Northern New England Baseball

One area of the United States that is similar to the Maritimes both culturally and economically is New England, especially the northern part of the region (Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire).  Like the Maritimes, the region went a long time without any minor league franchises and now all minor league baseball thrives in all three states.

In Vermont, the Lake Monsters (New York Penn League affiliate of the Oakland A’s), drew 84,091 fans during the 2014 season.  This placed them 9th in attendance in the 14 team league.  Not bad for a team that finished 33-43 and in 13th place.  The Lake Monsters first season came in 1994, was the Vermont Expos.  Prior to this, Burlington hosted the Eastern League’s Vermont Reds/Mariners from 1984-88.  Prior to the Reds, the Burlington A’s played the 1955 in Quebec’s Provincial League.  The Reds short stay was preceded by the 1924 Quebec-Ontario-Vermont League which has teams in Montpelier and Rutland.  So Vermont went 63 summers out of 69 (1925-1993) without professional baseball.

In New Hampshire, the Fisher Cats (Eastern League affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays), drew 340,299 fans last season.  This placed them 7th in the 12 team EL.  They too finished 10 games under .500 with a 66-76 record, this placed them in 7th in the overall standings.  The Fisher Cats inaugural season came in 2004, the city’s first season of professional baseball in 33 years.  The city hosted the EL’s Manchester Yankees for three summers from 1969-71.  Prior to that, the city’s last pro club was in the 1949 New England League, also the Yankees.  This all means that Manchester went 51 of 54 years without pro ball from 1950-2003.

In Maine, the Portland Sea Dogs (Eastern League affiliate of the Boston Red Sox), drew 341,420 fans in 2014.  This placed the 5th in the 12 team league.  The Sea Dogs finished with a record of 68-73 (tied for 8th overall).  The Sea Dogs came into existence in 1994, becoming the first professional baseball team in the city since the 1949 Portland Pilots of the long defunct New England League.  Although, the International League’s Maine Guides/Phillies played 17 kilometres away in Old Orchard Beach from 1984-88.  Those 1984 Maine Guides were the state’s first professional ball club since the aforementioned 1949 Pilots, meaning the Pine Tree State went 35 years without minor league ball.

There have been a couple of failures in the ranks of independent ball in recent years.  Bangor (Maine) has had two teams in the Northeast (now CanAm) League.  The Blue Ox lasted from 1996-97 and the Lumberjacks operated from 2003-04.  Tying into the Maritime theme of this blog, the Blue Ox were Bangor’s first pro team since the 1913 Maroons of the New Brunswick-Maine League.  Nashua (New Hampshire) was an independent stronghold from 1995-96 (North Atlantic League’s Hawks) and from 1998-2009 with Pride.  The Pride would play in the Atlantic League from 1998-2005 then in the CanAm League for the remainder of their history.  They played the 2009 season as the American Defenders of New Hampshire.

The region also hosts several teams in summer collegiate leagues.  The New England Collegiate Baseball League boosts the Sanford Mainers (ME), Keene Swamp Bats (NH), Laconia Muskrats (NH) and Vermont Mountaineers (Burlington).  The Futures Collegiate Baseball League has teams in the Nashua Silver Knights (NH) and Seacoast Mavericks (Portsmouth, NH).  Keep in mind the NECBL was founded in 1993 and the FCBL in 2010.

Anyway, my point being, despite the long time without professional baseball, the Maritimes can still be a viable market for minor league ball.  Northern New England has become a successful baseball market despite their spotty pre 1994 history with minor league baseball.

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