June 27, 2013

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

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

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

2012 Minor League Baseball attendance – ‘2012 Affiliated Attendance by League‘ (

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’ (
2012 attendances for all Independent-league teams in North Americ (ie, all un-affiliated teams): ‘2012 Independent Attendance by Average (

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' (}.]

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.
Photo credits above -

The Daytona Cubs drew 2,346 per game in 2012. The Daytona Cubs are an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.
Photo credits above -


Photo credits on the map page -
Brevard County Manatees/ Space Coast Stadium,
Clearwater Threshers/ Bright House Field,;
Daytona Cubs/ Jackie Robinson Ballpark,
Dunedin Blue Jays/ Florida Auto Exchange Stadium,
Lakeland Tigers/ Joker Marchant Stadium,
Tampa Yankees/ George M. Steinbrenner Field,

Bradenton Marauders/ McKechnie Field, via
Charlotte Stone Crabs/ Charlotte Sports Park, abaesel at
Fort Myers Miracle/ Hammond Stadium, Harry Hunt at
Jupiter Hammerheads/ Roger Dean Stadium,
Palm Beach Cardinals/ Roger Dean Stadium,
St. Lucie Mets/ Mets Stadium,

Thanks to Theshibboleth at, for the USA blank map,
Thanks to Eric Gaba (Sting – fr:Sting) at, for the Florida location map, ‘File:USA Florida location map.svg‘.
Thanks to for attendances,
Thanks to the following site for some population figures,
Thanks to the contributors to the pages at, ‘Florida State League‘.

Thanks to the always excellent minor league attendance posts at

June 14, 2013

Japan: 2013 J. League location-map, with 2012 attendance data & all-time J. League titles list. / Plus a short article on the history of the promotion/relegation format in Japanese association football. / Plus, Japan national football team: 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying (Asian Football Confederation) – their coach and their top players in their successful 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Filed under: Japan — admin @ 9:14 pm

Japan: 2013 J-League location-map,with 2012 attendance data & J.League titles list

    The J.League

J.1 (J. League Division 1) – fixtures, results, tables

J.League official site –

2013 J. League Division 1‘ (

The J.League season runs from March to December. There are 18 teams in the league, making for a 34-game season. 3 clubs are relegated to J.2 each season and 3 clubs from J.2 are promoted to the first division at the end of each season. 2013 is the 18th season of the competition. Reigning champions are Sanfrecce Hiroshima, a venerable old club who finally won their first pro title in 2012. The most successful team is the Ibaraki prefecture-based Kashima Antlers, who have won 7 titles, last in 2009, and who are from the far eastern edge of Greater Metropolitan Tokyo, on the Pacific coast.

    Elements of the map page (J.League 2013 location-map w/ 2012 attendance data & all-time J.League titles list [1993 to 2012])

At the far left is the 2013 J.League location-map, which includes 9 teams from the Greater Tokyo area. The 9 teams from the Greater Tokyo area (with home Prefactures listed) are shown in an inset map at the center of the map page.

At the upper-center of the map page is the all-time titles list for J.League (17 seasons/1993-2012). All-time Japanese title list (amateur and pro titles) can be seen at the following link – ‘List of Japanese football champions [amateur champions of Japan, 1965-1992/pro champions of Japan since 1993]‘ (

At the right-hand side of the map page is the 2012 attendance data for teams in the 2013 J.League, in chart form. 5 attendance data details are featured (going from left to right on the chart)…
-2011 average attendance;
-2012 average attendance;
-Percentage change from 2011 to 2012;
-Venue [stadium(s)] Capacity [Note: many J.League teams also play some home matches at a nearby larger municipal stadium - for teams that use 2 venues, both venue capacities are listed];
-Percent-Capacity or percent-capacities for 2012 home matches [Percent-Capacity equals Average attendance divided by Venue Capacity].

