Los Angeles and in the Bay Area and in Bakersfield and in other inland cities within the Central Valley in the state don’t cover the California League at all, and potential California League ticket-buyers never materialize because there is so little media exposure. Maybe. But New York City sports media does not cover the minor leagues. By that I mean the major NYC sports media (ie, local network television stations in NYC and major NYC newspapers [the New York Times; the Daily News; the NY Post]). They all do not cover, on a regular basis, the Brooklyn Cyclones (based in Coney Island) or coastal New Jersey’s Lakewood BlueClaws. But why is it despite the major-sports-media blackout those metro-NYC-based-lower-level-minor-league teams regularly can draw over 6,000 per game? [Brooklyn Cyclones (NY-Penn League/Short Season A-Level) drew 6,553 per game in 2012; Lakewood BlueClaws (South Atlantic League/Class A-Level) drew 6,031 per game.] And granted, the economy in the Central Valley in California is really bad, and unemployment is above the national average. This has affected some teams’ gates (like the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, who were getting 4,155 per game in 2007, but drew just 2,296 per game in 2012). But actually, as a whole, the poor economy in the post-2008 era has only made a very slight negative impact in crowd size throughout the California League – in 2007 the California League averaged 2,375 per game, so that is a drop off of only 82 per game compared to the 2012 league average of 2,293 {see this/I had to do the math to arrive at that 2,375 league-average figure for 2007 because the official California League site didn’t bother to}. So since the economy tanked in 2008, the California League has only seen a cumulative drop-off of less than 100 paying customers per game. In other words, the poor attendance in the California League is a problem that goes deeper than the poor economy.

I think there is a cultural mechanism at work here that is depressing lower-level minor league baseball attendance in California (and in Florida, with respect to the even-worse-supported Class A-Advanced league the Florida State League [which drew only 1,592 per game in 2012]). I think people in California and in Florida look at lower-level minor league baseball as something to avoid. I think they think it is beneath them to go to attend inexpensive lower-level minor league baseball games. They think it is beneath them, and they think baseball is boring, especially if its not being played in a large stadium. They don’t see going to a lower-level minor league game as a fun and inexpensive thing to do. They see it as pretty lame and devoid of anything they find entertaining. Whereas a significantly higher proportion of people in the Upper Midwest and in the Carolinas and throughout the Eastern Seaboard and in the small cities of the Rocky Mountains and even in the biggest cities on the East Coast see it as pretty fun and relaxing, and sure as heck cheaper than a whole lot of other recreational activities. And it supports the community. So the Class A-Short season team the Brooklyn Cyclones draws over 6,500 per game in the entertainment capital that is New York City (where there are hundreds of other entertainment options available), but the overwhelming majority of the people in the outskirts of Los Angeles or Miami or the Bay Area or Tampa/St. Pete or from the inland cities in both California and Florida avoid lower-level minor league baseball like the plague. And if you say, well, they have better stadiums in all those other lower-level minor leagues that outdraw the California League and the Florida League, well that is not true. Granted, the newest stadium in the California League, Banner Island Ballpark (which opened in 2005) in Stockton is hampered by the fact that Stockton is such a dangerous urban miasma these days {see this (xfinity.comcast.net/slideshow/most_dangerous_cities_in_america)}. But San Bernardino’s Inland Empire 66ers play in a stadium, San Manuel Stadium, that is 17 years old and it has been maintained well and it gets glowing reviews {see this, ‘San Manuel Stadium, San Bernardino, California‘ (ballparkreviews.com) – but the 66ers, despite being a Los Angeles Angels’ farm team, and despite being part of a metro-area of 4.2 million (see the map for figures) cannot even get 2,500 per game these days.

And how come San Jose, right there next to that dynamic economy in Silicon Valley, still hasn’t moved beyond an antiquated stadium that was built in 1942 and that is filled with worn out paint-chipped bleachers (see photo further below)? The city of San Jose has a larger city-population than the city-poulation of San Francisco. San Jose has around 984,000 people (2012 estimate), making it around 89,000 larger than San Francisco (at 825,000). Yet the pro ball club from a city the size of San Jose (basically a city of 1 million) can only draw 3,101 per game. You could say San Bernardino (where the Inland Empire 66ers play, there in the Central Valley) is really hit hard with 15% unemployment, so it might be more understandable that their team, despite being surrounded by literally millions of people there on the edge of Greater Los Angeles, can only draw 2,400 these days. But San Jose, right there between all the money in San Francisco and in Silicon Valley, can only get 3,100 per game? Meanwhile, several (eight) ball clubs at the same minor league level or lower, in corollary situations with respect to there being a large Major League city within 60 miles of a minor-league team, can all draw well over 4,000 per game. Specifically, in Dayton, Ohio (8,532 per game for the Class-A Dayton Dragons) and Kane County, Illinois (5,587 per game for the Class-A Kane County Cougars) and Aberdeen, Maryland (6,447 per game for the Class A-Short Season Aberdeen IronBirds) and Wilmington, Delaware (4,235 per game for the Class A-Advanced Wilmington Blue Rocks) and Lakewood Township, New Jersey (6,031 per game for the aforementioned Class A Lakewood Blue Claws) and Wappingers Falls, New York (4,373 per game for the Class A-Short Season Hudson Valley Renegades) and Brooklyn, NYC, New York (6,553 per game for the aforementioned Class A-Short Season Brooklyn Cyclones) and Lowell, Massachusetts (4,547 per game for the Class A-Short Season Lowell Spinners). So, despite drawing the highest in the California League, you can see via the above 8 examples how San Jose should actually be drawing much higher.

Then there is Bakersfield’s Bakersfield Blaze – they have been drawing below 1,000 per game for 3 seasons now {see this article and the 2nd chart at ballparkdigest.com/2011-minor-league-baseball-attendance-figures}. There are 851,000 people in the Greater Bakersfield metro area, yet for two straight seasons they have failed to draw more than 637 per game to Class A-Advanced baseball games. Bakerfield’s metro-area is the 5th-largest metro-area in California, and the 63rd-largest metro-area in the USA {see this}. Yet still – 637 per game – for a pro team just three steps away from the Major Leagues. 637 per game is such a bad attendance figure for such a relatively large city that it is really hard to wrap your head around the concept.

