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.

baseball_minor-leagues_84-highest-drawing-teams_2013-avg-attendance_all-milb-affiliated-and-independent-teams_drawing-over-4000-per-game_post_t_.gif
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

June 27, 2013

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

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

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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 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‘.

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).
_

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‘.

April 14, 2012

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

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: MiLB Class A — admin @ 7:08 pm

milb_carolina-league_2012_post_.gif
2012 Carolina League



The Carolina League is an 8-team Class A-Advanced minor league in Organized Baseball, 3 levels below Major League Baseball. In 2011, the Carolina League, as a whole, drew 3,448 per game. That figure was better than the other two Class A-Advanced leagues in Organized Baseball, the California League (which averaged 2,303 per game in 2011), and the Florida State League (which averaged 1,642 per game in 2011). The Carolina League also drew better than one league in Organized Baseball which is higher-placed that it – the Southern League, which averaged 3,242 per game. {List of all minor leagues’ 2011 league-attendance-averages, along with a map of the 122 highest-drawing MiLB teams in 2011, here.}

The Carolina League traces it’s history back to 1945, when it was established as a Class C minor league with 8 teams, 2 of which were unaffiliated (or Independent). The 8 teams in the 1945 Carolina League were all based in either southern Virginia (2 teams) or North Carolina (6 teams) – the Independent team the Burlington (NC) Bees, the New York Giants’ farm team the Danville (VA) Leafs, the Independent team the Durham (NC) Bulls, the Philadelphia Phillies’ farm team the Greensboro Patriots, the Chicago Cubs’ farm team the Leaksville-Draper-Spray (NC) Triplets, the Philadelphia Athletics’ minor league team the Martinsville (VA) A’s, the Cincinnati Reds’ minor league team the Raleigh (NC) Capitals, and the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league team the Winston-Salem Cardinals.

These days [2012], there are still 2 teams from southern Virginia in the Carolina League – the Boston Red Sox’ farm team the Salem Red Sox, and the Atlanta Braves’ farm team the Lynchburg Hillcats. But there is no longer a majority of teams from North Carolina in the Carolina League, because the range of the Carolina League has expanded north to include teams from northern Virginia (the Washington Nationals’ farm team the Potomac Nationals, based in Woodbridge, VA), from Maryland (the Baltimore Orioles’ farm team the Frederick Keys) and from Delaware (the Kansas City Royals’ farm team the Wilmington Blue Rocks); and the Carolina League range has spread south to include a team from South Carolina (the Texas Rangers’ farm team the Myrtle Beach Pelicans). Rounding out the rest of the 2012 Carolina League teams are the Winston-Salem Dash (a Chicago White Sox farm team), and the Carolina Mudcats (a Cleveland Indians farm team). These last two teams are from two areas in North Carolina which have had a long connection with the Carolina League.

The top 3 drawing teams in the Carolina League
Winston-Salem, North Carolina has had a team in the Carolina League all throughout the league’s 68-year history [up to 2012]. Here are all the names of the Winston-Salem minor league baseball teams -
Winston-Salem Dash (2009-present)
Winston-Salem Warthogs (1995-2008)
Winston-Salem Spirits (1984-1994)
Winston-Salem Red Sox (1961-1983)
Winston-Salem Red Birds (1957-1960)
Winston-Salem Cardinals (1945-1953)
Winston-Salem Twins ([pre-Carolina League teams: 1905, 1908-1917, 1920-1933, 1937-1942], 1954-1956).
Below – Winston-Salem Dash
b-b-t_ballpark_winston-salem_dash_.gif
Photo credit above – BB&T Ballpark/visitsouth.com.

The highest drawing team in the Carolina League these days is the oldest team in the league, the Winston-Salem Dash, who drew 4,662 per game in 2011. It must be pointed out that Winston-Salem’s league-leading gate figures are pretty much the result of a brand-new stadium (their BB&T Ballpark opened in 2010), because in 2008, the Winston-Salem team, then called the Warthogs, drew 2,575 per game; and in 2009, when most every baseball fan in town, it seems, was waiting for the new ballpark to open, they only drew 901 per game (and Winston-Salem drew 4,593 per game in the inaugural season in BB& T Ballpark, in 2010).

Below – Wilmington Blue Rocks
daniel-s-frawley-stadium_wilmington-blue-rocks_b.gif
Photo credit above – milb.com/Frawley Stadium.
The other two teams in the league that draw over 4,000 per game are the Wilmington Blue Rocks (see above), and the Frederick Keys (see below). Unlike Winston-Salem, both Frederick and Wilmington have been drawing above 4,000 per game since at least 2005 (which is as far back that the attendance data I could find goes,here, at the Biz of Baseball.com site). Wilmington, Delaware, with a city population of around 70,000, is 21 miles south of Philadelphia, PA. Frederick, Maryland, with a city population of around 65,000, is 40 miles NW of Washington DC.
Below – Frederick Keys
harry-grove-stadium_frederick-keys_b.gif
Photo credit above – ballparkdigest.com/ballpark-visit-harry-grove-stadium-frederick-keys.

