billsportsmaps.com

June 3, 2017

Independent leagues (unaffiliated minor league baseball): map and chart of the 38 Independent leagues teams in USA & Canada from the top 4 Independent leagues which reported attendance figures (American Association, Atlantic League, Frontier League, Can-Am League)./ +CHS Field, the home of the St. Paul Saints, the best-drawing Independent baseball club in North America.

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: Independent Leagues — admin @ 2:00 pm

/baseball_independent-leagues_2016-attendance-map_american-association_atlantic-league_can-am-league_frontier-league_post_f_.gif
Independent leagues: 2016 attendance-map, 38 Independent leagues teams in USA & Canada (American Association, Atlantic League, Can-Am League, Frontier League)



By Bill Turianski on 23 April 2017; twitter.com/billsportsmaps.

Links…
-2016 Independent Attendance by Average (by Kevin Reichard on September 19, 2016 at ballparkdigest.com).
-Independent baseball league/Current_leagues (en.wikipedia.org).
-independentbaseball.net.
-twitter.com/independentball.

    Major League Baseball, and by extension, Organized Baseball, has an antitrust exemption…

Organized Baseball is: the 30 Major League Baseball teams {2016 MLB paid-atttendance map}, plus all the 234 affiliated minor league baseball teams [aka MiLB teams], which the MLB teams co-fund and use as developmental teams for their rosters; plus the 16 unaffiliated Mexican League teams / {my latest map of the Mexican League}.

Independent leagues are, by definition, completely comprised of pro baseball teams which operate outside of Organized Baseball.
The Independent leagues are technically not even really minor leagues…but everybody considers them as such, and most observers within the world of pro baseball consider them to be equivalent to a caliber of play between Double-A and Advanced-A level minor league ball [ie, a caliber of skill between two and three levels below the Major Leagues]).

Major League Baseball (MLB) has antitrust exemption, dating back to a 1922 ruling that centered on the suit brought about by the owners of the defunct 1914 Federal League team the Baltimore Terrapins {see this article, Baseball’s Con Game – How did America’s pastime get an antitrust exemption?, from 2002 by David Greenberg at slate.com}. Basically, in 1922, the Supreme Court justices maintained – naively – that Major League Baseball is a game, not a business. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that “personal effort, not related to production, is not a subject of commerce”. What? Personal effort (ie, major league baseball players competing against each other) sure is related to production…just look at all that ticket revenue that MLB produces. Just look at those lucrative television contracts that MLB gets. Where did all that revenue come from? It came from personal effort (major league baseball players competing against each other). As Kavitha Dividson remarked at Bloomberg.com, “Nine decades later, the notion that professional baseball wouldn’t be considered commerce seems rather quaint. Not only is the “personal effort” of Major Leaguers an $8 billion product in and of itself, the lucrative national broadcast deals and growing audience for online streaming clearly place a significant chunk of business operations across state lines. Professional baseball can no longer be considered a local business, if it really ever could have been.” {Quote from, Antitrust Exemption Holds Baseball Back a Century (by Kavitha Davidson on April 8 2014 at bloomberg.com).}

There are many ways that this antitrust exemption affects things in the world of pro baseball. One is how the Oakland A’s franchise continues to get screwed by MLB and the San Francisco Giants…because the SF franchise owns the territory of San Jose, and MLB and the Giants have succeeded – in courts – from preventing the A’s from moving to San Jose. {See this: U.S. Supreme Court rejects San Jose’s bid to lure Oakland A’s (by Bob Egelko from Oct. 2015 at sfgate.com).} One of the latest ways the MLB antitrust exemption affects people within Organized Baseball is this: MLB scouts maintaining that they are being exploited {see this, Scouts Tell 2nd Circ. MLB Antitrust Exemption Doesn’t Apply (by Zachary Zagger on Jan. 23 2017 at law360.com)}. But here, I am only going to talk about how MLB’s antitrust exemption has inadvertently led to the success of most of the highest-drawing Independent leagues teams.

    Independent leagues (unaffiliated minor league baseball)…

Independent leagues have no affiliation with Major League Baseball – no player development contracts means the Independent leagues teams must pay for personnel and equipment. On the other hand, affiliated minor league teams have their WHOLE PAYROLL paid for them, by the Major League team…as it says in Wikipedia’s page on affiliated minor league baseball…“Generally, the parent major league club pays the salaries and benefits of uniformed personnel (players and coaches) and bats and balls, while the minor league club pays for in-season travel and other operational expenses…” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minor League Baseball/Current system).