Bakersfield’s ballpark is pretty inadequate (with no roof, for a team named after the blazing sun), but still…637 per game? That 637 per game was, in fact, the worst attendance in all of Organized Baseball in 2012. Towns 40 times smaller, with populations below 20,000, that have teams in the Rookie League Appalachian League (there are several) outdraw Bakersfield’s ball club. A town like Bakersfield, whose chief economic drivers are the nearby Edwards Air Force Base, petroleum extraction, and farming, shows its priorities here. And one of its priorities is ignoring its pro baseball team for over 20 years and leaving it to die a slow death by forcing it to play in one of the, if not the, worst ballparks in Organized Baseball. Here is what a commenter said at this article at the bakersfieldcalifornian.com, …{excerpt}…’I don’t live in Bakersfield, but I have followed the plight of the Blaze closely over the years. Specifically, the fact that the team and city haven’t been able to come up with a plan for a new ballpark is very, very sad. Frankly, it makes the city look bad that its baseball team plays in such a second-rate facility as Sam Lynn Ballpark. Do you know why the Blaze has had so many different Major League parents? It’s because no Big League team wants its minor leaguers playing at Sam Lynn. I’ve visited just about every pro baseball park in America, and I’d be hard-pressed to tell you one that is worse than the one in Bakersfield.’…{end of excerpt from comment by joebaseballparks}.

If you just want to blame the politicians in Bakersfield and in Kern County for this, I ask you, why has the been no real public pressure to address this situation which has festered for over 20 years? And its not like there is that much competition for the sports entertainment dollar in Bakersfield and in Kern County, except for an ECHL team, and a NASCAR venue about 125 miles northeast of Bakersfield in Fontana. The closest major league sports teams and well-supported college teams are the teams from Los Angeles, around 100 miles south. So there is literally no sports entertainment competition to the Bakersfield Blaze for around one hundred miles and they still can’t get even close to 1,000 per game. In the photo further below you can see how stark and unadorned and bare-bones the Bakersfield Blaze’s ballpark is. The stands make it look like a high school stadium from a town with a low tax base. There is no roof to protect you from that inevitably blazing sun, and most of the seats are aluminum planks. You could probably get second-degree burns from those bleachers during a day game in August there.

The new ownership that bought the Bakersfield Blaze in 2012 have plans to build a new stadium using their own funding (and not the financial backing of the city of Bakersfield or of Kern County), see this, ‘Long-awaited plans unveiled for a new Bakersfield Blaze ballpark‘ (by John Cox at bakersfieldcalifornian.com). But as it says in that article, building a new ballpark in Bakersfield …{excerpt}…’carries financial risks for the team’s new owners. By their own estimate, the new stadium will have to draw an average of 2,500 spectators per game, or about five times the typical Blaze home game at Sam Lynn’… {end of excerpt}.

Below: the worst-drawing team in all of the Affiliated minor leagues – the Bakersfield Blaze.
bakersfield-blaze_sam-lynn-ballpark_worst-franchise-in-organized-baseball_h.gif
Photo credit above – yelp.com.

The 3 highest-drawing teams in the California League -
the Lake Elsinore Storm, the San Jose Giants, and the Stockton Ports.

Lake Elsinore Storm, 3,243 per game attendance in 2012.
lake-elsinore-storm_lake-elsinore-diamond_b.gif
Photo credits above –
bleacherreport.com/articles/820027-power-ranking-the-25-coolest-minor-league-caps/page/22.
best-temecula-guide.com.


San Jose Giants, 3,101 per game attendance in 2012.
san-jose-giants_san-jose-municipal-stadium_.gif
Photo credits above –
sis.sjgiants.com/store.
littleballparks.com.


Stockton Ports, 2,868 per game in 2012.
stockton-ports_banner-island-ballpark_b.gif
Photo credits above -
fanshop.latimes.com/Stockton-Ports–Home-Cap.
Stockton Ports via sports.espn.go.com/travel/gallery/gallery.
___

Photo and Image credits on map page -
Bakersfield Blaze, bing.com/maps.
Modesto Nuts, bing.com/maps.
San Jose Giants, daver6sf@yahoo.com at flickriver.com.
Stockton Ports, milb.com/ [Stockton Ports' page at milb.com ].
Visalia Rawhide, bing.com/maps.

High Desert Mavericks, bing.com/maps.
Inland Empire 66ers, greatest21days.com.
Lake Elsinore Storm, SD Dirk at flickr.com via swrnn.com (Southwest Riverside News Network site).
Lancaster JetHawks, bing.com/maps.
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, Brandon S. at yelp.com; Brandon S. at yelp.com.
___

For attendance figures thanks to MiLB.com, ‘Stats by League‘.

Thanks to JimIrwin at en.wikipedia.org for the population-density map of California, at ‘Demographics of California‘en.wikipedia.org).

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org -
California League‘.
List of Combined Statistical Areas [USA]‘.
California statistical areas‘.

May 29, 2013

Minor League Baseball: the Pioneer League (Advanced-Rookie Classification).

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: MiLB >Rookie — admin @ 8:46 pm

milb_2013_pioneer-league_segment_b.gif
Minor League Baseball: the Pioneer Baseball League (Rookie Classification)



Pioneer League [official site].

Minor League Baseball attendance – ‘2012 Affiliated Attendance by League‘ (ballparkdigest.com).

There are 6 leagues within Organized Baseball which are Rookie classification leagues – the Appalachian League, the Pioneer League, the Arizona League, the Gulf Coast League, and 2 foreign-based leagues – the Dominican Summer League, and the Venezuelan Summer League. But in only two of these leagues are attendances measured. Those 2 are classified as Advanced-Rookie. They are the Appalachian League and the Pioneer League.

The Advance-Rookie classification
From the en.wikipedia page ‘Minor League Baseball’,…{excerpt}…”Leagues in the Rookie classification play a shortened season…starting in mid-June and ending in late August or early September. … Advanced Rookie leagues (Appalachian and Pioneer) play between 67 and 75 games… .

The Appalachian and Pioneer leagues are actually hybrid leagues; while officially classed as “Rookie” leagues, eight major league teams have their highest-class short season teams in those leagues. These eight teams also maintain Rookie-level teams in other leagues as well. The Gulf Coast and Arizona leagues are informally known as “complex” leagues, nicknamed for the minor-league complexes where most games in those leagues are played. …”{end of excerpt}.

{Excerpt from the ‘Pioneeer League‘ page at en.wikipedia.org} …”Classified as a Rookie league, the Pioneer League is predominantly made up of players out of high school and is almost exclusively the first professional league many players compete in.”…{end of excerpt}.