At the very bottom of the attendance data chart is the key for league movements, with:
-green arrow for promoted clubs (to J.1) for 2013 (Ventforet Kofu, Oita Trinita, and Shonan Bellmare);
-red arrow for relegated clubs (to J.2) for 2013 (Consadole Sapporo, Vissel Kobe, and Gamba Osaka);
-green asterisk for current J.1 teams which were promoted up 2 seasons ago (FC Tokyo and Sagan Tosu);
-red asterisk & green arrow for yo-yo clubs on the rebound back to J.1 for 2013 (Ventforet Kofu);
-green asterisk & red arrow for yo-yo clubs going back down to J.2 again for 2013 (Consadole Sapporo).

    The history of the promotion/relegation format in Japanese association football

Japan Soccer League (1965-92) [amateur].
Prior to the J.League, there was the Japan Soccer League (JSL), established in 1965 as the second national sports league in Japan (following baseball, in 1936). The JSL was full of company teams, many of whom have morphed into J.League football clubs, such as Urawa Red Diamonds [formerly Mitsubishi Motors' company team], Kashiwa Reysol [formerly Hitachi electronics company team] and Sanfrecce Hiroshima [formerly Toyo Industries (Mazda) company team]. The JSL remained amateur for its entire 28-year existence (1965 to 1992).

Prior to the JSL, the major-league sports model in Japan was based exactly on the American franchise sports model – with no relegation or promotion, and with franchise shifts allowed, and with the periodic inception of new expansion franchises. Specifically, Nippon Professional Baseball (Japanese major league baseball), and their complete emulation of Major League Baseball (which has 29 American teams and 1 Canadian team, all of whom have affiliations with minor league teams which are in fixed leagues that do not have promotion/relegation… just like the 16 teams in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball).

But when it came to another sport (association football), with a decidedly different but very well-established and proven professional system, Japan sensibly ended up (twice) doing what around 98 percent of the rest of the world has ended up doing (the most prominent exceptions being Major League Soccer based in USA/Canada; and in the A-League based in Australia/New Zealand). Japan has followed the British association football promotion/relegation model, which has been in place in English football since the late Nineteenth century {since 1888-89, see this ‘Promotion and relegation‘ (}.

In 1972, the [amateur] Japan Soccer League instituted promotion/relegation. And that format remained for the final 21 seasons of the amateur top-flight set-up in Japan (from 1971 to 1992). At the same time (1972) a national second division of Japanese association football was instituted – the Japan Soccer League Second Division. Among the founding 10 teams, 5 later on made in into the J.League: Toyota Motors (inaugural champion/ present-day J.League team Nagoya Grampus Eight), Yomiuri FC (present-day J.2 team Tokyo Verdy), Fujitsu (present-day J.League team Kawasaki Frontale), Kyoto Shiko Club (present-day J.2 team Kyoto Sanga), and Kofu Club (present-day j.League team Ventforet Kofu).

J.League, the first pro league of association football in Japan. Establishd 1993.
The J.League was established in 1993, as the first nation-wide professional league for association football in Japan. The people running the J.League in its early days (circa 1992 to ’97) tried to make it a closed shop (with no relegation, and with expansion clubs coming up only sporadically as de-facto promoted clubs [via the now-defunt Japan Football League (1992–98)]. But there was no corresponding relegation, so mediocre-to-outright-poor-teams were safe, and complacency set in.

By the mid-1990s, after the initial excitement about the new pro league faded, attendances eventually ended up plummeting – a 44% decline, from 17,975 per game in the first J.League season in 1993, to only 10,130 per game four years later in 1997. So the folks who ran the league then saw the light, and they instituted promotion/relegation. In 1999, the first professional Japanese second division was established – J.League Division 2 (aka J.2). Just prior to that, a promotion/relegation system was instituted, and some of the 1998 J.League teams ended up being relegated into the newly-formed pro Japanese second division in 1999.

Japan’s professional association football league format has included promotion/relegation for over 15 years now. (1998 season to 2013). Attendance was up 11.1% last season (2012), at an average of 17,565 per game {see this, ‘J.League 2012 – Attendance -’ (}. 4 football clubs in Japan averaged over 20,000 per game in 2012: Urawa Red Diamonds (of the northern suburbs of Greater Tokyo in Saitama prefecture), Albirex Niigata (from the west coast/Sea of Japan city of Niigata), the recently-promoted club FC Tokyo (of Tokyo Metropolis prefecture), and Yokohoma F. Marinos (of Yokohoma/Greater Tokyo).