Below: franchise and league shifts of teams in the Carolina League between the 2011 and the 2012 seasons…
carolina-mudcats-II_kinston-to-zebulon_zebulon-to-pensacola_b.gif
The Greater Raleigh/Durham area has one team currently in the Carolina League – a new team, the second incarnation of the Zebulon, NC-based Carolina Mudcats, who took over the Kinston, NC-based Kinston Indians’ spot in the Carolina League after the 2011 season. [Zebulon, NC is 18 miles east of Raleigh, NC.] The Carolina Mudcats dropped down a level, from being a Double-A level Southern League team (in the Cincinnati Reds’ farm system), to being a team in the Class A-Advanced Carolina League (as a team in the Cleveland Indians’ farm system). This was implemented by the Carolina Mudcats taking the league-place of the Kinston Indians, who are now defunct (the Kinston Indians were the lowest-drawing team in the Carolina League, drawing 1,780 per game in 2011). The franchise that was the Carolina Mudcats (I) of the Southern League (1991 to 2011) moved to Pensacola, Florida to become the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, in 2012. ['Pensacola Blue Wahoos' (en.wikipedia.org).]

Bull Durham and it’s connection to the 1987 Carolina League
At one time there were 2 teams from the Greater Raleigh/Durham area in the Carolina League – the Durham Bulls and the Raleigh Capitals. The Durham Bulls still exist…they moved up a couple levels to Triple-A baseball, and have been in the International League since 1998, where they flourish as the top minor-league affiliate of the talent-loaded Tampa Bay Rays’ organization. The Durham Bulls were a Carolina League team from the league’s establishment in 1945 to 1967, and were re-established from 1980 to 1997, then made the aforementioned jump up to Class AAA. This second incarnation of the Durham Bulls, circa the mid-to-late-1980s, was concurrent with the filming and release of the classic film Bull Durham (1988), which was the brainchild of ex-minor league baseball player Ron Shelton, who wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. Sports Illustrated called Bull Durham the greatest sports movie of all time. {Here is the official site for Bull Durham at MGM.com.}

While Shelton never actually played in the Carolina League {Ron Shelton minor league stats at baseball-reference.com}, he did have a 5-year career in the Baltimore Orioles organization, playing in the Appalachian League, the Texas League, the California League, and the International League. He retired from baseball during the 1972 player strike. Cut to around 14 years later, and Shelton began writing what would become the screenplay for Bull Durham as he took a meandering road trip through North Carolina. He then went back to Los Angeles and wrote the screenplay for Bull Durham in a 12-week period (I am guessing that this occurred in 1986).

Shelton at this point had 2 filmed screenplays to his credit (including The Best of Times (1986), which starred Kurt Russell and Robin Williams as former high school footballer players), but Bull Durham was his directorial debut. Many of the scenes in Bull Durham are reconstructions of incidents, anecdotes, and general characteristics of the minor league baseball world which Shelton encountered as a minor league ballplayer. The character of the veteran catcher called “Crash” Davis (played by Kevin Costner) was named after a former MLB and Carolina League player named Lawrence “Crash” Davis {his Wikipedia page, here}. The baseball-groupie/seductress/ “Church of Baseball” proselytizer character played by Susan Sarandon in the film, Annie Savoy, was so-named because minor league ballplayers often called the groupies that hung around the ballparks “Baseball Annies”. But the Annie Savoy character was not a shallow groupie, she was a pretty deep thinker…via the IMDB.com site, here is the great soliloquy Annie has in the film, on why baseball is a better religion than any of the other established religions. Incidentally, the “Nuke” LaLoosh character (a cocky young phenom pitcher), played by Tim Robbins, which is so instrumental to the greatness of the film, was set to be played by Anthony Michael Hall, until Shelton put his foot down and threatened to leave the project unless Robbins got the role.

A scene from Bull Durham, which you can see here
bull-durham_strikeouts-are-fascist_b.gif
Image credits above – Orion Pictures/MGM via Trelvis68 at youtube.com [see the video clip, here]. logoshak.com. amazon.com/Durham-Jersey-Crash-Davis-Baseball/dp/B002YY2DLE.

In Bull Durham, the team, the fictional 1987 Durham Bulls, and the real-life Durham Bulls’ ballpark of the time, are two of the primary features of the film. [Durham Athletic Park (1926-present, not in use today/Wikipedia page, here.] The teams in the film wear the actual uniforms of the real-life teams in the 1987 Carolina League (and not just the Durham Bulls uniforms, but also the Peninsula White Sox, the Winston-Salem Spirits, the Salem Bucs, etc. are the real 1987 uniforms of those teams). The only place where Bull Durham lacks versimilitude is that, in the film, teams from another actual minor league, the South Atlantic League of 1987, play against the Durham Bulls, which would never happen in real life (such as, in the scene above, where the Durham Bulls were playing the [now-defunct] Fayetteville Generals, who were a South Atlantic League team from 1987 to 1996). Not that that detracts at all from the film, it’s just that, as a baseball geek, I felt duty-bound to point that out.