The teams in the Pioneer League are situated on either side of the Continental Divide in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, with 4 teams in western and central Montana, one team in eastern Idaho, 2 teams in north-central Utah, and one team in western Colorado.

    Below, a short history of the Pioneer League, with all present-day team locations noted...

The Pioneer League was established as a C-level minor league in 1939, and initially had teams in it from the states of Idaho and Utah and was a 6-team set-up that featured 4 Independent ball clubs. The teams in the first season of the Pioneer League in 1939 were – the Boise Pilots (Independent), the Lewiston (Idaho) Indians (Independent), the Ogden Reds (a Cincinnati Reds’ farm team), the Pocatello Cardinals (a St. Louis Cardinals’ farm team), the Salt Lake City Bees (Independent), and the Twin Falls Cowboys (Independent). One of those cities – Ogden, Utah – has a team in the present-day Pioneer League [the Ogden Raptors]. In the Pioneer League’s second season, in 1940, a New York Yankees’ farm team joined the Pioneer League – the Idaho Falls Russets. The present-day Pioneer League has a team in Idaho Falls [the Idaho Falls Chukars]. In the seventh season of the Pioneer League in 1948, the league expanded from 6 teams to 8 teams with the inclusion of 2 teams from Montana – the Billings Mustangs and the Great Falls Electrics. Both those teams were Independents. The present-day Pioneer League has teams from Billings and Great Falls [the Billings Mustangs {who have maintained the same name their entire existence}, and the Great Falls Voyagers {who are nicknamed after a UFO incident that took place at the empty Great Falls' ballpark in 1951 and was witnessed and filmed by the team's general manager, see this, second paragraph 'Great Falls Voyagers' (en.wikipedia.org); see this, 'Nick Mariana UFO Footage - 1950 - Great Falls, Montana' (youtube.com).}.

The Pioneer League existed from 1939 to 1962 as a Class C minor league (with the 1943 through 1945 seasons not played, due to to manpower shortages because of World War II) , then the circuit spent one season as a Class A minor league in 1963, then, in 1964 (as a 4-team league), it was placed several rungs further down the minor-league-ladder, when Major League Baseball overhauled their minor league system in 1963-64. So the Pioneer League became a Rookie classification league in 1964.

Here were the teams in the 1964 Pioneer League (the first season the league played under the Rookie classification): the Treasure Valley (Caldwell, ID) Cubs (CHC), the Magic Valley (Magic Valley, ID) Cowboys (SFG), the Pocatello Chiefs (LAD), and the Idaho Falls Angels (ANA). Two seasons later, in 1966, Ogden, UT returned to the Pioneer League, with the inclusion of the Ogden Dodgers (LAD). That team was managed by Dodger legend and Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, who managed the Ogden Dodgers to 3 consecutive titles in 1966-68. [Ogden has had a Pioneer League team from 1939 to 1955, from 1966 to 1984, and since 1994, when the Ogden Raptors were formed. The Ogden Raptors are the highest drawing Pioneer League team. In 2012, the Odgen Raptors averaged 3,434 per game at their 5,060-capacity Lundquist Field. The Ogden metro-area has a population of around 547,000 {2010 figure}.]

The 4-team Pioneer League of the mid-1960s grew to a 6-team league in 1969 with the return of two other longtime Pioneer League cities, Billings, Montana and Great Falls, Montana. In 1975, the still-6-team Pioneer League crossed the border and had a Canadian team in the league for the first time with the inclusion of the Lethbridge (Alberta) Expos. Two more Canadian teams (in Calgary and in Medicine Hat, Alberta) were added 3 seasons later in 1978, when the Pioneer League became the 8-team league it is today. Today, all 3 Canadian teams are gone, however – the Pioneer League team the Calgary Expos relocated to Salt Lake City in 1985 to make room for a Triple A team in the PCL called the Calgary Cannons (but that franchise moved to Albequerque, NM in 2003); the Pioneer League team the Lethbridge Black Diamonds moved to Missoula, MT in 1999 and became the present-day Pioneer League team the Missoula Opsrey; and the Pioneer League team the Medicine Hat Blue Jays existed in the league for 25 years (but always struggled to get decent attendance) then moved to Helena, MT in 2003 to become the second incarnation of the Helena Brewers (II) (est.2003). That franchise still struggles with attendance, though, as Helena draws the least in the Pioneer League by some margin, at 880 per game in 2012. The original Helena franchise in the Pioneer League is still alive – the team was based in Helena, MT (1987-99); then in Provo, UT (2000-01) before moving to a suburb of Provo: Orem, UT, as the Orem Owlz (est.2002). The newest team in the Pioneer League began last season in 2012 – the Grand Junction Rockies, from western Colorado. This team was based in Butte, MT (1978-2000); then in Caspar, WY (2001-11).

By and large, the Pioneer League draws very well, with 6 of the 8 teams drawing above 2,300 per game. Plus the backdrops are stunning – the views from the stands in most Pioneer League ballparks are spectacular (as you can see on the map page above and in the 2 illustrations below).

When one considers the raw talent level of the players in the league, and the small size of several of the teams’ municipalities, the Pioneer League can be seen as having extremely healthy attendances – in 2012, the Pioneer League as a whole averaged 2,317 per game, better than a couple higher-placed affiliated minor leagues in Organized Baseball (the Pioneer League drew better than the California League and the Florida State League, both of which are Class A-Advanced minor leagues). Remember, that is 2,300 per game on average, to watch kids just out of high school. The best example of a tiny mountain community supporting it’s pro baseball team so well would have to be Missoula, Montana. Missoula has a population of only around 66,000 {2010 figure}, yet is able to come close on most game days to filling their 3,500-capacity Ogren Park, with an average crowd of 2,363 last season.

    The two highest-drawing teams in the Pioneer League -
    the Ogden Raptors and the Billings Mustangs.

Ogden Raptors, average attendance of 3,434 per game in 2012.
ogden-raptors_lindquist-field_ogden-raptors-cap-and-jersey_.gif
Photo credits above –
raptors.milbstore.com.
mbuckee at panoramio.com.
lcscbaseballhof.com.
Eric & Wendy Pastore at digitalballparks.com/Pioneer/Lindquist.html.

