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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Can-Am League Attendance Figures - Downright Ugly

If you thought the Mets weren't drawing... you should check out the independent Can-Am League.  Former Met reliever Duaner Sanchez was pitching in the league last year for the now defunct Sussex Skyhawks.  The league has seen regular turnover since forming in 2005.  Only 4 of the original franchises remain (the New Jersey Jackals, Worcester Tornadoes, Quebec Capitales and the Brockton Rox).

The league - now in its seventh season has seen numerous franchises come and go.  Atlantic City lasted for two years (2007-2008).  Elmira, NY only lasted one (2005).  Nashua/New Hampshire survived for four (2006-2009).  New Haven, CT made it for three (2005-2007).  North Shore, MA also lasted three (2005-2007). Ottawa went bankrupt after their lone season (2008).  Sussex struggled for five years (2006-2010).  They had a traveling road team on a couple of occasions when they couldn't field an even number of franchise locations.

Newark switched over this year from the Atlantic League and is in its first season of play.
Pittsfield, MA joined the league in 2010 and is in its second year.
Rockland, NY is a brand new franchise that is in its first year.  They haven't even played their first home game yet because their stadium isn't ready.  They're starting the season with a 16 game road trip before opening their home schedule at the new Provident Bank Ballpark on June 16th.

This year, instead of having the regular traveling road team (The Grays), in order to field an 8th team they've added a traveling team called the New York State League Federals, which is comprised of former players from an even lesser independent league to act as a "developmental" team for this independent league.

If we thought the Mets were having problems with attendance - the Can-Am League is struggling.  Unlike minor league affiliated teams, there's little chance of seeing future major league stars on their way up competing on the field.  Yes, there has been the rare occasion of someone making it from these ranks such as Craig Breslow - but it's not too common to see a success story such as him.

The Jackals are the top draw in the league right now, averaging a whopping 2,158 per game.  The Newark Bears (managed by hall of fame hopeful Tim Raines and coached by Jim Leyritz and Ron Karkovice) has averaged barely 1,000 fans (in a stadium that holds 6,200).  Yesterday's game drew an amazing 245 people to the park.   The Pittsfield Colonials drew 473 people yesterday and are averaging 684 for the season.  The season didn't start until May, so the early season weather woes in April and early May didn't effect the league.  This has been a problem they've been having for years.  I'm not looking at the league's books and I'm not looking at the team's books - but I have no idea how this league is surviving.   It's a shame because I've been to plenty of this league's games.  It's not the majors, but it's a lot of fun.  These aren't beer leaguers playing - players on the roster are mostly filled with a) players that were playing with affiliated teams that got squeezed out of the organization because they didn't rise up fast enough before the next draft class came in b) overlooked non-drafted players who are trying to get a shot with an affiliated team and c) the occasional former major leaguer who isn't ready to hang it up and is looking for that last shot to show the big clubs that they still belong.

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