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April 12, 2011

Minor League Baseball: the 3 Double-A leagues…the Eastern League, the Southern League, and the Texas League. Map, with all 30 teams’ 2010 average attendances, locations, and MLB affiliations.

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: MiLB Double-A — admin @ 11:56 am

Please note: there is a more recent map of this (2016) here…
Affiliated Double A minor league baseball (MiLB): location-map of 3 leagues, the Eastern League, the Southern League, the Texas League (2015 attendances)/+ the 3 new teams in Double-A baseball since 2011 (Pensacola, Biloxi, Hartford)/+ illustrations for the 4 highest-drawing Double-A teams in 2015 (Frisco, Birmingham, Richmond, Reading).
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milb_aa_double-a_baseball2011_post_c.gif
Double-A Baseball map – 3 leagues/30 teams, with 2010 attendances and each team’s MLB affiliation



Below – list of Double-A teams’ metro-area populations
[Note: click on image below to enlarge]
milb_metro-area-populations-of-double-a-teams_2010attendances_.gif

The map shows the location of all 30 Double-A teams. There are 3 Double-A leagues in Organized Baseball. Each Major League Baseball team has one of the 30 Double-A teams in its farm system. The Double-A, or AA level of baseball, is two steps below Major League Baseball. These days, however, Double-A baseball often is the launching pad for young talent that is on a fast-track to the Major Leagues.

Each team’s home ball cap logo is placed on the map next to the ball club’s location.
The regions in the United States that the 3 Double-A leagues themselves are based in can be seen via the thin black lines on the map which serve to separate, geographically, the three leagues’ teams.
The 12-team Eastern League covers all of the Northeastern USA, plus eastern Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia. The Eastern League averaged 4,663 per game last season.
The 10-team Southern League covers the region of North Carolina west through Tennessee, and south to include Mississippi, Alabama, and northern Florida. The Southern League averaged 3,188 per game last season.
The 8-team Texas League covers the region of south-western Missouri, south through Arkansas, south-west through Oklahoma, and, of course, Texas. The Texas League averaged 5,264 per game last season.

The teams’ average attendances are within their league attendance list. Next to each team’s 2010 home, regular-season average attendance is their home ball cap logo, and the logo of their Major League Baseball parent-club. [At the very top, center of the map page are all the MLB teams' logos - listed alphabetically with the team name under it (in case you are not familiar with MLB iconography).]

Below, the highest-drawing Double-A ball club – the Frisco RoughRiders
[Note: to see a full-screen view, click on images below.]

frisco_roughriders_dr-pepper-ballpark_i.gif
Photo credits – Skyscrapercity.com thread ‘Little Ballparks‘. Bing.com/maps/Bird’s Eye view. FriscoMovers.info.

Of the 3 leagues, the Texas League draws the highest these days. The Texas League pulled in an average of 5,264 per game in 2010. It must be pointed out, though, that 3 of the 8 teams in the Texas League come from pretty large metropolitan areas (the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex; San Antonio, Texas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma). That being said, no one has ever called Springfield, Missouri or Corpus Christi, Texas large cities – and the Springfield Cardinals and the Corpus Christi Hooks (an Astros farm team) both draw above 5,000 per game. Both these two Texas League teams share the marketing advantage of being a farm team of a relatively close-by MLB team – Springfield, MO {metro population ~430,000) is 191 miles south-west of the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis, MO; and Corpus Christi, TX (metro population ~431,000) is 184 miles south-west of the Houston Astros in Houston, TX.

The Frisco Roughriders, a Texas Rangers farm team, are extremely close-by their parent-club. Frisco is located 23 miles north of Dallas, and 34 miles from the Texas Rangers’ home in Arlington, TX. The Frisco RoughRiders drew the highest of all 30 Double-A teams in 2010, pulling in 7,886 per game. That is now the sixth-straight year that the Frisco RoughRiders led all 30 Double-A teams in average attendance. Furthermore, Frisco had a higher average attendance than 20 of the 30 Triple-A teams last year, and had the 12th-highest average attendance among all minor league teams in 2010 [Note: list of entire 2010 minor league teams' average attendances (334 teams) is linked to at the end of this post.]. The second highest-drawing Texas League team in 2010 was the Tulsa Drillers – a Colorado Rockies farm team, who drew 6,185 per game last season.