Billings Mustangs, average attendance of 3,045 per game in 2012.
billings-mustangs_dehler-park_.gif
Photo credits above –
mustangs.milbstore.com.
Phil Bell Photography at milb.com.
Joe Hedin at panoramio.com via tripomatic.com/United-States/Montana/Billings/Dehler-Park.
Phil Bell Photography at milb.com.
___

Photo credits on the map page -
Billings Mustangs/ Dehler Park, Joe Hedin at panoramio.com via tripomatic.com/United-States/Montana/Billings/Dehler-Park.
Great Falls Voyagers/ Centene Stadium, the baseball travele…at panoramio.com.
Helena Brewers/ Kindrik Legion Field, digitalballparks.com.
Missoula Osprey/ Ogren Park at Allegiance Field, murphsroadtrips.blogspot.com/2011/06/missoula-osprey-vs-billings-mustangs.

Grand Junction Rockies/ Suplizio Field, the baseball travelle… at panoramio.com.
Idaho Falle Chukats/ Melalaueca Field, ballparksite.host56.com.
Ogden Raptors/ Lundquist Field, the baseball travelle… at panoramio.com.
Orem Owlz/ Brent Brown Ballpark, utahvalley.com.

Thanks to Theshibboleth at en.wikipedia.org, for the USA blank map, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Blank_US_Map.svg.
Thanks to milb.com for attendances, http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=milb&t=l_att&lid=123.
Thanks to baseball-reference.com/minors, http://www.baseball-reference.com/.

February 22, 2013

Major League Baseball: Attendance map for the 2012 regular season, with percent changes from 2011, and percent-capacities.

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2012 Major League Baseball average attendance map


mlb.com

On the map, which you can see in full by clicking on the image above, a photo of each ball club’s 2012 home ball cap is sized to reflect 2012 gate figures…the higher the team’s average attendance, the larger the team’s ball cap is on the map. At the right on the map page are the 30 MLB teams (with their 2013 home cap crest), listed by 2012 attendance rank. Three extra stats for each team are included at the far right-hand side of the map page – Percent-Change from 2011 attendance, Stadium Seating Capacity, and Percent-Capacity [percent-capacity is arrived at this way...average attendance divided by stadium capacity equals Percent-Capacity]. As was the case in 2011, again last season (2012), two teams played to a cumulative percent-capacity of above 100% – the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox. That did not necessarily mean they sold out every game though, as MLB stadiums are allowed to issue Standing Room Only (SRO) tickets and that is the norm at Fenway Park in Boston and at Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philladelphia (the San Francisco Giants are also issuing a good deal of SRO tickets these days). So in practical terms, when you know that a league allows for overflow/SRO tickets and you see a percent-capacity figure of, say, 100.4%-capacity, what that number is most likely telling you is that a certain amount of the games were totally sold out plus had a couple hundred or so standing-room-only ticket-buyers; and a certain amount of the games came very close to being sold out at around 98 or 99%-capacity. That is what is happening most recent seasons with both the Phillies (for the last 4 seasons {since 2009}) and with the Red Sox (for the past 10 seasons now {since 2003}). It is just that one of those two teams is pretending they actually sell out every game (see below).

    The MLB teams that fill their ballpark the best
    (The top 5 percent-capacity figures for 2012) -

#1., at 100.8 percent-capacity – the Philadelphia Phillies. Citizens Bank Ballpark, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In 2012 the Phillies averaged 44,021 per game, and they led the Major Leagues in average attendance for the second straight season.
philadelphia-phillies_citizens-bank-ballpark_2012-best-attendance-in-mlb_e.gif
Photo credits above –
princetonvarsityclub.org.
shop.mlb.com.

#2., at 100.4 percent-capacity – the Boston Red Sox. Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts.
The Red Sox averaged 37,567, which was 8th highest in Major League Baseball in 2012.
boston-red-sox_fenway-park_d.gif
Photo credits above –
Phillip Greenspun / philip.greenspun.com.
shop.mlb.com.

The Red Sox have officially had a current sold-out streak of over 780 straight games but that claim is bogus because the Red Sox ticket office has been manipulating the concept of “sold-out” for a while now. True, the Red Sox do cumulatively draw above 100 percent, with standing-room-only the norm at most of their games at Fenway, and Boston has been drawing above 100% of seated capacity since 2003. But in recent seasons, some games, especially in the early-season (ie, cold weather games) are not completely sold out even if the Red Sox ticket office is giving away some tickets at the last minute. The following article from May 2012 flatly refutes the idea that the Red Sox’ home game sold-out streak is still alive… from boston.com, from May 4, 2012, by Bob Holher and Seth Lasko, ‘Red Sox sellout streak a real numbers game‘. In an early May 2012 game at Fenway, the reporter is at the Red Sox ticket booth when the box office is closing…{excerpt from the article linked to above}…’The correspondent saw the window clerk give away four more tickets moments after he received his. He then checked with the clerk just before the booth closed at 9:35 p.m. and was told that tickets remained unsold.’… {end of excerpt}.

Below, a photo of some of the crowd art a supposedly “sold out game” at Fenway Park in Boston in early May 2012…
boston-red-sox_bogus-sold-out-streak_.gif
Photo credit above – Yoon S. Byun/Globe staff via boston.com.

#3., at 99.4 percent-capacity – the San Francisco Giants. AT&T Park, San Francisco, CA.
The 2012 World Series Champions San Francisco Giants averaged 41,695, which was 4th highest in Major League Baseball in 2012.
san-francisco-giants_at-and-t_park_.gif
Photo credits above –
twgsponsorship.com/att-park.
shop.mlb.com.

#4., at 91.5 percent-capacity – the St. Louis Cardinals. Busch Stadium (III), St. Louis, Missouri.
The Cardinals averaged 40,272, which was 6th highest in Major League Baseball in 2012.
st-louis-cardinals_busch-stadium-iii_1.gif
Photo and Image credits above -
angelsarms.org.
Cardinals Nation logo from stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com.
shop.mlb.com.

#5., at 90.6 percent-capacity – the Detroit Tigers. Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan.
The Tigers averaged 37,383, which was 9th highest in Major League Baseball in 2012.
detroit-tigers_comerica-park_.gif
Photo credits above –
etsy.com.
shop.mlb.com.
___

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, ‘Major League Baseball‘; and at the Ballparks of Baseball.com site, for ballpark capacity numbers.
Thanks to ESPN site for 2012 and 2011 attendance figures.

Thanks to mlb.com/shop for 29 of the MLB teams’ home cap photos.
Thanks to sportsstation1.com for the photo of the Baltimore Orioles’ home cap.

June 22, 2012

Minor League Baseball: the Northwest League (Class A-Short Season).

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: MiLB Class A — admin @ 8:57 pm

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Northwest League


The Northwest League official site, http://northwest.league.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=l126.