In the 15 seasons since promotion/relegation has been established in Japanese pro football, exactly zero Japanese football clubs who have suffered relegation have gone out of business. That is 34 relegations, with 20 different clubs having been relegated from the Japanese first division since 1998 {see this, ‘J.League Division 1/Relegation history‘ (}. As a matter of fact, the reigning champions of Japan, the first-time J.League winners Sanfrecce Hiroshima (from the western region of the main island of Honshu), were recently relegated – in 2007. Sanfrecce Hiroshima then were promoted back to the top flight the following season. Then Sanfrecce Hiroshima won the J.League title 6 years after being relegated.

For 3 straight seasons, now, a club that had never won the J.League title has been champion. For 2 straight seasons, now, a club that had recently been relegated has been champion. And one of those clubs was not a founding member of J.League. 2010 J.League winners were the central Japan-based Nagoya Grampus Eight [Arsene Wenger's old club]. 2011 winners were the Chiba/east-side-of-Greater-Tokyo-based club Kashiwa Reysol. [Kashiwa Reysol are from Kashiwa, Chiba prefecture, around 33 km. or 20 miles east of central Tokyo, in the same prefecture as the NPB ball club the Chiba Lotte Marines.]

Kashiwa Reysol, established in 1940 as Hitachi, Ltd. Soccer Club in Kodaira, Tokyo, were a successful club throughout the amateur era but ended up waiting a bit longer than many other Japanese footballl clubs to turn pro (circa the early 1990s), and were thus left out of the initial line-up of clubs that made up the inaugural season of J.League in 1993. So they had to play their way into the league, which they first did in 1994, back when the J.League was expanding, but had not yet arrived at the decision to become a 2-tier pro set-up with promotion/relegation.

Kashiwa Reysol has also recently suffered the set-back of being relegated – twice – in 2005, then again in 2009. Kashiwa Reysol then became the first Japanese team to ever win back-to-back titles in J.2 (in 2010) then in J.League (in 2011, winning the crown by 1 point over reigning champions Nagoya Garampus Eight, and 2 points ahead of Gamba Osaka).

So in 2011, Kashiwa Reysol became the first team to earn promotion from J.2 to J.1, and then win the J.League title in the following season – joining that unique group of clubs which have won the national title the season after getting promoted to the first division (clubs such as Ipswich Town in 1962, Nottingham Forest in 1978, and FC Kaiserslautern in 1998). Granted, with the current state of finances of top flight football in England and Germany (and elsewhere), it is unlikely (without a wage cap) that we will see another incidence of a just-promoted club winning the title the following year in the Premier League, or in the Bundesliga. But, nevertheless, the possibility is still there. And regardless, the format of promotion/relegation is constantly injecting new life into the top flight – witness the captivating rise and success of Swansea City. You will never see a story like Swansea City occur in Major League Soccer, because there is no way on Earth that MLS would grant a franchise to a city as small as Swansea (which has a population of only 239,000 {2011 figure}). Major League Soccer is a league that refuses to implement a promotion/relegation system, because they are afraid that their franchises couldn’t survive a year in a theoretical second division. So all the fans of association football that are from mid-sized American cities know they will never have the chance to see their hometown soccer team ever make it to the top flight, unlike in England, and in France, and in Germany, and in Spain, and in Italy, and in Mexico, and in Brazil, and in Argentina, and in Japan. Because MLS is full of soccer franchises, instead of football clubs.

Japan’s J.League proves that a nation that once used only the franchise model for a national sports league can successfully implement the promotion/relegation model. And create more fan excitement, and increase attendance.

