Possibility Of New Northeast Independent League

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Ballpark Digest yesterday published a post citing Atlantic League team owner Frank Boulton’s possible new venture into more independent baseball teams in Northeast cities.  In particular they cite Worcester, Atlantic City and Sussex County (New Jersey).  According to the article, the new circuit would not be tied directly with the Atlantic League but they briefly mention that the circuit might involve the Can-Am League:


 

There are many thoughts on this topic as the Northeast, with its population density, could support more independent baseball teams.  Many have questioned the viability of bringing back old markets – like the ones mentioned – since they couldn’t support pro baseball the first time.   Going back to the history of these teams & leagues is one way to determine if the local population can support a well-run organization with in-stadium attendance averaging over 3000 fans each night.

Several ways to look at the viability of returning to previous markets include:

  • What was the entertainment competition at the time?
  • Was there local ownership or absentee ownership (i.e. owners lived far away)?
  • What was the quality of the GM and his/her staff at the time?
  • What did the local population trust as authority sources of news and endorsement, and did the local team build up trust with those authority sources?
  • Was there any financial situation such as the stadium’s fortunes tied in with the associated real estate?
  • Did the team announce its arrival too late to prepare before the season, thus “falling behind the eight ball” right away?
  • Was the local audience “spoiled” previously with top-quality on-field talent, and did a lower-caliber product ultimately hurt the franchise’s chances in that local market?
  • Many other questions

Hopefully any new circuit which intends to revive independent baseball in previous markets learns the lessons from failed ownership attempts before them.  Independent baseball, since 1993, is littered with failed teams and leagues.  Many of them had negative responses to the types of questions listed earlier.

This website tends to be in favor of new independent baseball opportunities across the country provided that the efforts are in good faith and truly intend to give players, front office staff and each new local market quality support.  Some of this site’s visitors have asked why should independent baseball expand, instead of contract to “make it special”.

This is a great question, and here are some of the reasons why we believe in proper expansion across North America:

  • First, baseball has taken a hit nationally when compared to the other big-time sports.  What independent baseball does is provide the possibility of experiences for fans to see players who want to win as well as get to meet the players in person.  This helps to expand the fan base
  • Minor League Baseball has over 150 teams under its umbrella (all classifications).  Independent baseball has the possibility of reaching markets near the same amount of population, provided that adequate facilities and professional-level staff and players can be put in each market
  • This site has long emphasized that the independent baseball side of the business, versus the affiliated side, has the chance to lead all of minor league sports and actually begin to attract fans nationally.  Currently, the formula for minor league sports is that revenues are nearly 100% based:
    • in the physical world
    • within 15-20 miles around each team’s stadium or arena
  • Independent baseball is not bound by certain restrictions imposed by MiLB, so it is sitting on the potential to start to generate revenues nationally, including those which MiLB already has done including:
    • a centralized location to purchase team merchandise
    • possible “game of the week” on cable TV
    • its own version of a winter meetings, promotional seminar, etc.
  • Other potential revenues – at the national level – include:
    • ways to get the fans involved for equipment endorsements
    • giving fans more humor, behind-the-scenes looks, legitimate “how to” information for their kids, and much more
    • possibility for online video games
    • intellectual property
    • etc.

Feel free to leave your thoughts on the possible new Northeast circuit or the revival of old markets.

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1 Comment

  1. Don’t know where Boulton’s mind is really wandering off to now, but they were opting for those towns to support an AL2, a minor league for a minor league so to speak for the stronger Atlantic League, which may itself expand even next year. I seriously doubt that those towns will draw 3000, and would have to pay the players better than what the other indy leagues are paying in order to draw the talent away from those good leagues. But if those towns are supported by the main league towns similar to what MLB teams do for their affiliates, they might fly regardless of attendance. Just so the field and facilities are in good shape.

    I can see a four to six team minor league supporting a ten or 12 team AL. But the Texas teams would have to draw from NE teams, and hopefully there will be a second Texas franchise to arise soon. It would make scheduling trips to Texas easier for the rest of the league, as well as for the Texas teams being close enough to play each other and save air fare.

    But the AL has been snail like and dumb at trying other NE locations like Dover DE that WOULD support a strong franchise. The AC one actually needs to move out to the old race track grounds. There’s a wide open parking lot begging for a stadium to be built right in the heart of residential and commercial environments. Parking is already provided, and there is not enough horse racing there annually right now to interfere with baseball, even if run simultaneously.

    I’d love to see any new franchise come to my back yard in the northern Philadelphia suburbs! While hard to put one right near a busy interstate like most of the AL teams are located, there’s lots of ground open to build a small venue. Or they could use some of the existing ball fields by just adding more amenable seating and small concession stands. Horsham, Warminster, Warrington, even old Memorial Field in Doylestown where the old Lehigh Valley Black Diamonds were forced to play are excellent areas that should draw well if advertised.

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