Weather Matters As The Minors Play Catch Up From A Miserable Spring

Theories abound for the cause of Major League Baseball’s sagging attendance figures this season: too many home runs and strikeouts are taking the excitement out of the game, the cost of attending games is too high, the games are simply too long to keep our attention. Research studies and initiatives have been launched to account for and correct the roughly 6 percent decline, with Commissioner Rob Manfred becoming the champion of pace-of-play reform.

The minor leagues have experienced a similar dip at the gate, with attendance down 2.7 percent compared to this time last season. Minor league teams are averaging 3,898 fans per game this season through the month of June; last year they were attracting 4,004 fans at this time of year. The cause for the dip, however, is much clearer than their big league brethren’s decline. Simply put, the minors are still trying to recover from a cold, wet and miserable spring that led to the most April postponements in 11 years.

“Our product sells when the weather allows us to sell it properly,” said Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner, who noted that their business model is less reliant on wins and losses than the major leagues. “The next four to six weeks, that’s really where we can make some hay.”

How wet was it? That may sound like the start of a bad joke, but the spring was no laughing matter for minor league teams. Overall attendance in April was down 6 percent compared to 2017, with 301,834 fewer fans coming to games. There were 136 postponements—which in the minor leagues equates to a lost opening because games are made up as single-bill doubleheaders. Teams in the Eastern, International and Midwest leagues were hit the hardest, and found little joy at the ballpark even when they were able to play.

“We played nine of our eleven April home dates, but the cold was unrelenting,” Erie SeaWolves President Greg Coleman said earlier this spring, when his team’s gametime temperatures averaged just 44.3 degrees, the coldest in the minors. “One day, we had to clear 4 inches of snow and then play a doubleheader with temperatures in the 30s.”

The miserable start to the season has made it nearly impossible for minor league baseball to catch up to last year’s total of 41.8 million fans, which was the fifth-highest total in the sport’s history and a 2.4 percent increase in average from 2016 (from 3,998 to 4,095).

“It’s going to be a disappointment not to be at or above what we were a year ago,” O’Conner said. “But given what we came through in april and early may, it could have been a lot worse.”

The season certainly has not been all gloom and doom for minor league teams. The Charlotte Knights, which have become one of the sport’s top draws since moving into their new downtown home at BB&T Ballpark in 2014. The International League franchise currently leads all minor league teams in average attendance at 8,857, edging the Round Rock Express (8,801). The Nashville Sounds, which like the Knights have benefited from a new downtown location, rank third with an 8,450 average. The Columbus Clippers (8,8,161) and Lehigh Valley IronPigs (8,121) round out the top five. The Indianapolis Indians, last year’s attendance leader, is sixth at 8,058.

Minor League Attendance Leaders

Minor League Attendance Leaders in 2018

Meanwhile, the Fourth of July week certainly helped the minors’ cause. Teams attracted 2,358,269 fans over 541 games, the third-largest attendance figure for a single week in the last 11 seasons.

What follows below is the complete list of minor league attendance, sorted by average, through Tuesday’s games. Enjoy.

