Support for the NY-Penn League in Ottawa

Hey folks! As I said (at least I think I did), I’m not going to be as active during the off-season on here, but I felt that I needed to get this off my chest.

I haven’t really spoken in-depth about the idea of bringing professional baseball to Ottawa as this is a Fat Cats blog, and I’m still going to reserve digging deep into the subject to another day, but tonight I felt like whipping something up in response to Carlos Verde’s article on MLB From Me To You.

The one well-lit path I see which could work for pro baseball in Ottawa in the immediate future is Single-A.  I’m talking about the New York-Penn League, Single-A ball.  To me, Short-Season A seems perfect for Ottawa.  No freezing games in April like the Lynx had, nor many ‘businessman’s specials’, mid-week day games which killed Lynx and Rapidz attendance.  The season is shorter, and won’t seem as long and drawn out to Ottawa’s casual fans as the Lynx did.  Being on the lower end of the minor league spectrum means less player salary, and reduced front office costs.  From an attendance standpoint, this league makes the most sense of any discussed; you don’t need 4500 fans per game in Single-A!

Aside from indy leagues having too many weekday home dates (there are quite a few, but I don’t think it “killed” Rapidz attendance numbers), this is pretty much exactly how I see this situation.

No disrespect to David Gourlay and the Champions of Ottawa baseball, but I’m not in agreement with them. I don’t see why we should aim for Double-A baseball, when it seems like the success of the team would rely on the Toronto Blue Jays.

With the Jays as partners, I think that Double-A would work here, however without the support of Canada’s team I doubt that Ottawa AA would be held afloat for more than 5 seasons. Given that, I ask you this question:

Why take a chance with something that may not work, when an option that almost certainly will regardless of the major-league affiliate is sitting right in front of us?

Not only that, but the smaller schedule would help when working out the Fat Cats home dates.

Independent baseball is also a realistic option that would definitely find success here with the right people running things.

Anyway, that’s all for tonight. Drop a comment if you’re in the mood.

Update – 9/6/2012 4:00 PM

Well, it appears that my post was a little late. We will be seeing Double-A baseball here. Beacon Sports has secured the lease to Ottawa Stadium and a conditional Eastern League franchise.

This is good news for Ottawa baseball fans, but the challenge at this point will be keeping the team. I hope that the group that has committed to bringing baseball here is ready for a battle in the first couple of seasons, because that’s what it’s going to be. I will be optimistic in this situation though, it can work for more that 5 years with some blood, sweat and tears.

Another thing that must be communicated is that the Fat Cats are a vital part of the baseball community here and should very much be part of the future. Even if it means going on hiatus for one season during renovations, it would be much better than having the team fold.

Champions of Ottawa baseball do have a plan to keep the Fat Cats around as said in a conversation on twitter:

@MNellisTLB we support prof ‘ball, Mike as u know. We also want a new team to complement our existing baseball culture including the FC’s.

This is very good and something to start with. Hopefully the currently anonymous potential owner shares these views.

    • Edgardo
    • September 6th, 2012

    Looks like your getting your wish double-A baseball to Ottawa

    If it fails Ottawa is done with affiliated baseball forever. People better support it because the travel is going to be enormous.

    • I actually would’ve preferred to see Single-A baseball, but I will definitely support this new team. I agree that this is our last shot at pro baseball.. will be updating this post later today.

    • Pierre
    • September 6th, 2012

    I agree with Carlos and I’ve said the same before as well. Just a couple comments. First, the minor league teams don’t pay the player salaries, the major league team does. Second, I don’t see where there’s much of a cost reduction in the front office. Sure, the salary likely averages less than at higher levels, but likely not that much. These people do want to eat and earn a decent salary. Any potential savings there would be minimal and nothing to talk about really.

    As for attendance, I think it’s possible to get 3000 in Ottawa for such a team. Is that enough? Not sure and surely a team owner would like more and make more profits. It is after all a business. That figure would put Ottawa in the middle of the pack in the NYP. So while you may (or may not) need 4500 per game, it would be nice and something a potential owner would consider before investing.

    Attendance on weekdays Lynx vs Rapidz (have data for Lynx since 2004):

    Rapidz were better on every weekday (way better on Thursdays), same on Fridays (lower by just four). The Lynx did better on weekends and by quite a bit on Saturdays and even the Fat Cats did better in 2010 on Saturdays. Sorry, haven’t entered attendance figures for 2011 and this year attendance wasn’t announced but I suspect it averaged about the same, maybe a tad more. Which brings to mind, where did Carlos get that 4120 figure for the Cats last year? I suspect he used playoff numbers but that is not the regular season average and even with a few big crowds in the playoffs, that can’t be the overall average. Also, comparing these numbers across years and leagues is really irrelevant.

    Weekend attendances compared to weekdays: Lynx averaged 620 more, Rapidz only 120 more. In percentages, Lynx had 29% more on weekends vs only 5.4% for the Rapidz.

    However, the Rapidz started their season in late May. If we use the Lynx attendance from June on, the Lynx did better than the Rapidz, except on Thursdays. The Lynx also did better by almost 1000 more on weekends when excluding April and May.