Here is an excerpt from this article from, from Nov. 20, 2012, by Ben Berger, ‘What American Soccer Can Learn from Japan‘, …{excerpt}…’ the J. League decided to create a lower “J2” league in 1999 to go along with the top league, now called “J1”. With this, they also instituted promotion and relegation. One result? Better marketing opportunities for the sport, with fans’ passion being upped a notch, and relegation battles being contested and publicized as much as championships. Take the example of Kashiwa Reysol…which was relegated from J1 in the 2009 season yet was promoted back the next year. Incredibly, Kashiwa won the J1 championship in 2011. That’s what dreams are made of – the key reason people follow sports. Nothing like it exists in North American sport.’ …{end of excerpt’}.

2011 J.League champions – Kashiwa Reysol.
Photo and Image credits above -
Screenshot of a video uploaded by jleague, ‘Kashiwa Reysol Vs Vegalta Sendai: J- League 2012 (Round 6)‘.

Kashiwa Reysol averaged a modest 13,768 last season, but boasted the second-best percent-capacity rate in J.League in 2012, at 77%-capacity at their smart and compact and running-track-free/4-separate-stands/15,900-capacity Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium. That percent-capacity figure was second only to north-Honshu Island-based Vegalta Sendai at 84 %-capacity in 2012 {see attendance chart on map above for full figures, which I got here (}.

In 2012, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, a club that has been relegated twice in the last 11 seasons (in 2002 and in 2007), won the J.League title. That the last two teams to win the title in Japan had both been recently been relegated shows the beauty of promotion and relegation. And in the 15 years since J.League adopted the promotion/relegation model, attendance has rebounded dramatically, rising over 7,000 per game, from that aforementioned low of 10,130 per game in 1997, to the 17,565 per game the J.League drew last year.

2012 J.League champions – Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Sanfrecce Hiroshima averaged 6th-best in J.League in 2012, at 17,720 per game (up 34.2% from 2011).
Photo and Image credits above -

{Note: for some attendance data above, see this Japanese football site

    Japan national football team: 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying (Asian Football Confederation) – coach & top players in the current roster

Japan are the first team to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Japan has now qualified for 5 consecutive FIFA World Cups.

From, from 4 June 2013, ‘Australia concede late equaliser to Japan in World Cup qualifier
• Japan 1-1 Australia
• Samurai Blue qualify for the World Cup
‘ (

Photo and Image credits above -
Japan national football team‘ (
Yoshida at

    Below – Top scoring threats on the Japan National Football team,
    Shinji Kagawa (MF), Keisuke Honda (FW), Shinji Okazaki (FW) -

Photo and Image credits above -
Japan national football team‘ (
Koji Sasahara/AFP at
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe via
AP via
Unattributed at

    Below – defensive core of the Japan National Football team, FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifying (Asian Football Confederation)…
    Eiji Kawashima (GK), Maya Yoshida (DF), Makoto Hasebe (MF & captain) -

Photo and Image credits above -
Japan national football team‘ (
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Europe via
Sky Sports via via yoshida.
Tsutomu Kishimoto/Picsport at
Boris Streubel/Bongarts/Getty Images) via Picasaweb at

Thanks to Maximilian Dörrbecker at for the blank map of Japan,
Thanks to for J.League attendances,
Thanks to for J.league Divisions 1 and 2 attendance data, ; 2011 j.League attendance data,
Thanks to for J.League stadium capacities and percent-capacities,
Thanks to this section at the official J.League site, for stadia info, [J.League stadium guide].

June 7, 2013

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

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

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)]‘ (

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 site {}, 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 (}. 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‘ ( – 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}. 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, …{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 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.
Photo credit above –

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.
Photo credits above –

San Jose Giants, 3,101 per game attendance in 2012.
Photo credits above –

Stockton Ports, 2,868 per game in 2012.
Photo credits above -–Home-Cap.
Stockton Ports via

Photo and Image credits on map page -
Bakersfield Blaze,
Modesto Nuts,
San Jose Giants, at
Stockton Ports, [Stockton Ports' page at ].
Visalia Rawhide,

High Desert Mavericks,
Inland Empire 66ers,
Lake Elsinore Storm, SD Dirk at via (Southwest Riverside News Network site).
Lancaster JetHawks,
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, Brandon S. at; Brandon S. at

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

Thanks to JimIrwin at for the population-density map of California, at ‘Demographics of California‘

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

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