We at IndependentBaseball.net want to start this post by saying that we enjoy the opportunity to see independent baseball expand throughout North America and, one day, possibly other continents. This is because if any player, owner, front office executive, staff member or support staff role (umpire, PA announcer, etc.) can grow this side of the pro baseball business then we welcome it.
Here are some quick history lessons for readers new to independent professional (aka independent minor league) baseball:
- Independent leagues or teams have existed throughout much of pro baseball’s history
- The version of independent baseball as we know it today started in 1993 with the Frontier League and the Northern League (3 of those original teams still operate today under the American Association)
- There have been roughly 30 independent leagues which have played at least one regular season game since the 1993 inception of independent baseball with the majority of the current and failed leagues here (updated through 2012)
- According to Bob Wirz’s column (available here), over 30 players have started their pro careers in the independent leagues before reaching the Major Leagues
- Countless more have started in affiliated (regular) Minor League Baseball then went to independent baseball before making it to the Majors
- Many front office executives had experience before, or after, their times in independent baseball with other established pro sports ventures
IndependentBaseball.net takes a different approach and viewpoint about the independent baseball industry than most “insiders”. Most insiders believe that a successful venture in the independent leagues means mastering high-quality baseball in great stadiums with packed stands every night and with success in the 20 mile radius (in the physical world) around the stadium. Considering how many teams since 1993 could not accomplish this goal, IndependentBaseball.net understands this mindset and truly appreciates and respects those who have been able to be successful for years on their own merits without any help from a “parent club” or other outside entity.
The difference is that IndependentBaseball.net sees 3 major “big picture” areas which no team or league masters; and we believe is the “missing ingredient” to making the teams reach a market valuation similar (or one day better) than their affiliated team counterparts:
- Dominating that same 20 mile radius around the stadium, but in the digital/online world
- Being able to make money in the physical world from a national standpoint
- Being able to make money in the digital/online world from a national standpoint
Yes, this means that even the lower-level independent leagues have a chance to make some terrific money by being smart in the digital world AND giving people in the other 99% of the U.S. more than one reason to actually CARE about a particular team. The mantra in this business is “local, affordable, family-friendly entertainment”. That business model hasn’t been updated in a while and, since many people now trust information outlets other than the newspaper or radio in a local market, the business model needs to adapt in order to grow beyond its current status.
That is why IndependentBaseball.net gives each upstart independent league some degree of cushion or leniency before its first pitch. Even in the last 3-4 years there were at least 4 leagues which have indicated in some public forum (press release, website, Facebook page, independent baseball forum, etc.) that they would start playing. Yet these leagues never even got off the ground.
The reason why we keep giving upstart leagues some opportunity to prove themselves is that this website, two tryout-notification websites, the forthcoming alumni site and the daily trivia site all came out of experience with the much-maligned Continental Baseball League. Despite its documented problems, the league at least did have 100+ of its players go onto higher-level independent leagues and some go onto affiliated baseball. The CBL also gave other participants the opportunity to further the sports business in some manner, not just with the previously-mentioned websites, and hopefully these people will grow the sports industry in a positive direction.
We believe that all insiders, either coming from a low-level independent league all the way to the more established ones, have the opportunity to fill a huge chasm in the marketplace. Since the teams are “independent” from the affiliated teams and MLB teams, they have flexibility in doing virtually whatever they want. IndependentBaseball.net has presented to league officials, team owners and team executives – as well as each upstart leagues – the following opportunities:
- being among the first pro sports teams to monetize social media without having to push more ticket sales and merchandise offers down the throats of fans who are on the site to be “social”
- taking advantage of huge demand in the search engines to monetize “how to” baseball-related information which is being sought nearly 1 million times EACH month (over 10 million searches per year)
- leading the minor league sports business by discovering ways in which the players now can promote their own likeness to the benefit of the players and the teams
- offering more “value” than just local entertainment by truly giving fans across the country information that they would value with high amounts of emotion
- many more opportunities
All of the above content is said because IndependentBaseball.net hates to report negativity in the industry, much of which would be considered “petty”. Nonetheless, we want to keep you informed of the louder-than-normal chatter regarding the proposed AWBL:
IndependentBaseball.net has no financial stake in the AWBL, its parent company, or its teams but, as mentioned earlier, we want to see independent pro baseball flourish in the U.S. With so much not being done to help fans in their personal lives by any pro team (major or minor league), an upstart league has the potential to make a “high value” impact right from the start. Many of the ways to grow the business earlier also were submitted to officials and owners for their consideration, just like every other independent league within the past year.
We hope that the AWBL can get everything aligned properly in time for the season, even if it is a shorter-than-expected season. This is so the teams have a chance to overcome a rocky start and actually give value to their fans in year 1 and then offer more value starting in year 2.
Should you happen to be a passionate fan of the independent baseball leagues, you may have gone onto some of the long-operating forums. Some of them have taken on the responsibility to become “industry watchdogs”. Often some of the participants make comments and assumptions based on limited information, even if the information they have is accurate. That is why IndependentBaseball.net does not want to jump into the finger-pointing, controversial type of content in order to increase the website’s view count a little bit.
If you are a fan of the independent leagues, we want to offer you quality which we can fulfill. Whether this means, in the future, creating:
- weekly podcasts
- weekly online video show
- more player/manager interviews
- more “day in the life” type of content (e.g. a GM’s daily routine)
- how to information
You are welcome to offer suggestions which then have to be run through our filters to determine if the suggestion offers value to fans across North America, can be fulfilled properly & consistently, and in a way which makes economic sense.
If you are an industry insider then contact us privately for what already has been shared with at least some of your colleagues in your league. There are many small, new revenue streams which do not cost your team(s) a penny to create and can benefit many people involved. The new revenue streams also can boost your awareness to not just increase overall profitability, but also the main driver of current revenues which is your ticket sales and sponsorships.
Remember that the mindset of “entertaining the locals” prevents an independent team from realizing massive profits to be had like MLB teams. Those at the MLB level (owners and players), besides commanding better ticket prices and massive TV revenue deals, also have the ability to monetize in these manners nationally:
- action figures
- video games
- baseball card deals
- ability to be showcased in big movie production efforts
- equipment endorsements
- TV commercial endorsements
- nightly recap shows + its own TV network
- international distribution rights
- “official” sponsors willing to pay significant sums
- many other revenue models
The difference in mindset between an independent baseball team’s objectives (entertaining locals) and the MLB revenue goals is staggering. Somehow, some way, the independent baseball industry can grow by carving out a piece of the pie or by creating brand new ways to monetize nationally.
Thank you for reading this far and we will keep you updated on AWBL developments once they are confirmed. Again, we reiterate that we want to see the industry grow to something FAR beyond just “local entertainment” because the ability to reach people outside of a small geographic radius now exists. That ability did not exist 10 years ago when much of the current independent baseball business model was refined; but few minor league sports teams (any sport) have mastered any of the new revenue channels since. Independent baseball has the potential to rise above petty gripes, finger-pointing and limited mindsets about just existing to “entertain the locals”. Hopefully we will see both current and any future independent leagues work together for the greater profits to be had by offering major value to baseball fans & others around the continent.
There are several good books about the independent professional baseball leagues. You are welcome to see a list of suggestions through this link: Books Get notified of upcoming independent baseball tryouts from either of these services: first service or the second service. Prospective players can find some helpful resources here We will be providing a growing list of possibly helpful tips and suggestions on various baseball information. This will range from "how to" information about baseball skills all the way to helpful information for casual baseball fans. Please click the link for more information: Tips And How To Information