The Northwest League is an 8-team Class A-Short Season minor league baseball league, and is part of Organized Baseball. It has teams in the states of Washington (4 teams), Oregon (2 teams), Idaho (1 team), and in the Canadian province of British Columbia (1 team). Although technically within the fourth level of the Major League/minor league ladder, these days the Class A-Short Season level of the three-tier Single A level is more universally regarded as the 6th level of Organized Baseball (with Class A-Advanced considered the 4th level, and Class-A considered the 5th level). Another way of putting it is that the two Class A-Short Season leagues – the Northwest League and the New York-Penn League – are more akin to the Rookie Leagues than to the other two higher sections of the Class A level.

The seasons really are much shorter in the two Class A-Short Season leagues. The 8-team Northwest League plays a 76-game season, as opposed to the much longer seasons in the two Class-A leagues (the 16-team league the Midwest League has a 138-game season, and the 14-team league the South Atlantic League has a 140-game season). The other league in the Northwest League’s section, the New York-Penn League, has 14 teams and a 74-game season. That means there are 22 teams in the two Short Season leagues. If you are wondering why there are just 22 teams in the Class A-Short Season section, and not the MLB-equivalent 30 teams (like the rest of the baseball ladder), again, this is an example of how much closer the Short Season leagues are to the Rookie Leagues – because those 8 Major League Baseball teams that don’t have a team in the Short Season leagues skip this level and have their short season farm team in one of the two top Rookie Leagues (in the Appalachian League or in the Pioneer League).

From ‘en.wikipedia.org/’Minor league baseball/Current system/Class A-Short Season‘…(excerpt)…
…’As the name implies, these leagues play a shortened season, starting in June and ending in early September with only a few off-days during the season. The late start to the season is designed to allow college players to complete the College World Series before turning professional, give major league teams time to sign their newest draftees, and immediately place them in a competitive league. Players in these leagues are a mixture of newly-signed draftees and second-year pros who weren’t ready to move on, or for whom there was not space at a higher level to move up. Second-year pros tend to be assigned to extended spring training until the short-season leagues begin. For many players, this is the first time they have ever used wooden baseball bats, as aluminum bats are most common in the amateur game. Players are permitted to use certain approved composite bats at this classification to help them make the transition from aluminum to wood bats. This is also often the first time they have played every day for a prolonged basis, as amateur competitions typically regulate the number of games played in a week…’ (end of excerpt).

In 2011, the Northwest League had a cumulative average attendance of 3,006 per game, which was an increase of +2.9% over the 2010 league average (which was 2,920 per game). [I could only find attendances for the Northwest League back to 2006, and the peak from 2006 to 2011 was been in 2008, at 3,026 per game {see baseball-reference.com/minors/2008 NWL .]

The roots of the Northwest League are in the second incarnation of the Western International League, which existed from 1937 to 1942 and from 1946 to 1954. It was a Class B league through 1951, then upgraded to a Class A league in 1952. Three years later, in 1955, the Western International League changed it’s name to the Northwest League. The Western International League had a larger percentage of Canadian teams than the Northwest League has had. Presently [2012], the Northwest League has one Canadian team – the Vancouver Canadians – who are the only Canadian minor league baseball team currently in Organized Baseball, in fact. By way of comparison, in 1954, it’s last year before changing it’s name to the Northwest League, the Western International League had 10 teams, four of which were Canadian.

Here were the teams in the last season of the Western International League (1954) -Calgary (Alberta, Canada), Edmonton (Alberta, Canada), Lewiston (Idaho), Salem (Oregon), Spokane (Washington), Kennewick/Pasco/Richland (Washington) [playing as "Tri-City"], Vancouver (BC, Canada), Victoria (BC, Canada), Wenatchee (Washington), and Yakima (Washington).

The original seven teams that formed the newly-named Northwest League the following season of 1955 were the Salem Senators, the Eugene Emeralds, the Yakima Bears (I), the Spokane Indians (I), the Tri-City Braves, the Wenatchee Chiefs, and the Lewiston Broncs. In its 50th anniversary season in 2004, five of the seven original cities were still in the Northwest League, and that is still the case today. Those 5 locations are Eugene, Salem, Spokane, Tri-City, and Yakima.

The top 3 drawing teams in 2011 in the Northwest League, starting with #3…
The Eugene Emeralds. PK Park, Eugene, Oregon -
eugene-emeralds_pk-park_d.gif
Photo credit above – milb.com.
The oldest currently active team in the Northwest League is the Eugene Emeralds, who formed in 1955 as an independently-affiliated minor league team and were a charter member of the Northwest League that same year. Eugene held on as an independent minor league ball club for it’s first 4 seasons (being an independent team within a predominantly MLB-affiliated minor league was way more common 50 or 60 years ago than it is today…today it is almost unheard of). Eugene’s first MLB-affiliation was in 1959, with the San Francisco Giants. All told, the Eugene Emeralds have been part of 10 MLB farm systems, including 2 separate stints as an independent club. In 1969, while part of the Philadelphia Phillies’ farm system, the Eugene Emeralds made the huge jump from a Class A-level team in the Northwest League to the Triple A-level Pacific Coast League. This only lasted 5 seasons, and in 1974, after the Phillies dropped them, the Eugene Emeralds, as an independent team, re-joined the Northwest League. The next year they became part of the Cincinnati Reds’ farm system (for a 9-year stint), and since then, the Emeralds have been part of the organizations of… the Kansas City Royals (for 11 years from 1984-94), the Atlanta Braves (for 4 years from 1995-98), the Chicago Cubs (for 2 years from 1999-2000), and, currently, with the San Diego Padres (for 12 years now, since 2001).

Eugene drew third best in the Northwest League in 2011, drawing 3,018 per game to their smart 4,000-capacity PK Park, which opened in 2009 and became the home of the Emeralds in 2010. PK Park features an open-air main stand protected by a bold sweeping roof – sensible for the rainy climate of coastal Oregon. In 2011, the Eugene Emeralds’ 75.4 percent-capacity was second-best in the league, and slightly higher than the Boise Hawks’ 75.3 percent-capacity. Only the second-newest Northwest League team – the Vancouver Canadians – had a higher percent-capacity last season (see below).