Team Total Openings Average
Charlotte Knights 371,985 42 8,857
Round Rock Express 396,026 45 8,801
Nashville Sounds 371,781 44 8,450
Columbus Clippers 326,449 40 8,161
Lehigh Valley IronPigs 357,322 44 8,121
Indianapolis Indians 354,537 44 8,058
Dayton Dragons 336,825 43 7,833
Albuquerque Isotopes 343,601 44 7,809
El Paso Chihuahuas 337,547 45 7,501
Sacramento River Cats 328,398 44 7,464
Buffalo Bisons 289,788 40 7,245
Durham Bulls 336,248 47 7,154
Oklahoma City Dodgers 298,513 44 6,784
Toledo Mud Hens 297,391 44 6,759
Iowa Cubs 268,598 40 6,715
Frisco RoughRiders 281,219 42 6,696
Louisville Bats 302,692 47 6,440
Birmingham Barons 257,052 42 6,120
Vancouver Canadians 85,174 14 6,084
Salt Lake Bees 266,487 44 6,057
Fresno Grizzlies 271,160 45 6,026
Richmond Flying Squirrels 235,215 40 5,880
Rochester Red Wings 223,295 38 5,876
Hartford Yard Goats 273,339 48 5,695
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders 229,015 42 5,453
Tulsa Drillers 236,818 44 5,382
Portland Sea Dogs 187,093 35 5,346
Pawtucket Red Sox 221,619 42 5,277
Brooklyn Cyclones 68,458 13 5,266
Fort Wayne TinCaps 241,835 46 5,257
Reading Fightin Phils 229,512 44 5,216
Memphis Redbirds 228,368 44 5,190
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp 198,358 39 5,086
Spokane Indians 71,117 14 5,080
Norfolk Tides 207,436 42 4,939
West Michigan Whitecaps 185,884 38 4,892
New Hampshire Fisher Cats 194,960 40 4,874
Greenville Drive 184,668 38 4,860
Omaha Storm Chasers 189,077 39 4,848
Kane County Cougars 193,767 40 4,844
Reno Aces 217,841 45 4,841
Corpus Christi Hooks 222,565 46 4,838
Trenton Thunder 227,174 47 4,833
Springfield Cardinals 212,257 44 4,824
Greensboro Grasshoppers 206,941 43 4,813
Las Vegas 51s 215,650 45 4,792
San Antonio Missions 207,847 44 4,724
Akron RubberDucks 188,616 40 4,715
Tacoma Rainiers 206,435 44 4,692
Tennessee Smokies 194,483 42 4,631
Charleston RiverDogs 175,039 39 4,488
Lakewood BlueClaws 165,436 37 4,471
Northwest Arkansas Naturals 182,030 41 4,440
Lexington Legends 194,667 44 4,424
South Bend Cubs 193,643 44 4,401
Arkansas Travelers 170,087 39 4,361
Winston-Salem Dash 188,895 44 4,293
Pensacola Blue Wahoos 184,297 43 4,286
Altoona Curve 181,387 43 4,218
Lansing Lugnuts 194,032 46 4,218
Augusta GreenJackets 156,383 38 4,115
New Orleans Baby Cakes 171,417 42 4,081
Harrisburg Senators 158,478 39 4,064
Midland RockHounds 161,432 40 4,036
Frederick Keys 170,886 43 3,974
Hudson Valley Renegades 31,647 8 3,956
Columbia Fireflies 177,005 45 3,933
Syracuse Chiefs 144,507 38 3,803
Boise Hawks 33,938 9 3,771
Tri-City ValleyCats 55,998 15 3,733
Colorado Springs Sky Sox 152,452 41 3,718
Wilmington Blue Rocks 151,712 41 3,700
Potomac Nationals 146,678 40 3,667
Ogden Raptors 43,256 12 3,605
Montgomery Biscuits 160,786 45 3,573
Chattanooga Lookouts 146,240 42 3,482
Bowie Baysox 147,975 43 3,441
Aberdeen IronBirds 40,953 12 3,413
Hillsboro Hops 37,522 11 3,411
Eugene Emeralds 54,338 16 3,396
Gwinnett Stripers 131,531 39 3,373
Binghamton Rumble Ponies 129,364 39 3,317
Lowell Spinners 35,984 11 3,271
Lake Elsinore Storm 141,312 46 3,072
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 121,921 40 3,048
Idaho Falls Chukars 36,517 12 3,043
Everett AquaSox 33,091 11 3,008
State College Spikes 33,051 11 3,005
Peoria Chiefs 118,377 40 2,959
Delmarva Shorebirds 132,689 45 2,949
Mahoning Valley Scrappers 41,184 14 2,942
Pulaski Yankees 26,378 9 2,931
Myrtle Beach Pelicans 127,182 44 2,891
Lake County Captains 120,077 42 2,859