Bull Durham filming locations‘ (IMBD.com).

Here were the teams in the 1987 Carolina League -
North Division
Team (with Affiliation):
Salem Buccaneers PIT
Hagerstown Suns BAL
Prince William Yankees NYY
Lynchburg Mets NYM

South Division
Team (with Affiliation):
Kinston Indians CLE
Winston-Salem Spirits CHC
Peninsula White Sox CHW
Durham Bulls ATL

Here is where the 1987 Carolina League teams/franchises are today, and what those teams are named today:
In the 1987 Carolina League, there was 1 team from Maryland –
Hagerstown Suns (still an MiLB city as of 2012, having moved over to the Class-A South Atlantic League in 1993).

In the 1987 Carolina League, there were 4 teams from Virginia -
- Lynchburg Mets (still a Carolina League city as of 2012 – today known as the Lynchburg Hillcats).
- Peninsula White Sox (Hampton, VA; no minor league team there today [2012], but the franchise still exists…the Peninsula Pilots moved north to Wilmington, Delaware in 1993, where the Wilmington Blue Rocks still exist as a Carolina League team).
- Prince William Yankees (franchise started as Alexandria (VA) Dukes (1978-80; 1982-83)/ moved to Prince William (VA) (1984-98)/ moved to Woodbridge (VA) today the franchise (from 1999 to present) is known as the Potomac Nationals).
- Salem Buccaneers (still a Carolina League city as of 2012 – today known as the Salem Red Sox).

In the 1987 Carolina League, there were 3 teams from North Carolina -
- Durham Bulls (still exist as a Triple-A team in the International League [since 1998].
- Kinston Indians (went defunct after 2011, franchise moved east to become Carolina Mudcats (II) (est. 2012 as a Carolina League team).
- Winston-Salem Spirits (still a Carolina League city as of 2012 – today known as the Winston-Salem Dash).

Here is a Q&A with Ron Shelton, by Richard Deitsch at SI.com, ‘Ron Shelton Q&A‘.

Here is a very comprehensive interview of Ron Shelton, by John Zelazny, at eightmillionstories.com, ‘Ron Shelton: From the Red Wings to BULL DURHAM‘.
_

Photo and Image credits on the map page -
Frederick Keys/ Harry Grove Stadium, here2play.wordpress.com.
Lynchburg Hillcats/ Calvin Falwell Field, littleballparks.com.
Potomac Nationals/ G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium, bing.com/maps.
Wilmington Blue Rocks/ Daniel S. Frawley Stadium, bing.com/maps.

Carolina Mudcats/ Five County Stadium, skyscrapercity.com thread, ‘Little Ballparks‘.
Salem Red Sox/ Lewis-Gale Field at Salem Memorial Baseball Stadium, “the basebal travele…” at panoramio.com.
Myrtle Beack Pelicans/ BB&T Coastal Field, bing.com/maps.
Winston-Salem Dash/ BB&T Ballpark, visitsouth.com.

I used this list, from Ballparkdigest.com, ‘2011 Baseball Attendance by Average [350 minor league baseball teams' 2011 average attendances]‘. Thanks very much to the Ballparksdigest.com site for the comprehensive attendance data.

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, ‘Minor league baseball‘; ‘Carolina League‘.

February 29, 2012

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.

milb_2011_top-122-drawing-clubs_post_e.gif
2011 Minor League Baseball Attendance Map



Side-note:
At Reddit.com, there are some interesting, informative, and pretty funny comments on this map. Here is the comment thread for this 2011 Minor League Baseball Attendance map at reddit.com, http://en.reddit.com/r/baseball/comments/13o9fu/attendance_in_minor_league_baseball_map_of_the/.

In 2011, in North America, there were 350 minor league teams in 34 leagues which measured attendance. This map shows all the minor league baseball teams that drew over 3,000 per game in 2011 (figures from home regular season average attendance). 103 of these teams are pro teams from Organized Baseball. 18 of these teams are pro teams from Independent minor league baseball leagues. 1 team is amateur, the highest-drawing team of the 19 Independent teams on the map, the Madison Mallards of Madison, Wisconsin, who play in the College summer league called the Northwoods League.

108 of these teams are based in the United States. 11 of these teams are based in Mexico. 3 of these teams are based in Canada.