The Vancouver Canadians (II). Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada -
vancouver-canadians_ii_nat-bailey-stadium_e.gif
Photo credit above – friendsofnatbaileystadium.com.
In 2011, the Vancouver Canadians (est. 2000) led the Northwest League in percent-capacity (82.7%-capacity) and had the second-best attendance (4,267 per game). The Vancouver Canadians (II) were originally an Oakland A’s farm team for their first 11 seasons, and since 2011 have been affiliated with the only Major League Baseball team based in Canada, the Toronto Blue Jays. Having a Canadian parent-club helped Vancouver bump up attendance 199 per game from 2010. It must be pointed out that Vancouver, British Columbia is a pretty large city for this level (metro population, 2.1 million {2006 figure}). The city of Vancouver is, for lack of a better word, slumming it, by having their sole professional baseball club be in a minor league that is 5 levels below the Major Leagues. The city of Vancouver is also slumming it by having their baseball team play in a stadium that is 61 years old. On the map page, check out the six decades’ worth of moss growing on the roof of the Canadians’ Nat Bailey Stadium, which opened in 1951 (or see it here [at upper right, click the + sign to zoom in] via satellite view at Bing.com). And remember…this Class A-Short Season team is Organized Baseball’s only minor league team in all of Canada currently {‘List of baseball teams in Canada‘ (en.wikipedia.org)}.

In fact, there are 62 municipalities in Canada with a population of over 50,000, and only one of them, Vancouver, has an affiliated minor league baseball team. {See this, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_100_largest_metropolitan_areas_in_Canada.} London, Ontario’s London Tecumsehs were a successful 19th Century baseball club and a charter member of the first minor league, the International Association, which formed in 1877, one year after the National League was established {see this, from baseball-reference.com/Bullpen}. Toronto, Ontario, Canada had a top-level minor league team, The Toronto Maple Leafs (of the International League) from 1911 to 1967. In 1946, in the season before he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson played in Canada for the Brooklyn Dodgers’ top farm, the Montreal Royals (of the International League, 1928-1960). Baseball-reference.com lists 70 municipalities in Canada that have had minor league baseball teams, and the lion’s share of those teams were within Organized Baseball {Minor League Encyclopedia at baseball-reference.com (Canada is listed 4/5ths of the way down the page).) 20 years ago, in the 1992 season, there were 8 Canadian teams in Organized Baseball – 3 in Triple-A (Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver); 1 in Double-A (London, ON); 3 in Short Season-A (Hamiton, ON; St. Catherines, ON,; and Welland, ON); and 1 in the Rookie Leagues (Medicine Hat, Alberta). Canada has had a significant presence throughout the history of minor league baseball. Now the presence Canada has in minor league baseball is reduced to one Short Season Single-A team and 3 Independent league teams – the London Rippers, the Winnipeg Goldeyes, and the Québec Capitales. The London team is new for 2012, and the teams from Winnipeg, Manitoba and from Quebec City, Quebec can be seen on my map of the top 122-drawing minor league baseball teams from 2011 [map of Organized Baseball teams, including Independent league teams, that drew over 3,000 per game in 2011], http://billsportsmaps.com/?p=15779.

[I chose 50 K as a measuring tool because, while there still are teams within Organized Baseball that come from municipalities smaller than 50,000, this figure still can be seen as a general cut-off point for the city-size necessary to support a farm team of a Major League Baseball team. Examples of affiliated minor league teams from municipalities with less than 50K-metro-area-population in Organized Baseball in 2012 (in leagues which measure attendance [17 leagues])… In the 3 Class AAA leagues (zero). In the 3 Class AA leagues (zero). In the 7 leagues in the 3 Class A levels (4 teams). And in the Rookie Leagues [the 2 Rookie Leagues which measure attendance] (2 teams)… From the Midwest League (Class A): Burlington, IA; and Clinton, IA. From the New-York Penn League (A-Short Season): Batavia, NY; and Jamestown, NY. From the Appalachian League (Rookie): Danville, VA; and Elizabethton, TN.]

In case you are wondering, the smallest municipality with a team in the Northwest League is Kennewick/Pasco/Richland, WA, home of the Tri-City Dust Devils. The Tri-Cities, in south-central Washington state, have a metro population of around 253,000 {2010 figure}. [Note: Yakima, WA and Everett, WA are the smallest cities with a Northwest League teams, but Everett is part of Greater Seattle, and Yakima has a larger metro area than the Tri-Cities.]

So there you have it – Canada, land of the Hockey Puck, to the detriment of every other pro sport with the partial exceptions of the Canadian Football League, and soccer (there are 3 Major League Soccer teams based in Canada).

For 22 seasons, from 1978 to 1999, Vancouver had a Triple A team in the Pacific Coast League (who were also called the Canadians), but that franchise moved to Sacramento, California in 2000, and the Sacramento River Cats are these days one of the highest-drawing minor league teams (usually averaging above 8,000 per game). Soon after that, the other two remaining PCL teams based in Canada – in Calgary and in Edmonton – also moved to American cities (to, respectively, Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2003; and to Greater Austin, Texas in 2005). Both these 2 teams also draw very well now that they are no longer in Canada. Then, a couple years after that, to make the Triple-A totally devoid of a Canadian presence, the Ottawa Lynx of the International League (who drew horribly for Triple-A, like in the 2,000-to-3,000-per-game-range) moved out of Canada to Allentown, Pennsylvania in 2007, making the Vancouver Canadians the sole Canadian minor league team in Organized Baseball [2007-2012]. That Allentown, PA team, called the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, drew best in all of minor league baseball in 2011 {MiLB and Independent leagues’ 2011 attendance data, here (Ballpark Digest.com)}.

The Vancouver Canadians beat the Tri-Citiy Dust Devils in September 2011 to claim their first Northwest League title.

The Spokane Indians (IV). Avista Stadium, Spokane, Washington -
spokane-indians-iv_avista-stadium_.gif
Photo credit above – milb.com.
The highest-drawing team in the Northwest League is, once again, the Spokane Indians, of Spokane Valley, Greater Spokane. Spokane is in the parched and arid eastern half Washington state, near the Idaho panhandle. The Spokane Indians drew 4,827 per game at their 6,803-capacity Avista Stadium, which opened in 1958. The age of their ballpark makes Spokane’s good attendance even more significant, because the team is pulling in the highest crowds in the league with a stadium that is over half a century old. There was a Spokane team in the first two seasons of the Northwest League (1955-56) that went under. Then there was a different Spokane Indians team in the Triple-A PCL from 1958 to 1971 that was affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers revamped their farm teams and placed the Spokane team a couple rungs lower, so in 1972, Spokane had a team back in the Northwest League, but that version of the Spokane Indians lasted just that one season in ’72, because Spokane then landed a PCL franchise from Portland, Oregon, and the next year, 1973, Spokane had a Triple-A team again. This incarnation of the Spokane Indians lasted from 1973 to 1982, and was initially the top farm team of the new MLB club the Texas Rangers, then were the top farm of the Milwaukee Brewers from 1976-78, then were the top farm team of the nearby Seattle Mariners from 1979-81, then were the top farm team of the California Angels in 1982, then folded. The following year, 1983, the San Diego Padres put a farm team in Spokane, and for the city of Spokane, it was back down a few rungs again to the Northwest League, where this incarnation of the Spokane Indians, the present-day Spokane Indians (IV), have played now for 30 seasons, first as a Padres farm team (1983-94), then as a Kansas City Royals farm team (1995-2002), now back as a Texas Rangers farm team (2002-2012). The present-day Spokane Indians (1983-2012) have won the most Northwest League titles of any of the active teams in the league, with 8 titles, last in 2008.