Quad Cities River Bandits 129,753 46 2,821
Inland Empire 66ers 123,464 44 2,806
Carolina Mudcats 114,594 41 2,795
Billings Mustangs 30,487 11 2,772
Clearwater Threshers 123,233 45 2,739
Stockton Ports 123,084 45 2,735
Salem Red Sox 111,346 41 2,716
Bowling Green Hot Rods 98,570 37 2,664
Erie SeaWolves 105,946 40 2,649
Asheville Tourists 105,455 40 2,636
Tri-City Dust Devils 28,354 11 2,578
Connecticut Tigers 30,814 12 2,568
Biloxi Shuckers 107,545 42 2,561
Grand Junction Rockies 32,865 13 2,528
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 114,469 46 2,488
Johnson City Cardinals 21,819 9 2,424
Great Lakes Loons 99,146 41 2,418
Mississippi Braves 103,381 44 2,350
Rome Braves 98,392 42 2,343
Modesto Nuts 98,547 44 2,240
Staten Island Yankees 26,482 12 2,207
Vermont Lake Monsters 26,355 12 2,196
Missoula Osprey 21,841 10 2,184
West Virginia Black Bears 25,927 12 2,161
Lancaster JetHawks 93,524 44 2,126
Cedar Rapids Kernels 89,180 42 2,123
Daytona Tortugas 74,746 37 2,020
San Jose Giants 86,989 44 1,977
Fort Myers Miracle 77,246 40 1,931
Williamsport Crosscutters 18,875 10 1,888
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 26,202 14 1,872
Down East Wood Ducks 75,591 41 1,844
West Virginia Power 73,058 40 1,826
Hickory Crawdads 74,349 41 1,813
Great Falls Voyagers 17,664 10 1,766
Visalia Rawhide 81,190 46 1,765
Lynchburg Hillcats 68,924 40 1,723
Charlotte Stone Crabs 65,378 38 1,720
Jackson Generals 69,665 42 1,659
St. Lucie Mets 67,348 42 1,604
Clinton LumberKings 65,979 42 1,571
Greeneville Reds 15,714 10 1,571
Orem Owlz 17,574 13 1,352
Auburn Doubledays 13,137 10 1,314
Bradenton Marauders 56,468 44 1,283
Danville Braves 12,689 10 1,269
Mobile BayBears 50,550 41 1,233
Burlington Royals 12,873 11 1,170
Tampa Tarpons 48,297 42 1,150
Kannapolis Intimidators 41,932 37 1,133
Kingsport Mets 11,210 10 1,121
Palm Beach Cardinals 39,915 40 998
Hagerstown Suns 33,568 34 987
Lakeland Flying Tigers 37,188 38 979
Jupiter Hammerheads 34,673 38 912
Burlington Bees 31,213 35 892
Batavia Muckdogs 10,053 12 838
Helena Brewers 8,777 11 798
Princeton Rays 7,092 9 788
Bristol Pirates 7,724 10 772
Beloit Snappers 28,547 39 732
Bluefield Blue Jays 7,710 11 701
Florida Fire Frogs 24,436 37 660
Elizabethton Twins 5,647 9 627
Dunedin Blue Jays 21,272 41 519
Buies Creek Astros 15,330 44 348

3 thoughts on “Weather Matters As The Minors Play Catch Up From A Miserable Spring

  1. rbts2014 July 12, 2018 / 11:24 pm

    Decreasing attendance can also be fewer games on the schedule. There have been no rainouts involving my local team Albuquerque Isotopes in 2018 (just a suspended game for which attendance will count when the game gets completed), but the Isotopes have 2 fewer home dates this year than they would have in 2016 and earlier as Triple-A decreased from 144 games in 2016 and earlier to 142 games in 2017 and down to 140 games in 2018. Two lost dates due to schedule shortening assuming a great attendance figure for a typical Isotope game can mean 16,000+ fewer fans for Albuquerque each season that there are 140 total games instead of 144 total games in a season.

    Like

    • Josh Leventhal July 16, 2018 / 8:24 pm

      Thanks for reading the article and for your feedback. That’s an interesting point about the fewer dates for Triple-A teams. That certainly would impact their overall attendance and likely their bottom line.

      –Josh

      Like

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