The Eastern League draws the second-best of the 3 leagues, with an average of 4,663 per game in 2010. Like the Texas League, the Eastern League also has some pretty large metro areas, including the Greater Washington, DC/Baltimore, MD metro area (where the Bowie Baysox of Bowie, Maryland come from); the Greater Cleveland/Akron, Ohio metro area (where the Akron Aeros come from); the Greater Richmond, Virginia metro area (where the Richmond Flying Squirrels come from); and the Greater Hartford, Connecticut metro area (where the New Britain Rock Cats come from). Also, like the Texas League, there are several mid-sized cities in the Eastern League with 300,000 to 600,000 metro areas (4 teams). Unlike the Texas League, the Eastern League has teams that come from small cities with metro areas lower than 300,000 (4 teams).

In the Eastern League there is a factor that on first glance might seem to deflate attendances but seems to increase fan interest and attendance. That is the fact that every Eastern League ball club is within less than a 2-hours’ drive to one or more Major League ball clubs, with the exception of the Binghampton Mets (who are about 2 and a half hours away from the New York Yankees and about 3 hours away from their parent-club, the New York Mets). The near proximity to MLB teams that Eastern League teams have does not seem to depress attendances, especially when you compare gate figures with the lower drawing Southern League. I think easy proximity to an expensive outing at, say Fenway Park (home of MLB’s Boston Red Sox), encourages many folks in New England to instead follow the Red Sox on television and actually go to a ball game in Manchester, NH or New Britain, CT, or Portland, ME – for about one-quarter of the expense. But the Eastern League’s decent gate figures despite being surrounded by so many Major League teams might be more a case of the fact that sports fans in the Deep South don’t really follow baseball as much as sports fans in the Northeast do.

Having said that, it is ironic that the Eastern League’s best-drawing team last season was a team from the South – the brand-new ball club called the Richmond Flying Squirrels – a San Francisco Giants farm team, who drew 6,626 per game. [The Richmond team came from Norwich, CT, where they were a NY Yankees affiliate. They moved to Richmond, filling the gap left when the city of Richmond lost their Triple-A team after the 2009 season, when the Atlanta Braves moved their Triple-A team to Gwinnett, Georgia - a county adjacent to Atlanta.] The Reading Phillies are the second-best drawing Eastern League team. Reading pulled in 6,615 per game last season. The Reading/Philadelphia Phillies’ partnership has gone on for 45 consecutive seasons, and the Reading Phillies now have one of the two longest-running-affiliations with one Major League ball club (the other 45-year partnership is the affiliation of the Lakeland Tigers of the Class-A Florida League with the Detroit Tigers). [The previous longest-running affiliation was the Appalachian League (Rookie League) Bluefield Orioles with the Baltimore Orioles, which lasted 53 years, from 1958 to 2010. The Bluefield Blue Jays, as they are now known, were dropped by Baltimore over the winter and are now part of the Toronto Blue Jays farm system].

With teams such the Reading Phillies and the Frisco RoughRiders, MLB teams have seen the synergistic effect of placing a minor league farm team close to the parent-club’s location – Reading, Pennsylvania is just 47 miles west of Philadelphia. Other Eastern League teams that drew above 5,000 per game last season were the Portland (Maine) Sea Dogs – a Red Sox farm team (that is 99 miles north-east of Fenway Park); the New Hampshire Fisher Cats – who are a Toronto Blue Jays farm team; the New Britain Rock Cats – who are a Minnesota Twins farm team; and the Trenton Thunder, a New York Yankees farm team (that is 64 miles south-west of Yankee Stadium).

The Southern League draws the lowest of the three Double-A leagues, averaging 3,188 per game in 2010. Southern League ball clubs generally come from 400K to 600K metro-areas, with 3 locations – Jacksonville, FL (the Jacksonville Suns); Birmingham, Alabama (the Birmingham Bulls); and Raleigh/Durham, NC (the Carolina Mudcats) being the only relatively large-sized metro-areas in the Southern League. The only Major League team at all close-by for 90% of the teams in the Southern League is the Atlanta Braves, with the exception of the western Tennessee team called the Jackson Generals being closer to St. Louis than it is Atlanta. Jackson, TN is also the smallest Double-A city, with a metro population of around just 107,000. Even the Jacksonville Suns are closer to Atlanta than their parent-clubs’ location in Miami, Florida. The Jacksonville Suns, a Florida Marlins farm team, were the highest-drawing Southern League team last season, drawing 5,141 per game.

In the following weeks, I will have posts on each of the 3 Double-A leagues, with ball club profiles including ballpark photos and metro-area populations.

Here is an interesting list, from the Ballpark Digest site, ‘2010 Baseball Attendance by Average [Minor Leagues]‘.
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Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, ‘Minor league baseball‘.

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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