Independent leagues exist because MLB/Organized Baseball can actually ignore market forces…
There is essentially one reason why an Independent leagues team springs up in any given place. That is because the the ownership group in the municipality in question was unable to to secure an affiliated minor league team within Organized Baseball. With a few exceptions (the most prominent exception being the Sugar Land Skeeters of Greater Houston, TX), the highest-drawing of these Independent teams are located in the Upper Midwest and in the Northeast (and to a lesser extent, in Canada). Generally, here and there, in Organized Baseball, there are poorly-drawing teams within the affiliated leagues above the Short-Season-A and the Rookie levels (like two A-level teams in the Midwest League, in Burlington, Iowa and in Beloit, Wisconsin, both of whom draw below 1.2 K in a league which drew 3.8 overall in 2016). But the real dead weight with respect to bad drawing mid-and-upper-level-MiLB teams can be found in two warm-weather locales. You see, MLB/MiLB/Organized Baseball has two leagues that are, attendance-wise, real under-performers. Two leagues that are, to put it bluntly, a waste of space. I am speaking of two of the three Advanced-A-level leagues: the California League and the Florida State League. Year in, year out, these two leagues are chock full of teams that draw abysmally, especially since both regions have considerable populations. Last season [2016], 7 of the 10 California League teams drew below 2.5 K. And last season, 11 of the 12 Florida State League teams drew below the even lower bar of just 2.0 K. That is really bad attendance for a product that is just 3 levels below the Major Leagues. And this is happening in regions where hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people live nearby. Actually, most of those bad drawing teams in the California and Florida Advance-A-level leagues have over a million people within an hours’ drive. And they still draw poorly.

How pathetic is the attendance in the California League and Florida State League?
Look at it this way…
-California League overall average attendance in 2016 was 2.1 K…worse than 23 Independent leagues teams.
-Florida State League overall average attendance in 2016 was 1.3 K…worse than 34 Independent leagues teams.
{Source of figures in last two paragraphs: 2016 Affiliated Attendance by League (ballparkdigest.com).}

Meanwhile, there are municipalities all over the Upper Midwest and the Northeast that could EASILY maintain successful affiliated minor league teams. But for one legitimate reason (Spring training ballparks/facilities in Florida that are already there anyways), and one bogus reason (the hidebound notion that California deserves an affiliated minor league of its own), MLB/Organized Baseball – thanks to its antitrust exemption – can afford to ignore market forces. And ignore the fact that there are scores of minor league franchises which would have far better support…if they relocated out of Florida and California. And into Midwestern and Northeastern towns which are dying for affiliated minor league ball.

So, though ignored by Organized Baseball, Independent leagues teams, located in places off-the-beaten-track, thrive. Like in Winnipeg, Manitoba; and in Fargo, North Dakota; and in Lincoln, Nebraska; and in Marion, southern Illinois. And Independent leagues teams located very near to MLB franchises? They really thrive (see next 3 paragraphs). If the vast majority of the fine folks of Florida and California could not give a rat’s ass about a great and affordable product (affiliated minor league baseball), then why the heck don’t these dead-weight teams move to where people would appreciate such a great product? Successful Independent leagues teams prove that there are an abundance of locales which Organized Baseball has ignored, thanks to its de-facto-monopoly status. And don’t forget, these are Independent teams with basically no brand-name drawing-power. Yet they are outdrawing teams – affiliated minor league ball clubs – that are part of world-renowned brand-names (the Major League teams).

The positive side of no MLB affiliation…
The positive side of no MLB affiliation means Independent leagues franchises are not bound to abide by MLB’s onerous territorial mandates. Mandates which MLB/Organized Baseball can only enforce because of their antitrust exemption. For example, MLB allows no affiliated minor league baseball teams to be located in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, NY (ie, Long Island) [to protect the NY Mets]; as well as no other affiliated teams in southeast-central-Pennsylvania [to protect the Philadelphia Phillies as well as the affiliated minor league baseball teams the Reading Fightin Phils and the Harrisburg Senators]. So Independent leagues teams have sprung up in those 2 areas and have done very well drawing customers [the Long Island Ducks in Nassau County, New York; the York Revolution and the Lancaster Barnstormers in south-eastern Pennsylvania].

