It has been one heck of a baseball season especially for the Independent League and their five core mainstays: American Association, Atlantic League, Can-Am League, Frontier League and the North American League.
Attendance is always a concern when it comes to Independent baseball. Whether it’s the prices, the travel, level of talent, population or stadium, it’s always a question mark when thinking if an Indy team will become successful in the long run.
We have seen many times when, despite a successful record and a championship caliber team, it fails to return the next season—see the Edmonton Capitals of the North American League.
And because of that scenario, the NAL has seen a drastic drop of nearly 40 percent in attendance from 2011 (642,963) to 2012 (387,218). Still, the San Angelo Colts lead the league in attendance for the second consecutive year topping the 115,000 mark.
The Frontier League has seen an increase from two teams resulting in a 9.4 percent increase, and the Traverse City Beach Bums lead the way in attendance taking the top spot from the 2011 leader South Illinois Miners at 175,284.
The Can-Am league has seen a reduction in attendance, resulting from a drop in two clubs. Last year, the Quebec Capitales lead with nearly 150,000 coming through the turnstile, unfortunately a 21 percent decrease in attendance has placed them ahead of only the NAL, who, of course, is dealing with their own issues.
The two thoroughbred leagues: American Association and Atlantic League, once again set the precedent. The Atlantic League is out front with nearly 2.3 million and the AA came in a close second with 2.25 million.
What could be surprising to some is that the attendance champion is the first-year franchise Sugar Land Skeeters.
Since dominating the headlines by bringing in numerous players with MLB experience, most notably Scott Kazmir and future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens, the Skeeters pulled in an astonishing 450,000 through the gates. To put that into perspective, the Long Island Ducks led the league in attendance last year with 382,027.
The Goldeyes once again sit atop the rankings of the AA with almost 290,000. But what is very appealing to me, and I’m sure many others, is that the AA increased their numbers by nearly 100,000 while losing one team in the process.
The emergence of a first year team like the Skeeters who dominate at the gate, but aren’t necessarily dominating on the field, might have developed a blueprint that could take other Indy teams to the next level. And given that the headlines are usually filled with news about MLB and MiLB, the Indys continue to make a name for themselves, they continue to draw big crowds and they continue to be successful against tremendous odds.
Please note, attendance numbers courtesy of Pointstreak.
Devon is a manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario, Canada, and can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on Twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here.