Before, I have argued that the best level of minor league baseball to introduce to the Maritimes is to start a collegiate summer circuit. Here, I will give a counterargument where Independent professional ball is the best level to introduce here.
Reasons why an Independent league (read CanAm League) would be more successful in the Maritimes than a College Summer league:
1) It’s professional, not amateur. If the local team(s) are billed as professional clubs and not amateur/collegiate teams then it would be easier (in theory) to get casual fans to follow the team(s) and get to buy tickets. Across Canada, independent ball clubs have drawn more fans than summer league teams.
2) Less ownership groups needed. As pointed out in an earlier blog, a viable summer league should have at least six teams, since any independent league teams would be joining a preexisting league this is not a requirement. If there in interest in only say, Halifax and Moncton then those two cities and apply and hopefully join a league, without having to worry about other nearby markets doing as well. In terms of having rivalries, the more Maritime/Atlantic franchises the better but two is all the is really needed to succeed. A stand alone franchise wouldn’t be a great idea as there would be no local rivals and a second franchise makes road trips easier / more cost-effective for the other teams.
3) More games are played in the independent leagues. This is a key-point when trying to gain financing for a possible stadium as more games means more usage, which means more value for your money. More games also leads to more advertising opportunities for potential sponsors. Minor-league style summer leagues play a schedule or 48-72 or so games, or 24-36 home games. Independent ball means around a 100 game schedule (50 home games).
4) On a related notes, a longer calendar in which to play the games. Most summer leagues play from late May / early June until late July / early August. This means a season of 9-10 weeks. Currently the CanAm League plays from Victoria Day weekday to Labour Day, or about 15-16 weeks. Another way of looking at it: summer leagues cover three holiday weekends: Father’s Day (not a true holiday), Canada Day, and Natal Day (some even end before this). Indy leagues cover those plus the aforementioned Victoria and Labour Days. Holiday weekends usually bring in bigger crowds.
5) Fans may recognize some names on the rosters of potential Maritime clubs. With collegiate summer leagues, you are using unknown college players, including low-level DII, DIII and NAIA guys, while in the indy leagues you are using mostly former minor leaguers from affiliated leagues plus the occasional ex-Major Leaguer. Having a former Blue Jay, Red Sox, insert your favorite team here minor leaguer or former MLBer (any team) can help attract fans, especially the casuals.
6) Local senior leagues could act as a farm system, somewhat to the indy league clubs. If a Maritime based independent league team runs into injury problems, they could look no farther than the local leagues to find a fill-in player who is already in-game ready shape. This could cut costs and increase local interest through the use of local players. You see this sometimes with St. John’s based AHL teams where the Leafs/Ice Caps will use an emergency backup goalie from a local senior hockey league.
These are the main reasons on how independent franchises could (and some would say should) be more successful than a Maritime based collegiate summer league.