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

It is no coincidence that 5 of the 6 the top-drawing Independent teams would not be allowed to exist within Organized Baseball…
Five of the six highest-drawing Independent leagues teams (which all draw above 4-K-per-game) are located in places very near to MLB teams (ie, well within the 75-mile-radius protected areas [thanks to their antitrust exemption], which MLB/Organized Baseball can only enforce with respect to affiliated minor league teams):
1). St. Paul Saints: drawing 8.4 K/ St. Paul, MN [Minnesota Twins' territory].
2). Long Island Ducks: 5.2 K/ Nassau County, Long Island, NY [NY Mets' territory].
3). Somerset Patriots: 5.2 K/ Somerset County, NJ. [NY Yankees'/NY Mets' territory].
4). Winnipeg Goldeyes: 4.8 K/ Winnipeg, MB, Canada [no MLB team nearby].
5). Sugar Land Skeeters: 4.4 K/ Sugar Land, TX [Houston Astros' territory].
6). Kansas City T-Bones: 4.2 K/ Kansas City, KS [Kansas City Royals' territory].

The biggest problem Independent leagues teams face is overhead…
Again, Independent leagues teams get zero support from MLB/Organized Baseball, whereas affiliated minor league teams (being part of MLB/Organized Baseball) basically get their whole teams’ salaries (and some of their gear) paid for. So Independent leagues teams live a precarious financial existence, and are very prone to becoming defunct, and are almost completely reliant on ticket revenue and concessions to remain in business. In fact, last season [2016], the two lowest-drawing teams, of the four Independent leagues featured on the map here, both went out of business (Joplin and Laredo/see next section below). The following article from the Wall Street Journal explores just how precarious Independent baseball teams’ finances are…
-{How Independent Baseball Teams Make Money. Or Don’t. For unaffiliated teams, it takes gimmicks, cost cutting and a lot of luck (by Andrew Beaton on Aug. 24 2105 from wsj.com)}.

    What the map-and-chart of Independent ball clubs shows…

The main map is of USA and Canada; the inset-map is of the Northeast of the US. The two maps show the 38 Independent leagues teams in the USA & Canada which reported attendances figures (from home regular season games) in 2016, and which drew over 500-per-game…plus 2 new teams (see next paragraph). The 500-per-game cut-off is why I did not include the 4 teams from the Pacific Association, whose 4 teams only drew between 437 and 69 per game. The fact that some Independent league do not report attendance figures is why the map-and-chart does not feature teams from 3 other Independent leagues…the Empire League, the Pecos League, and the United Shore League {for info on those leagues, see this, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_baseball_league#Current_leagues}. If you are wondering why those three Independent leagues don’t report attendance figures, well, it is almost certainly because those teams in those leagues do not draw very well.

On the map, two of the teams [from the American Association] are now defunct: the Joplin Blasters, and the Laredo Lemurs. It is no coincidence that those two teams happened to be the two worst-drawing teams in the 4 leagues that the map depicts. Because, as mentioned earlier, Independent leagues teams basically live or die by their attendance figures, that being their only real source of revenue. Those two teams have been replaced in the American Association by one expansion team and one team that has moved over from the aforementioned Pecos League. The brand-new franchise for 2017 is the Cleburne Railroaders of Greater Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX. The franchise that has jumped over from the Pecos League to the American Association is the Salina Stockade (of Salina, Kansas). And finally, there is one franchise, in the Atlantic League, that has been recently relocated – the New Britain Bees (est. 2016) [of Greater Hartford, CT], who were the Camden Riversharks previously, but moved from Camden, NJ [Greater Philadelphia, PA] to Connecticut after the 2015 season. Here is an example of an Independent team filling the gap left by the lack of an affiliated MiLB team, because New Britain, CT had a Double-A MiLB team (the New Britain Rock Cats), until that franchise moved 12 miles up the road to Hartford, as the Hartford YardGoats, in 2016 {here’s a Double-A [affiliated MiLB] map I made in 2016, which mentions the new Hartford ball club}. That Camden-NJ-to-New-Britain-CT-franchise-move is shown on the map-page in the inset-map of the Northeast US.

