A commentator on this blog recently suggested that Halifax joining the International League is the region’s best chance at landing professional baseball.
The reasoning behind this theory, is that it isn’t uncommon for teams at the AAA level fly when they travel. Teams below that bus from game to game. For example, let’s use the Eastern League as an example. The two farthest teams away from Halifax are in Richmond, Virginia (18 hour, 24 minute drive away) and Akron, Ohio (19 hour, 42 minute drive away). These times aren’t including stops (gas, meals, the border, etc). The ability to fly from game to game will eliminate this potential problem.
For reference, the two farthest away teams in the International League are the Gwinnett Braves (Lawrenceville, GA) (26 hour drive away) and the Louisville Bats (25 hour drive). By comparison, these two cities are within hours via flight. A flight to Atlanta is just hours away with only one stopover (usually New York, Newark or Philadelphia depending on the airline you use). Similarly, Louisville is hours away via Philadelphia or New York.
With logistics out of the way, can Halifax support AAA level baseball? At this time, probably not. Obviously, a ballpark is needed. The smallest park in the league is PNC Field in Scranton, PA (Yankees affiliate, seats 10,000). Someone like that isn’t getting built anytime soon.
Before landing a AAA team, Halifax needs to built some baseball tradition/culture before even seriously thinking about joining a league one notch below the Major Leagues. This means joining a lower league and working our way up. As discussed before on this blog, affiliated ball is difficult for the Maritimes based on geography. The only league really within reach is the AA level Eastern League, the short season New York – Penn League is a stretch at best. This brings up the independent CanAm League as the best option for pro ball (again, mentioned many times on this blog). The other option is starting a Maritime based summer collegiate league. The summer league idea has been mentioned before and is the subject of an upcoming blog, stay tuned for that). Once the city has a team for x number of years (and it’s a success, obviously) then you can talk about moving up.
A successful independent team, for example, would legitimize Halifax as a baseball destination. This accomplishes two things. First, people at the International League (or Eastern League, for that matter) would take the city seriously. Second, it makes the locals take the initiative seriously. This would help funding for a 10,000 seat ballpark easier (either it be the city, province or private individuals). Another thing that is needed for this to happen is Major League expansion. There are only 30 AAA teams, only 14 of which are in the IL. In addition to having a baseball team to support before joining the IL, Halifax needs Major League expansion, which in turn means Minor League expansion. To open up enough spots, we need at least six more MLB teams added with at least two of which in “Halifax friendly” markets. By that I mean, markets that would actually consider placing a farm club here. We already have Toronto for that (and Boston if their IL club wasn’t in such a Boston friendly market of Rhode Island). Potential Halifax friendly markets would be Montreal and a second New England team. Vancouver, if ever given a MLB team, would likely have a Pacific Coast League (the other AAA league) affiliate.
Anyway, Halifax in the International League is a potential good idea in the future (20+ years), but currently is a little ambitious considering the current climate.
A History Lesson
Currently there are no IL teams in Canada. But the league has a distinguished history in Canada. Here is a list of former Canadian members of the IL (1912 to present):
- Hamilton Tigers (1918)
- Montreal Royals (1912-17, 1928-60)
- Ottawa Athletics (1952-54)
- Ottawa Giants (1951)
- Ottawa Lynx (1993-2007)
- Toronto Maple Leafs (1912-1967)
- Winnipeg Whips (1970-71)
Here is a list of Canadian based IL champions:
- 1912: Toronto Maple Leafs
- 1917: Toronto Maple Leafs
- 1918: Toronto Maple Leafs
- 1926: Toronto Maple Leafs
- 1934: Toronto Maple Leafs
- 1941: Montreal Royals
- 1946: Montreal Royals
- 1948: Montreal Royals
- 1949: Montreal Royals
- 1951: Montreal Royals
- 1953: Montreal Royals
- 1958: Montreal Royals
- 1960: Toronto Maple Leafs
- 1965: Toronto Maple Leafs
- 1966: Toronto Maple Leafs
- 1995: Ottawa Lynx