    Rapidz increased attendance almost 30% on Sundays compared to Saturdays while Lynx were 21.5% and 2010 Fat Cats 24.4%.

    The success of an affiliated team would NOT rely on the Blue Jays. I just don’t buy that argument. Success of any team will depend on management and marketing. Being affiliated with the Jays would be a nice to have but not a prerequisite.

    • Jeff
    • September 7th, 2012

    Question that I have, if it’s true that Double-A baseball is making it’s way to Ottawa which current Eastern League team do think will be making it’s way to Ottawa? I know last season the Binghamton Mets we’re the team rumored to be the team making the trip north of the border, but it’s to my understanding that the NY Mets and the ownership goup in Binghamton reached an agreement until the 2016 season.

    If I’m a betting man it’s going to be Binghamton. Other than Akron no other team in the league has a expiring PDC at the end of the 2012 season. Right now Akron is the affiliate for Cleveland and has been since 1989. Akron is also only a 40 min drive from Cleveland.

    I excited to see the old ballpark get fixed up, and brought up to date.

    • Pierre
    • September 10th, 2012

    PDCs are generally renewed every two years for two years but can be more. They are always done so on even-numbered years. See the list at http://minorleaguesource.com/pdc.html

    Now, when a PDC expires in no way prevents a team from moving. It may mean the ML team will be less inclined to renew after. I mean, look at the Lynx. The Phillies basically went with Ottawa their last year knowing they would be moving to Lehigh Valley where they wanted to be in the first place.

    Would it be Binghamton? Who knows right now. MLB teams have a tendency these days to have their AA and AAA teams close to home base. It’s not to save money for travel when players are brought up and down. That saves nothing really. It’s more to develop more of a following. The Mets are in Buffalo to try to get more Buffalo area fans to come see the Mets and buy Mets paraphanalia and probably to try to convert Yankees fans. The Red Sox have been in Pawtucket forever and it’s working for them and I don’t see them changing. Many more like this: Braves, Orioles and you mentioned Indians with AAA in Columbus.

    This makes it a good possibility eventually to become a Jays affiliate. But think about this: why did the Jays get out of Syracuse to go to Vegas? PDCs work both ways: the minor league team can get tired of the way the major league team handles things and not wanting to renew. That’s what basically happened with the Lynx in 2002 as it appeared more and more that the Expos were going to move.

    I think the major reasons people are speculating Binghampton is because their attendance is at the bottom of the league. Their stadium is also the lowest capacity at 6000 but a few others are in that range. But it’s not that far off from Erie (Tigers). I don’t know if any of those teams are unhappy with either the city and their facilities or their major league affiliate. Richmond may be (same stadium as AAA Braves I believe, don’t know condition) and they are affiliated with the Giants. Altoona (Pirates) could be a candidate I guess as could be New Hampshire (Jays).

    FYI, the Eastern League as a AA classification started in 1963 and has had few changes in those 50 years. They have expanded twice since 1993 and only two franchise moves that I can see. Also, only four Canadian teams have ever been part: Quebec, Trois-Rivieres, Thetford Mines and London (last year in 1993).

      • TucsonDave
      • February 8th, 2013

      Pierre, just to clarify on the Blue Jays leaving Syracuse. They did not do so voluntarily. They were, in fact, trying to entice the management to renew the working agreement, but were in effect kicked out of Syracuse. When the Washington Nationals came calling, the Chiefs Board of Directors voted 23-0 in favor of the move. So far the Chiefs have been affiliated with the Nationals for four seasons. At approximately this time last year, they agreed to a two year extension of the affiliation, through 2014. To my knowledge, they have yet to regret the move.

    • Pierre
    • September 20th, 2012

    Update:

    The Jays Triple-A affiliate is now Buffalo of the International League, at least for the next two years. Meanwhile, the Mets AAA affiliate is now Las Vegas so essentially, they just switched.

    I don’t see too much affiliate changes in the future, at least in AAA. This was the only one this year I believe. What I do foresee is these same Mets looking for something a little closer in a couple of years but the choices are limited.

    On the home front, the Fat Cats are not likely to play in 2013 as the stadium is being renovated (supposedly). The team is out as a tenant. The only chance they have to play in 2014 and beyond is an agreement with this pro team to use the stadium, which I’m not entirely convinced we will have. So we may not see baseball in this city for a while unfortunately.

    • Yeah, I’ve just posted my thoughts on the whole thing. I doubt a deal with Beacon and the new team will happen either judging by the recent comments made by the Mayor. I’d say this is it for the Fat Cats.. you may have to learn how to operate a new score clock pretty soon!

      As for the Jays getting out of LV, I’m really not surprised.. wasn’t the best scenario that’s for sure.

    • Pierre
    • September 21st, 2012

    Oh, I knew my last scoreboarding on the current board was likely over during the last playoff game. Actually, I didn’t expect to work it this year as I thought it would not work at all. I think the warm winter helped and the FC put money into its maintenance, something else I didn’t expect. But it did well this summer, better than last.

    On the plus side, if I decide to work the new scoreboard (and get hired by the new team, another big if), I expect it to be state of the art. So yes, I do expect to learn a new system. But I’ll miss the old one. I’m nostalgic that way.

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