For the record, with respect to league championships, the second-best showing by active teams, and by far the best percentage of titles-versus-seasons, is by the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (1997-2012). The Volcanoes have, very impressively, won 5 Northwest League titles in 15 seasons, with the Volcanoes’ last title in 2009. The Salem-Keizer Vocanoes have been a San Francisco Giants farm team ever since they started in 1997, and drew fourth-best in the Northwest League again in 2011, averaging 2,788 per game. The team is from Keizer, Oregon, which is 2 miles north of Salem, OR; and 37 miles south of Portland, OR. Salem, Oregon’s metro area population is around 396,000 {2009 figure}.

List of Northwest League champions‘ [1960-present] (en.wikipedia.org).
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Photo and Image credits on map page -
Boise Hawks, idahoairships at panoramio.com.
Spokane Indians, bing.com/maps/bird’s eye satellite view.
Tri-City Dust Devils, bing.com/maps/bird’s eye satellite view.
Yakima Bears, Larry Stone/seattletimes.nwsource.com.

Eugene Emeralds, citadelgroup.org/construction-portfolio.
Everett AquaSox, bing.com/maps/bird’s eye satellite view.
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, bing.com/maps/bird’s eye satellite view.
Vancouver Canadians, bing.com/maps/bird’s eye satellite view

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.com, ‘Northwest League‘.

Thanks to Baseball-refernce.com, for info on the teams and the seasons they were in the Northwest League, ‘Northwest League (Short-Season A) Encyclopedia and History‘ (baseball-reference.com).

Thanks to Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page, for some of the logos, ‘Northwest League Logos’.

Attendance figures were culled from web.minorleaguebaseball.com. You won’t be able to find 2011 attendance figures for any of the minor leagues in Organized Baseball if you go to their site now, though…they get rid of all data from the previous season some time around the New Year. But I learned that the hard way last year, so I took screen shots of all 11 minor leagues’ 2011 attendance figures in December 2011, when the figures were still there. Hey MiLB – is it so hard to archive the data? Anyway, here is the BizofBaseball.com’s archive for minor league attendance (2010 is missing, though), bizofbaseball.com/MiLB attenadnce archive (2005-2009; 2011).

Here is NumberTamer’s 2010 Minor League Baseball attendance report [pdf] (60 pages).
Here is NumberTamer’s 2011 Minor League Baseball attendance report [pdf] (66 pages)

June 13, 2012

Minor League Baseball: the South Atlantic League (a Class-A league).

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: MiLB Class A — admin @ 8:50 pm

milb_2012_south-atlantic-league_greensboro-grasshoppers_b.gif
South Atlantic League





The South Atlantic League (III) is a 14-team Class A minor league baseball league within Organized Baseball. In 2011, the South Atlantic League averaged a solid 3,148 per game. The highest -drawing team in 2011 was one of the newest teams in the “Sally League”, the New Jersey-based Lakewood Blue Claws, who drew 6,558 per game – a very impressive figure for Single-A baseball. That figure was 28th highest in all of minor league baseball in 2011. Second-highest-drawing South Atlantic League team in 2011 was one of the oldest teams in the league, the Greensboro Grasshoppers, who have had a Sally League team since 1980, which was the first season of the modern-day South Atlantic League (III) (more on that further below). Greensboro drew 5,545 per game, which was 45th highest in all of minor league baseball in 2011 {map of top 122 drawing minor league teams in 2011, here}. The Greensboro Grasshoppers were also 2011 South Atlantic League champions {‘South Atlantic League/champions‘ (en.wikipedia.org).

There have been 3 South Atlantic Leagues throughout the history of minor league baseball in America. The first Sally League existed from 1904 to 1917; and 1919 to 1930, and was a Class C minor league up until 1920, when it became a Class B league. The second South Atlantic League, also a Class B league, existed from 1936 to 1942; then shut down because of World War II, and re-started and played from 1946 to 1962. In 1962, in the last season of the South Atlantic League (II), the league moved up a level to Class A. One year [1963] was then taken off for re-organization. In 1964, South Atlantic League (II) took the place of the disbanded-because-they-refused-to-integrate Southern Association (1901-1961).

South Atlantic League (II) circa 1936 to 1962 is actually the present-day Southern League (1963-present). [The Southern League is a Class AA league.]

After 1961, the name “South Atlantic League” went unused for 16 years. Then the name was adopted by the [Class A] Western Carolinas League (which existed from 1960 to 1979). That league was just a 5-team league in its last season before the name-change (see below). So in 1980, South Atlantic League (III) was established, also as a Class A level league within Organized Baseball.

Here are the 5 teams in the last season of the Western Carolinas League (1979) that switched from the Western Carolinas League of 1979 into the newly re-established South Atlantic League (III) of 1980…
-Asheville Tourists (1976 to present) – the Asheville Tourists are still in the South Atlantic League (and an Ashevile minor league baseball has been in nine different minor leagues throughout their 98-year history, from 1915 to 2012).
-Gastonia (NC) Cardinals (1977-82) – the Gastonia South Atlantic League franchise changed its name 3 times as their affiliation changed (Gastonia Expos: 1983-84; Gastonia Jets:1985 [Independent]; Gastonia Tigers: 1986; Gastonia Rangers: 1987-92). In 1993, the Gastonia franchise moved 40 miles north to Hickory, NC and became the Hickory Crawdads (1993 to present [2011]).
-Greensboro (NC) Hornets (1979-1993) – the Greensboro team is still in existence in the South Atlantic League…the Greensboro Hornets changed their name to the Greensboro Bats (in 1994), then changed their name to the Greensboro Grasshoppers (in 2004).
-Greenwood (SC) Braves (1968-79; 1980-93 as the Greenwood Pirates) – defunct.
-Shelby (NC) Pirates (as Shelby Reds, 1977-78; Pirates, 1979-80; Mets, 1981-82) – franchise moved to Columbia, SC (1983-2004); then moved to Greenville, SC as the present-day Sally League team the Greenville Drive.
These 5 teams went directly from the 1979 Western Carolinas League to the 1980 Sally League.