Minor League Baseball (aka MiLB), which is part of Organized Baseball, has teams who are affiliated, as farm teams, with one of the 30 Major League Baseball clubs (with the exception of the Mexican League, which is part of Organized Baseball, but whose 14 teams have no affiliation with an MLB club). Minor League Baseball has 19 leagues spread across 4 levels (AAA, AA, A, Rookie). 15 of these 19 leagues in MiLB post attendance figures (the leagues in MiLB that do not record attendances are the Arizona League, the Gulf Coast League, the Dominican Summer League, and the Venezuela Summer League – all Rookie Leagues).

Note: average attendance by league can be found three paragraphs down.

The map is an attendance-map for the 122 teams. The logos and circles on the map are sized to reflect average attendance…the larger the team’s cap logo and accompanying circular segment is, the higher the team’s attendance is. At the far right on the map page is a two-column-list of all the 122 teams, in order of 2011 attendance rank. Alongside each team in the list is their home cap logo; and either their MLB parent club’s home cap logo, or the logo of their league (for the 30 teams from either the Mexican League [there are 11 Mexican League teams on the map] or for the teams from one of the 5 Independent Leagues represented here [there are 19 Independent teams on the map, 8 teams from the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball]; 7 teams from the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball; 2 teams from the Frontier League; 1 team from the Northwoods League (which is a College summer league), and 1 team from the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball (aka the Can-Am League).]

Below: the 19 Independent minor league baseball teams that drew over 3,000 per game in 2011…
Note: to enlarge image below, click on image below, then hit the Ctrl key and the + key at the same time, twice…
minor-league-baseball_top-drawing-independent-league-teams2011_segment_c.gif

Breakdown of the 103 teams from Organized Baseball on the map. Included is the 2011 average attendance of each league.
Triple-A / AAA:
6,956 per game – International League – all 14 teams on the map.
6,156 per game – Pacific Coast League – all 16 teams on the map.
4,693 per game – Mexican League – 11 of the 14 teams on the map.
Double-A / AA:
4,868 per game – Eastern League – all 12 teams on the map.
3,242 per game – Southern League – 7 of the 10 teams on the map.
5,247 per game – Texas League – all 8 teams on the map.
Class-A / A:
Class A-Advanced:
2,303 per game – California League – 2 of 10 teams on the map.
3,448 per game – Carolina League – 5 of 8 teams on the map.
1,642 per game – Florida State League – none of the 12 teams on the map.
Class-A:
3,754 per game – Midwest League – 10 of 16 teams on the map.
3,358 per game – South Atlantic League – 6 of the 14 teams on the map.
Class A-Short Season:
3,507 per game – New York-Penn League – 8 of the 14 teams on the map.
3,007 per game – Northwest League – 3 of the 8 teams on the map.
Advanced Rookie:
862 per game – Appalachian League – none of the 10 teams on the map.
2,229 per game – Pioneer League – 1 of the 8 teams on the map.

lehigh-valley-ironpigs_coca-cola-park_allentown-pa_i.gif

Photo credits above – Rochester Area Ballparks site. noisenation.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/who-are-the-lehigh-valley-ironpigs.
The top drawing minor league baseball team in 2011 was Allentown, Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley IronPigs, who drew 9,428 per game to their Coca-Cola Park (Allentown), which opened in 2008 and has considerably less seats than their average crowd last season…the ballpark has 8,100 seats, and has a capacity of 10,000 (overflow can sit on the grass areas as seen in the photo at sunset above; and, in picnic areas as seen in the foreground in the top photo above). The Lehigh Valley IronPigs are the Philadelphia Phillies’ top minor league affiliate, and play in the International League. Allentown, Pennsylvania is 48 miles north of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Allentown, PA has a city population of around 118,000 and a metropolitan area of around 816,000 {2010 figures}, making it the 62nd largest metro area in the USA. The Lehigh Valley IronPigs, originally called the Ottawa Lynx, moved to eastern Pennsylvania from Ottawa, Canada after the 2007 season, following years of low attendance in the Canadian capital.


dayton-dragons_fifth-third-field_h.gif

Photo and Image credits above – unclebobsballparks84.tripod.com/fifththirdfield. bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view.
The highest-drawing team outside of Triple-A baseball is once again the Dayton Dragons, who are the third-highest-level farm team in the Cincinnati Reds’ organization, and who play in the Class-A level Midwest League. In 2011, the Dayton Dragons drew 8th-best in all of minor league baseball despite the fact that there are 104 teams in MiLB that are in leagues (5 leagues) higher-placed than the Class-A level. The Dragons drew 8,288 per game last season to their 7,230-seating-capacity ballpark called Fifth Third Field (Dayton). So, in other words, last season Dayton filled all their seats each game plus they had over 1,000 fans per game who watched the Dragons from the lawn areas of their ballpark (as seen in the foreground of the top photo above). Dayton, Ohio is 49 miles north of Cincinnati, Ohio. Dayton, OH has a city population of 174,000 and a metropolitan area population of 841,000, making it the 61st biggest metro area in the USA.

