While the MLB and MiLB dominate the headlines, Independent baseball has a reliable stream of supporters and why not? And since the pros charge an arm and a leg, a family can attend an Indy League game for a fraction of the price.
To some, the calibre is not up to speed, but you are getting players giving it there all for a full nine-innings.
So in theory, fans get a competitive game, reasonable prices and the old-barnstorming feel of teams playing for the fun of it.
Independent baseball has a close relationship with their fans as the majority of the teams are not playing in the biggest baseball friendly cities. So, when teams struggle, become defunct, or relocate, the hardcore fans do find it difficult. Lately I have been discussing the idea of a MLB purchase that would help solidify the Indy organization as a whole, while at the same time capitalizing on the “vintage” and “heritage” aspects that the fans have grown to love.
I’ve had a great number of responses from all sorts of professionals through the ranks and it’s been split more or less down the middle. While it would benefit the players who could now move up the ranks in an organizational hierarchy, Indy owners pride themselves on the product that they produce. Would this merger benefit anyone involved?
Whether or not this develops beyond paper, fans continue to enter the stadiums in record numbers;
American Association: 660 games – 2,082,854 total attendance
Atlantic League: 403 – 1,644,496
Frontier League: 512 – 1,278,745
North American League: 363 – 615,889
Can-Am League: 313 – 563,793
For the Indy game to survive there needs to be superior ownership with a good handle on the day-to-day operations. And when I say this, look at the North American League for example.
Kevin Outcalt, Chief Executive Officer has combined the Golden Baseball League, Northern League and United League Baseball to form the first “super league” of its kind. And with a project this big, there will be up’s and down’s.
With names like Canseco, and Aybar, it brings a sense of legitimacy to the first year organization. However, the unfortunate fate of two teams; Maui Na Koa Ikaika and Lake County Fielders, have brought the league under some criticism. But when it comes down to it, the leadership and support staff has to be working on all cylinders to continue to expand and move forward.
Outcalt was quoted in an article on 880AM News about the state of the league and plans on expansion for the future;
“I anticipate that adding the teams in the locations that (the league) is working on, is going to bring some good local rivalries, lower travel costs and firm up the group of owners that we have as well,” says Outcalt.
He admits, however, that the expansion could mean the relocation of existing teams into newer markets.
“By expansion, I mean expanding into geographies where we already are, which would provide more teams closer to the existing teams,” he says. “We’re looking at doing that on the (US) west coast in California and Arizona, and in Canada.”
All signs point to all leagues contusing to flourish and provide the fans what they paid for. If you have never been to an Independent League game, you really should. It’s minor league baseball at its best. Heck, six million fans can’t be wrong!
Devon is the founder of The GM’s Perspective
Devon is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals& Gateway Grizzlies, and is now an independent scout.