The teams on the map have their primary cap-logo shown, as well as a circle in their team-colors.
The team-color-circles are sized to depict each team’s drawing-power (the higher their average attendance is, the larger their team-colors-circle is).

At the right-hand side of the map page is a chart that lists 5 things:
A). Teams’ attendance-rank within Independent leagues baseball.
B). The Independent league which each team is in.
C). The teams’ 2016 average attendance…regular season home games/ source: 2016 Independent Attendance by Average (ballparkdigest.com).
D). Teams’ year-of-establishment [first season they played].
E). Teams’ City-and-State-location (plus County-location, if that is part of any given team’s name).

The teams on the map are from the following 4 Independent leagues…
-American Association [American Association of Independent Professional Baseball], all 12 teams, including 2 defunct teams (see 3 paragraphs above), and including 2 new teams: the Cleburne Railroaders (est. 2017) [of Greater Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX], and the Salina Stockade (est. 2016/former Pecos League team) [of Salina, KS]). (American Association est. 2006/ 12 teams in 2017/ range: Plains States (Dakotas to Texas); one team from Indiana; one team from Manitoba, Canada.) 2016 overall average attendance: 3,156.
-Atlantic League [Atlantic League Professional Baseball], all 8 teams (including the 2016-relocated-team the New Britain Bees [of Greater Hartford, CT]). (Atlantic League est. 1998/ 8 teams in 2017/ range: Northeast; and Greater Houston, Texas.) 2016 overall average attendance: 3,939 [best-drawing Independent league].
-Frontier League, all 12 teams. (Frontier League est. 1993/ 12 teams in 2017/ range: half the teams [6 teams] from Illinois; one team each from: Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, western Pennsylvania.) 2016 overall average attendance: 2,390.
-Can-Am League [Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball], all 6 teams. (Can-Am League est. 2005, but from 2012-15 it played an interlocking schedule with the American Association/ 6 teams in 2017/ range: 2 teams in New Jersey, one team in New York; 2 teams in Quebec, Canada, one team in Ontario, Canada. 2016 overall average attendance: 2,241.

[Note: to see other high-drawing Independent leagues teams (illustrations for 5 other teams), see my earlier post on Independent leagues baseball (from 2014).]

    The St. Paul Saints – the highest-drawing Independent baseball team (in 2015 and in 2016)…

In 2015, after 22 years at the inadequate Midway Stadium, the St. Paul Saints moved into CHS Field in the Lowerton district of downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, in area once full of industrial warehouses. The ballpark was opened on May 21, 2015. It was built with state funding of $25 million, combined with a $47.5 million outlay shared by the city of Saint Paul and the Saint Paul Saints. The venue is owned by the city of Saint Paul, and is operated by the St. Paul Saints. It has a fixed-seating-capacity of 7,210. Plus, there is around another 1,000-or-so extra-capacity seating: on both a grass berm behind the left-field fence (see second-to-last photo below), and in bar-style seats all along the sprawling street-level concourse which makes up the main part of the stadium-structure (see 4th, 5th, and 6th photos, below). The stadium is breathtaking in a very understated way, with its light-steel-frame pavilion, its open-air layout, and its stunning full-length red-cedar-ceiling-canopy. The architect, Julie Snow, intended for the ballpark’s design to take a warehouse and “turn it inside-out” (see article linked to at the end of this paragraph, for more on that). The new venue is a remarkable step up from the ramshackle Midway Stadium, which co-owner Mike Veeck used to “boast” was “the ugliest ballpark in America!” {quote from the Wikipedia page, here}. Mike Veeck, son of legendary baseball-owner-and-maverick Bill Veeck, Jr., is co-owner of the St. Paul Saints, along with actor/comedian Bill Murray, and others who make up the The Goldklang Group, a consortium who have a controlling interest in 4 minor league teams. Mike Veeck’s motto is “Fun is Good”, which is a sentiment I think very few could argue with. Here is an article from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, on the opening day in May 2015 at the CHS Field in St. Paul, If ‘Fun is good,’ opening a new ballpark’s way better (by Jim Souhan at startribune.com).