The Dayton Dragons have a sold-out streak that is an active record [circa end of 2011 season], and is above 800-straight-sellouts. From nytimes.com, from July 2 2011, by George Vecsey, ‘For One Minor League Baseball Team, Never an Empty Seat,’

_

I used this list, from Ballparkdigest.com, ‘2011 Baseball Attendance by Average [350 minor league baseball teams' 2011 average attendances]‘. Thanks very much to the Ballparksdigest.com site for the comprehensive attendance data.

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, ‘Minor league baseball‘; ‘Independent minor leagues (not affiliated with Major League Baseball)‘.

July 8, 2011

Minor League Baseball: the New York-Penn League (Class A-Short Season).

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: MiLB Class A — admin @ 8:34 pm

milb_2011_new-york_penn_league_post_d.gif
New York-Penn League (Short Season A)



The New York-Pennsylvania League is a minor league baseball league that is almost universally known as the New York-Penn League. Although part of the Class A level of minor league baseball, it is, along with the Northwest League, classified as a Short-Season A league. And they really are short seasons – the New York-Penn league regular season consists of 74 games played by each of the 14 teams in the circuit. By way of comparison, the Class A Midwest League plays 138 games in a season, and the Advanced-A California League plays 140 games in a season. The other Short Season A league – the Northwest League – plays 76 games in a season, and has 8 teams.

The shorter season and the player restrictions (see below) contribute to the fact that Short Season A leagues are viewed as effectively one level lower than the two Class A leagues (the South Atlantic League and the Midwest League) and two levels below the three Advanced-A leagues (the California League, Florida State League, and the Carolina League).

from en.wikipedia.org –
“Player limits and requirements for the New York-Penn League…
New York – Penn League teams may have no more than 3 players on their active lists that have 4 or more years of prior combined Major League / Minor League service, with the exception of position players changing roles to become a pitcher or a pitcher changing into a position player. Teams may get to eliminate up to one year of time of Minor League service for players who have spent time on the disabled list.
By July 1 of each year, all clubs must have at least 10 pitchers.
Maximum number of players under team control is 35, 30 of those may be active, but only 25 may be in uniform and eligible to play in any given game.”

Last season, the New York-Penn League was the 6th highest-drawing minor league in Organized Baseball.
The New York-Penn League drew 3,490 per game in 2010, and had a better average attendance than 5 other minor leagues which are at a higher level.
Here are all the minor leagues’ average attendances for 2010 -
Average attendance of minor leagues in 2010…
International League (AAA) – 6,908 per game.
Pacific Coast League (AAA) – 6,120 per game.
Texas League (AA) – 5,264 per game.
Eastern League (AA) – 4,663 per game.
Midwest League (A) – 3,787 per game.
New York-Penn League (A-Short Season) – 3,490 per game.
South Atlantic League (A) – 3,306 per game.
Carolina League (A-Advanced) – 3,256 per game.
Mexican League (AAA) – 3,232 per game.
Southern League (AA) – 3,188 per game.
Northwest League (A-Short Season) – 2,920 per game.
California League (A-Advanced) – 2,237 per game.
Pioneer League (Rookie) – 2,158 per game.
Appalachian League (Rookie) – 865 per game.
[Arizona League, Gulf Coast League, Dominican Summer League and Venezuela Summer League attendances not available]
[Numbers from Baseball-Reference.com].

Part of the reason for the popularity of the New York-Penn league with fans is that some franchises in the league have relocated to certain areas in the last decade…well-populated areas that have enough people that basically have embraced the lower-minor-league fan experience. Specifically, those areas are Greater New York City; Greater Boston, MA; and Greater Washington, DC/Baltimore, MD. The teams that now sit at the top of the NY-Penn attendance list each season are the Brooklyn Cyclones (a New York Mets farm team), the Staten Island Yankees (a New York Yankees farm team), the Lowell Spinners (a Boston Red Sox farm team), and the Aberdeen Ironbirds (a Baltimore Orioles farm team). All 4 of these ball clubs regularly draw over 5,000 per game, and Brooklyn and Aberdeen drew over 6,500 per game last season. The Brooklyn Cyclones play in Coney Island and drew 7,147 per game to their MCU Park (MCU Park in Brooklyn, from en.wikipedia.org,{see this}. That was good enough for the 15th best attendance in all of minor league baseball in 2010 [list of all 334 teams' attendances in minor league baseball in 2010 {click here} (Ballparkdigest.com}.Those are astounding numbers for a league that is 5 steps below the Major Leagues. Over half of the 30 Triple-A ball clubs didn't draw that well in 2010...18 Triple-A teams drew below that 5,300 per game figure that these New York-Penn teams drew above...
The Brooklyn Cyclones (7,147 per game at MCU Park/15th best in MiLB).
The Aberdeen Ironbirds (6,548 per game at Ripken Stadium {see this}/22nd best in MiLB).
The Staten Island Yankees (5,806 per game at Richmond County Bank Ballpark {see this}/34th best in MiLB).
The Lowell Spinners (5,446 per game at Edward A. LeLacheur Park {see this}/44th best in MiLB).

