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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

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; and, recently (in the last 20 years) in Dayton, OH; and in Lakewood Township, NJ; and in Brooklyn and in Staten Island, NY. But Independent leagues teams, again, can ignore MLB’s territorial edicts, hence the (successful) Independent leagues teams like the Kansas City T-Bones of Kansas City, KS (right next to MLB’s Kansas City Royals); and the Independent leagues team the Sugar Land Skeeters of Greater Houston, TX (right next to MLB’s Houston Astros); and the Independent leagues team the St. Paul Saints (right next to MLB’s Minnesota Twins); and the Independent leagues team the Somerset Patriots (relatively close by to MLB’s NY Yankees and NY Mets).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Comments »

  1. Great Post!

    I used to live in North Dakota. I can tell you that they consider the Fargo/Moorhead Redhawks a professional team on caliber with any “minor” league team in the country.

    I know there have been attempts, but I’m surprised that an Indy league has never succeeded in the Southeast.

    Comment by Dale — May 17, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

  2. Thanks, Dale. Yeah, when I started working on this map & the other MiLB map I am posting this year (see below), I was happy to see that Fargo, ND has a pretty-good-drawing team. And about the caliber of Indy league ball…it is probably as high a caliber as the North Dakotans you talked to think – some say it is of Double-A caliber or even better. Of course, barring inter-league play (which will never happen), we will never know how good the best Indy leagues teams are compared to affiliated MiLB teams.

    There is one thing that is not in doubt and that is that the Independent leagues are growing in terms of total teams and in terms of average crowd size. Here is a teaser from my upcoming post (to be posted in mid-June 2014), on ‘Minor League Baseball: 2013 attendance map, the 84 highest drawing teams of all the minor league teams in USA, Mexico and Canada (all teams which drew over 4,000 per game) (affiliated, independent and summer-collegiate teams)…’

    Below: List of 2013 MiLB attendance by league (the list includes all 15 MiLB leagues within Organized Baseball which measure attendance plus the top 2-drawing Independent leagues)
    List below is ranked in order of highest-to-lowest-drawing, with affiliated-MiLB levels noted, and with season length noted [knowing that total games in season divided by 2 equals the number of home games per team].
    (Please also note: level 1=Major League Baseball {not listed here}; Mexican League is at level 2, but with its teams being unaffiliated; while Independent leagues level is n/a but is probably equivalent to Double-A or level 3-caliber.)
    #1, International League (Triple-A/ level/ 2 / 14 teams/ 144 game regular season), 7,041 per game.
    #2, Pacific Coast League (Triple-A/ level 2 / 16 teams/ 144 game regular season), 6,053 per game.
    #3, Texas League (Double-A/ level 3 / 8 teams/ 140 game regular season), 5,377 per game.
    #4, Eastern League (Double-A / level 3 / 14 teams/ 142 game regular season), 4,616 per game.
    #5, Mexican League (Triple-A, but unaffiliated) / level 2 / 16 teams/ 114 game regular season), 4,519 per game.
    #6, Atlantic League Pro Baseball (Independent league/ level: n/a [not in Organized Baseball] / 8 teams/ 140 game regular season), 4,409 per game.
    #7, Midwest League (Class-A/ level 5 / 16 teams/ 140 game regular season), 3,907 per game.
    #8, Carolina League (Advanced-A/ level 4 / 8 teams/ 140 game regular season), 3,657 per game.
    #9, Southern League (Double-A/ level 3 / 10 teams/ 140 game season), 3,515 per game.
    #10, American Association of Independent Pro Baseball (Independent league/ level: n/a [not in Organized Baseball] / 13 teams [16 teams in 2014]/ 100 game regular season), 3,512 per game.
    #11, Northwest League (Short season-A/ level 6 / 8 teams/ 76 game regular season), 3,292 per game.
    #12, South Atlantic League (Class-A)/ level 5 / 14 teams/ 140 game regular season), 3,262 per game.
    #13, New York-Penn League (Short season-A/ level 6 / 76 game regular season), 3,173 per game.
    #14, Pioneer League (Rookie)/ level 7 / 8 teams/ 76 game regular season), 2,282 per game.
    #15, California League (Advanced-A/ level 4 / 10 teams/ 140 game regular season), 2,275 per game.
    #16, Florida State League (Advanced-A/ level 4 / 12 teams/ 140 game regular season) 1,606 per game.
    #17, Appalachian League (Rookie)/ level 7 / 10 teams/ 68 game regular season), 894 per game.
    -data for above list at ballparkdigest.com/2013-affiliated-attendance-by-league;
    and at ballparkdigest.com/2013-independent-attendance-by-league.

    That’s right…the Independent league the Atlantic League drew 4.4 K per game last year, better than 10 other affiliated MiLB leagues within Organized Baseball; and the Independent league the American Association drew 3.5 K per game in 2013…all without one iota of support from Major League Baseball. That is pretty impressive.

    Comment by admin — May 17, 2014 @ 7:18 pm

  3. I look forward to this post

    Comment by Dale — May 18, 2014 @ 9:21 am

  4. Terrific job compiling the attendance stats and the infographic/map for the independent teams! Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

    Comment by Matt — July 16, 2014 @ 8:41 pm

  5. Thanks, Matt. Your site is now on my blogroll at independentbaseball.net.

    Comment by admin — July 17, 2014 @ 5:35 pm

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