Here is an illustration of the 8 teams in the inaugural 1980 season of the South Atlantic League (III)…
milb_south-atlantic-league1980_e.gif
1980 Final standings, South Atlantic League -
North Division
Greenboro Hornets (NYY) (champions)
Gastonia Cardinals (STL)
Asheville Tourists (TEX)
Shelby Pirates (PIT)

South Division
Charleston Royals (KCR)
Spartanburg Phillies (PHI)
Anderson Braves (ATL)
Macon Peaches (Independent)

Three of these teams have remained ever since in the same city – the Asheville Tourists, the Greenboro team (now called the Grasshoppers); and the Charleston, South Carolina team (Charleston Royals, 1980-84; Charleston Rainbows, 1985-93; Charleston RiverDogs, 1994-present).

The following year, 1981, the Macon Peaches became a Detroit affiliate and shed their precarious Independent-status (the only other Independent team in this league would be the aforementioned Gastonia Jets, in 1985). Macon later became the Macon Redbirds, then the Macon Pirates, and then, in 1988 moved 100 miles east to Augusta, GA and became the Augusta Pirates, then the Augusta GreenJackets (1994 to present/in Augusta since 1988). Also in 1981, 2 more teams were added to make the South Atlantic League a 10-team league – the Florence (SC) Blue Jays and the Greenwood Pirates. In 1987, the Sally League became a 12-team league, and spread its reach to West Virginia with the addition of the Charleston (WV) Wheelers, who were the Charleston Alley Cats from 1995-2004, and since 2005 have been known as the Charleston Power. The other new team in 1987 was the Myrtle Beach Blue Jays, which was the transferred Florence NC franchise. By 1988, other Sally League teams included the aforementioned Augusta Pirates, the Columbia (SC) Mets, the Fayetteville Generals, the Savannah Cardinals and the Sumter (SC) Braves.

In 1991, the Sally League expanded once again, with the re-introduction of a Macon, GA team – the Macon Braves; and the inclusion of a former Southern League team – the Columbus (GA) Indians. In 1993, the Sally League spread its range further north with their first Maryland-based team, the Hagerstown Suns (1993-present). Also in 1993, (as mentioned before) a team from Hickory, NC joined the league – the Hickory Crawdads. In 1994, Spartanburg said goodbye to its minor league team, and that team move east to Kannapolis, NC (a town 20 miles north of Charlotte), initially as the Piedmont Boll Weevils, then the Kannapolis Intimidators (since 2001, and named in honor of the late NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, who had purchased a share of the team in 2000, before his death during a race in February, 2001). In 1996, a second Maryland-based team was added to the Sally League, with the new Delmarva Shorebirds of Salisbury, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. That same year, the South Atlantic League tried a new format, with 3 divisions, with a 4-team North Division (Delmarva, Hagerstown, Charleston (WV), and Fayetteville); a 6-team Central Division (Asheville, Hickory, Piedmont, Greensboro, Capitol City [Columbia, SC], and Charleston (SC)); and a 4-team South Division, all teams from Georgia, (Macon, Columbus, Augusta, Savannah). The 3-division format lasted from 1996 to 1999.

In 2001, the South Atlantic League expanded yet again, to a 16-team league, with the inclusion of the first team in the Sally League from Kentucky, the Lexington Legends; and the Wilmington (NC) Waves, who lasted one year (with an inadequate ballpark), then moved to Albany, GA as the South Georgia Waves (2002), then moved to the suddenly-vacant Columbus, GA spot (see 2 sentences below) with the same name (South Georgia Waves, 2003), then became the Columbus Catfish (2003-08), then moved again (see 2 sentences below). Also in 2001, the first Sally League team from the Northeast began play – the Lakewood Blue Claws, of Lakewood Township, NJ (located about 45 minutes south of New York City and about 1 hour north-east of Philadelphia). This team was the transplanted Fayetteville franchise. In 2003, the Macon Braves moved 130 miles NW to Rome, GA as the Rome Braves (2003-present). Also in 2003, the Columbus, GA team, the RedStixx, moved north to become the second South Atlantic League team north of the Mason-Dixon line by moving to northeast Ohio in Eastlake, Ohio (16 miles east of Cleveland), as the Lake County Captains (in the South Atlantic League from 2003 to 2009). The Lake County Captains would (logically) end up in the other Class A league , the Midwest League, in 2010. The other team that would leave the Sally League to join the Midwest League in 2010 was the Bowling Green Hot Rods, of Bowling Green, Kentucky, established in 2009 in the South Atlantic League, who were the transplanted Columbus, GA franchise (last called the Catfish, 2004-08).

So since 2010, the other Single-A league in Organized Baseball – the Midwest League – has had 16 teams, and the South Atlantic League has had 14 teams.

Photo and Image credits –
Delmarva Shorebirds, littleballparks.com.
greensboro Grasshoppers, bing.com/maps/bird’s eye satellite view.
Hagerstown Suns, bing.com/maps/bird’s eye satellite view.
Hickory Crawdads, setzler.net.
Kannapolis Intimidators, intimidators.mlblogs.com.
Lakewood BlueClaws, bing.com/maps/bird’s eye satellite view.
West Virginia Power, littleballparks.com.

Asheville Tourists, photo by Baseball Bugs at en.wikipedia.org.
Augusta GreenJackets, Augusta GreenJackets via web.minorleaguebaseball.com.
Charleston RiverDogs, bing.com/maps/bird’s eye satellite view.
Greenville Drive, bing.com/maps/bird’s eye satellite view.
Lexington Legends, bing.com/maps/bird’s eye satellite view.
Rome Braves, charliesballparks.com.
Savannah Sand Gnats, bing.com/maps/bird’s eye satellite view.

Base map of 1980 SAL map by Júlio Reis at commons.wikimedia.org at: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Historical_blank_US_map_1865.svg.
Thanks to http://www.littleballparks.com/.
Thanks to Baseball Reference.com, ‘South Atlantic League (A) Encyclopedia and History‘.

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