And the success of teams like this has blown away the received wisdom that minor league baseball teams cannot survive within close proximity to Major League Baseball teams. With the low prices of an outing to a NY-Penn League game, the opposite is pretty much true now. For example, why pay an arm and a leg to see a game at the elitist and over-priced Yankee Stadium, when a fun and affordable outing at the Staten Island Yankees or the Brooklyn Cyclones ball park can be had for a fraction of the cost. Besides, you can just see the next Yankees or Mets game on television anyway.

The only loser in this state of affairs are the small towns and cities that have lost New York-Penn League teams in recent years, like Geneva, NY; Watertown, NY; Oneonta, NY; Utica, NY; and Pittsfield, MA. But the fact is, if there are larger crowds to be had elsewhere, you can't criticize the franchises for pulling up stakes and seeking greener pastures. Most of the municipalities that lose lower minor league teams find replacement ball clubs in independent minor leagues from outside the Organized Baseball set-up. Personally, I hope that the current smallest municipality with a ball club in the New York-Penn League, the Batavia Muckdogs, does not fall to the same fate and relocate, but that is because Batavia, whose population is only around 16,256 {figure from 2006} is nearby my home in Rochester, NY, and I have seen around 15 or so Batavia Clippers games (that was their old name before 1997) and Batavia Muckdogs games. And I have had a blast each time, and have never spent more than $25 per game there (including ticket), no matter how much I ate and drank. Now that's value. [The only reason the Batavia Muckdogs, the oldest member of the New York-Penn League [with a team consecutively since 1961] have not moved elsewhere is that Rochester Community Baseball, Inc. which runs the Triple-A ball club the Rochester Red Wings, took over operation of the Muckdogs two seasons ago. The Rochester Red Wings are the second largest sports franchise in North America that is completely supporter-owned – the largest being the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.]
-

Photo credits -
Aberdeen IronBirds/Ripken Stadium…Photo from LittleBallparks.com, here.
Brooklyn Cyclones/MCU Park [formerly Keyspan Park]…Photo from Uncle Bob’s Ballparks 56 site, here.
Hudson Valley Renegades/Duchess Stadium…Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye Satellite view, here.
Staten Island Yankees/Richmond County Bank Ballpark…Aerial photo from Skyscrapercity.com, thread, ‘Little Ballparks‘.

Auburn Doubledays/Falcon Park…Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.
Batavia Muckdogs/Dwyer Stadium…Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.
Jamestown Jammers/Russell Diethrick Park…Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.
Mahoning Valley Scrappers/Eastwood Field…Photo from DigitalBallparks.com, here.
State College Spikes/Medlar Field at Lubrano Park…Photo from State College Spikes’ page at MiLB.com, here.
Williamsport Crosscutters/Bowman Field…Photo from ExplorePAhistory.com, here.

Connecticut Tigers/Dodd Stadium…Photo from CollegeBaseball360.com, here.
Lowell Spinners/LeLacheur Park…Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.
Tri-City ValleyCats/Joseph L. Bruno Stadium…Photo from U.W. Marx Construction Co. site, here.
Vermont Lake Monsters/Centennial Field…Photo from LittleBallparks.com, here.

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, ‘New York-Penn League‘.

Thanks to David Kronheim at NumberTamer.com. Attendance figures from NumberTamer.com/ -Numbertamer.com’s Minor League Baseball – 2010 attendance analysis [pdf] (Note, league attendances begin on page 28 of the 60 page pdf.)

June 26, 2011

Minor League Baseball: the Midwest League (Class A).

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: MiLB Class A — admin @ 3:57 pm

milb_2011_midwest-league_post_b.gif
Midwest League


The Midwest League is a Class A minor league baseball league. [Class A is four levels below Major League Baseball, with leagues classified as AAA, AA, and A-Advanced above it.] Despite it’s lower-minor-league status, the Midwest League as a whole outdraws 4 other leagues above it – the higher-placed leagues the Midwest League outdrew last season were the Mexican League, the Carolina League, the Southern League, and the California League. The Midwest League is one of 2 Class A leagues (the other being the South Atlantic League). The Midwest League now has 16 teams – it’s ranks were increased by two in the off-season, with the Bowling Green Hot Rods and the Lake County Captains both moving over from the South Atlantic League.