The St. Paul Saints had long been a top-draw in Independent leagues baseball, and in their last season at Midway Stadium (in 2014), the Saints had the third-best average attendance in the Independent leagues, at 5.2 K, behind fellow-American-Association team the Winnipeg Goldeyes (at 5.6 K), and the Atlantic League team the Sugar Land Skeeters (at 5.5 K). {2014 Independent attendances, baseballpilgrimages.com/ [2014 Independent leagues].} But since their new ballpark opened, the St. Paul Saints have now become the best-drawing Independent ball club, by a considerable margin, of over 3 thousand per game. The Saints drew 8.0 K in the ballpark’s first year (in 2015). That meant they played to over eight-hundred-standing-room-only each game (8.0 K in a 7.2-K-seated-capacity stadium). {2015 Independent leagues attendance, ballparkdigest.com [2015 Independent leagues].} Then last year, word-of-mouth must have spread through the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, about the sweet new venue in town…because the Saints drew even better in 2016, at 8.4 K (which is an astounding 1.2-K-above-seated-capacity).

The second-best and third-best-drawing Independent leagues teams in 2016 were two Atlantic League teams from Greater New York City…the Long Island Ducks (est. 2000), of Central Islip, NY, at 5.2 K, and the Somerset Patriots (est. 1998), of Bridgewater Township, Somerset County, NJ, who also drew 5.2 K. {2016 Independent leagues attendance, ballparkdigest.com/ [2015 Independent leagues].} {Again, if you would like to see illustrations for the Long Island Ducks and the Somerset Patriots (and 3 of the other best-drawing Independent leagues teams, click here.}

Below: CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints, the best-drawing Independent baseball club in North America…
independent-leagues_highest-drawing-team-2016_st-paul-saints_chs-field_st-paul_mn_r_.gif"
Photo and Image credits above –
Saints ball cap, photo from St. Paul Saints team store, saints-crossing.com. Aerial shot of ballpark, photo by John Autey/Pioneer Prees via twincities.com/2016/05/07/photos-the-twin-cities-from-the-air. Exterior shot of main entrance, photo by snowkreilich.com/work/chs-field. Photo of main entrance on opening day, photo by St Paul Saints at saintsbaseball.com/the-saints-experience/2017-schedule. Interior shot of concourse (empty), photo by Paul Crosby via aia-mn.org/chs-field. Interior shots of concourse during a game-day, photos by hsnowkreilich.com/work/chs-field. Shot of Saints players warming up with main stand in background, photo by snowkreilich.com/work/chs-field. Photo of outfield lawn seating, photo by CHS Field via postbulletin.com/chs-field-combines-art-baseball-in-st-paul. Shot of full-capacity-crowd at sunset, photo by Paul Crosby at archdaily.com/chs-field-snow-kreilich-architects.
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Thanks to all at the following links…
Some logos on the map page are from photos…
-Schaumburg Boomers cap logo, from photo at: boomersbaseball.com/fanzone/news/2013/288/boomers-end-of-season-clearance-sale/.
-Sugar Land Skeeters cap logo, from photo at: cdn3.volusion.com/zvscs.sfcdt/v/vspfiles/photos/OC100-1.jpg.
-Winnipeg Goldeyes cap logo, from photo at: pinterest.com/pin/384987468116306796/.

-Thanks to NuclearVacuum, at Wikimedia Commons, for the base map (blank map) of North America, at ‘File:BlankMap-North America-Subdivisions.svg‘ (commons.wikimedia.org).
-Thanks to the contributors at Independent baseball/Current leagues (en.wikipedia.org).

May 14, 2014

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

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

Please note: I have made a more recent post on the Independent leagues (click on the following)…
Independent leagues (unaffiliated minor league baseball): map and chart of the 38 Independent leagues teams in USA & Canada from the top 4 Independent leagues which reported attendance figures (American Association, Atlantic League, Frontier League, Can-Am League)./ +CHS Field, the home of the St. Paul Saints, the best-drawing Independent baseball club in North America (from June 2017).
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baseball_minor-leagues_independent-leagues_highest-drawing-teams_2013-avg-attendance_post_e_.gif
Independent Leagues (Unaffiliated minor league baseball): map & chart of the 44 Independent Leagues teams in USA & Canada in 2013 which announced attendances




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

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

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

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

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

    Independent league baseball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Long Island Ducks (see illustration below) are one of two Atlantic League teams which own and operate the ballparks they play in. The other one is the Sugar Land Skeeters (see illustration further below).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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