In 2010, the Midwest League averaged 3,787 per game. That made the Midwest League the fifth-highest-drawing minor league.
For the record, here are all the minor leagues’ average attendances for 2010 -
Average attendance of minor leagues in 2010…
International League (AAA) – 6,908 per game.
Pacific Coast League (AAA) – 6,120 per game.
Texas League (AA) – 5,264 per game.
Eastern League (AA) – 4,663 per game.
Midwest League (A) – 3,787 per game.
New York-Penn League (A-Short Season) – 3,490 per game.
South Atlantic League (A) – 3,306 per game.
Carolina League (A-Advanced) – 3,256 per game.
Mexican League (AAA) – 3,232 per game.
Southern League (AA) – 3,188 per game.
Northwest League (A-Short Season) – 2,920 per game.
California League (A-Advanced) – 2,237 per game.
Pioneer League (Rookie) – 2,158 per game.
Appalachian League (Rookie) – 865 per game.
[Arizona League, Gulf Coast League, Dominican Summer League and Venezuela Summer League attendances not available]
[Numbers from Baseball-Reference.com].

The Midwest League was established in 1947, as the Illinois League, a Class D minor league, with six teams from southern Illinois. [At the time, Class D was the lowest level of the minor league system, before re-organization in 1963, and would be equivalent to the Rookie League level of modern Organized Baseball (or the 6th level below MLB).] The six original teams in the Illinois League were from Belleville, Centralia, Marion, Mattoon, Mount Vernon, and West Frankfort (all in the southern half of the state of Illinois). Today, none of those locales have teams in the Midwest League (or any other minor league in Organized Baseball), although some of these franchises still exist, like, for example, the Mattoon, Illinois franchise, which moved to Keokuk, Iowa in 1958; then to Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin in 1963; then to Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1984 – before finally settling in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1993.

The oldest current member of the Midwest League which has remained in the same location is the Clinton LumberKings, who were formed in 1954 as the Clinton Pirates. The Clinton ball club has had affiliations with a dozen MLB franchises, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1954-58), and currently is affiliated with the Seattle Mariners (since 2009). The second-oldest ball club in the modern-day Midwest League which has never left it’s original location is the Quad Cities River Bandits, who were formed in 1960, as the Quad Cities Braves. [The term Quad Cities is the popularly-used name for the five-city metropolitan area of Davenport, Iowa/Bettendorf, Iowa/Rock Island, Illinois/Moline, Illinois/East Moline, Illinois - and which straddles the Mississippi River in southeastern Iowa/northwest Illinois.] The Quad Cities River Bandits have had affiliations with 7 MLB ball clubs, and are currently, since 2005, the fourth-highest minor league farm team of the nearby St. Louis Cardinals.

Thr third and fourth-oldest teams in the Midwest League which have remained in the same location are two Iowa-based ball clubs – the Burlington Bees and the Cedar Rapids Kernals. Both these teams joined the Midwest League in 1962 from the Three-I League [Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa League] which had just disbanded in January, 1962. Actually, in terms of actual ball club longevity regardless of league, these teams are the oldest in the current Midwest League because the present-day Burlington ball club was formed in 1947, and the present-day Cedar Rapids ball club was formed 2 years later in 1949. Burlington has been affiliated with 13 MLB franchises, but were independent prior to joining the Midwest League in 1962, when they had a one-year affiliation with the Pittsburgh Pirates, followed by a 12-year affiliation with the Kansas City Athletics/Oakland Athletics. As of this season [2011], the Burlington Bees are back within the Oakland Athletics’ farm system. The Burlington Bees had the lowest average attendance in the Midwest League in 2010, drawing just 971 per game to their pretty out-of-date ballpark. Granted, Burlington is a pretty small municipality that frankly has no business calling itself a “city” (as it’s Wikipedia page does), seeing as how it has a population of around 26,800 {2000 figure}. I don’t know what the situation is with the Bees, but it would not surprise me in the least if this team is the next Midwest League ball club to move to greener pastures. By comparison, the Cedar Rapids Kernals don’t have near the problems drawing fans that Burlinton does, due to it’s size {~255,000 metro-area population in Cedar Rapids} and a relatively new ballpark (opened in 2002), but still, Cedar Rapids drew only 12th-best in the Midwest League in 2010, averaging 2,585 per game.

The fact is, aside from Kane County, all the best-drawing teams in the Midwest League are in the Eastern Division, which means teams from locations outside the original Iowa/Illinois/Wisconsin region of the Midwest League; and, including Kane County, all the best-drawing teams are from locations that the Midwest League expanded into in the last 20 years. In other words, the reason the Midwest League has such good attendance numbers in relation to it’s relatively lower-minor-league level is that, with a few exceptions (like Burlington and Clinton), the league and it’s franchises have opted to relocate to municipalities which offered a larger fan base, and in doing so, the teams were able to secure new stadiums in those locales. One example is the aforementioned Fort Wayne Tin Caps (the nickname is a Johnny Appleseed reference), who drew third-best in the league last season, pulling in 5,735 per game. Other examples can be seen in the Dayton Dragons, the Kane County Cougars, the West Michigan Whitecaps, the Lansing Lugnuts, the Lake Country Captains (located east of Cleveland), and the Great Lakes Loons (located in central Michigan). None of these teams existed 20 years ago, and the impressively-drawing Dayton Dragons are just 11 years old, while the Lake Country Captains and the Great Lakes Loons teams are just 9 and 7 years old, respectively. These teams have nice new ballparks and draw very well, all drawing over 4,000 per game last season.

The highest-drawing ball club in the Midwest League is the Dayton Dragons. Dayton drew 8,535 per game in 2010, which was the 5th-highest average attendance in all of minor league baseball last season (!). {See this list (from BallparkDigest.com) of all minor league teams’ attendances from 2010.} The Kane County Cougars, of Geneva, Illinois drew second-best in the Midwest League in 2010, with an average attendance of 6,244 per game. The Kane County Cougars are within the loosely-defined area known as Chicagoland, and are 34 miles west of the city center of Chicago.

As I have mentioned in earlier posts on minor leagues recently, a trend with minor league farm teams is for the parent-club Major League team to place one or more of their minor league teams relatively close to where the big league team plays – and no better example of this can be seen than in the Dayton Dragons’ case. Because Dayton is just 49 miles north of Cincinnati. The prevailing wisdom in the era that spanned from after World War II right up to the early 1990s was that minor league teams couldn’t survive when placed less than 60 miles or so from a Major League team. The few exceptions to this rule-of-thumb were with San Jose, California; with Toledo, Ohio; with Pawtucket (ie, Providence, Rhode Island); and with Reading, Pennsylvania – all four of which were/are less than 50 miles from San Francisco, Detroit, Boston and Philadelphia, respectively. Dayton, Ohio is a good example of how this thinking has changed. Dayton is a pretty large city {Dayton metro-area population is currently around 841,000}. But Dayton did not have a minor league baseball team for almost half a century! Between the years 1952 and 1999, there was no baseball team in Dayton {see this, from Baseball-Reference.com}. It’s impossible to prove whether the people who ran baseball back then were right about this “zone of exclusion”, as it were. Because back in the 1960s and the 1970s and the 1980s, it wasn’t so expensive to see Major League Baseball games, so the lesser prices that a theoretical minor league team would charge in a near-to-an-MLB-team market like Dayton might not make a difference to the average fan there. But these days, with the high cost of attending Major League Baseball games (especially when factoring in the price gouging that goes on with parking fees and the price of concessions in MLB venues), it makes economic sense for, say, a family of 4 from Dayton, Ohio, to not make that expensive trip to down the road to Cincinnati to see a Cincinnati Reds game, but stay right in Dayton, and see the Dayton Dragons, featuring some future Cincinnati Reds prospects. And all for about one-fourth of the cost, at least. With the case of the Kane County Cougars, well, despite the fact that the team is not affiliated with either of the Chicago MLB teams 35 miles or so to the east the Cougars still draw over 6,000 per game. The fact of the matter is that attending minor league baseball games is a fun, relaxing and very affordable recreational activity. And now in many more areas of the United States, people who live within easy driving distance of a Big League ball club have the option of going out to a ball game without spending an arm and a leg.

From the Midwest League page the of MiLB site, ‘History [of the Midwest League]‘.

Photo credits -
Bowling Green Hot Rods/Bowling Green Ballpark…photo from RaysProspects.com, here.
Dayton Dragons/Fifth Third Field 9Dayton)…Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.
Fort Wayne Tin Caps/Parkview Field…photo from In.gov/visitindiana/blog, here.
Great Lakes Loons/Dow Diamond…photo from the Great Lakes Loons’ page at MiLB site, here.
Lake County Captains…Aerial image fron Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.
Lansing lugnuts/Cooley Law School Stadium…Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.
South Bend silver Hawks/Stanley Covaleski Regional Stadium…Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.
West Michigan Whitecaps/Fifth Third Ballpark (Grand Rapids)…Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.

Beloit Snappers/Harry C. Pohlman Field…Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.
Burlington Bees/Community Field…Photo from LittleBallparks.com, here.
Cedar Rapids Kernals/Veteran’s Memorial Stadium…Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.
Clinton LumberKings/Alliant Energy Field…Aerial photo by Michael J. Kearney, at en.wikipedia.org, here.
Kane County Cougars/Elfstrom Stadium…Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.
Peoria Chiefs/O’Brien Field…Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.
Quad Cities River Bandits/Modern Woodmen Park…Aerial image from Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye satellite view, here.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers/Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium…Photo from this April, 2009 article at OnMilwaukee.com, by Andrew Wagner, ‘Deal with Brewers paying off for Timber Rattlers‘.

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, ‘Midwest League‘.
Thanks to David Kronheim at NumberTamer.com. Attendance figures from NumberTamer.com/ -Numbertamer.com’s Minor League Baseball – 2010 attendance analysis [pdf] (Note, league attendances begin on page 28 of the 60 page pdf.)

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