See 2018 Minor League Baseball Attendance Numbers For Every Team
For the first time since 2004, Minor League Baseball's attendance dipped below 41 million. There are a number of possible factors at play here, including the reduction of scheduled games across Double-A and Triple-A and increasingly unseasonable extreme weather across large swaths of the country, which J.J. Cooper has covered in this story.
Even with the dipping numbers, there were a few clear winners this year.
First and foremost were the Charlotte Knights, who won the races for most overall fans (619,639) and best average attendance (8,980). The Knights bested the IL-rival Indianapolis Indians in both categories despite losing one more opening date. Predictably, the top seven best-drawing domestic teams are all from Triple-A: Charlotte, Indianapolis, Round Rock, Nashville, Columbus, Lehigh Valley and Albuquerque.
In fact, nine of the top 10 domestic attendance leaders can be found in either the International or Pacific Coast League. The one exception? The Dayton Dragons of the low Class A Midwest League. The Dragons, who consistently pack Fifth Third Field, drew 550,725 and averaged 7,868 fans per opening. This isn't new, either. In 2017 Dayton was also the only non-Triple-A club in the Top 10.
The big winners in Double-A were the Frisco RoughRiders, who drew 468,259 fans to Dr. Pepper Ballpark this season. Winston-Salem came out on top in high Class A, with 292,774 fans at BB&T Ballpark, meaning that White Sox affiliates topped two levels of the minor leagues.
The short-season crown went to the Northwest League's Vancouver Canadians, who brought 239,086 to ScotiaBank Field, while the Rookie-level champions were the Ogden Raptors with 129,285 fans over the course of their seasons.
The Augusta GreenJackets also saw a huge boost in attendance, due almost certainly to the opening of SRP Park this season. The new park gave the GreenJackets 76,886 more fans overall, and a whopping 1,304 more fans per game. The season also marked the first time since 2011 that the GreenJackets finished a year having drawn more than 200,000 fans. Their average increase was far and away the best in the minors, topping the Greenville Reds by 897 fans.
Speaking of which, they're the first of three consecutive Rookie-level teams to finish in the top five of largest average increase this season. Greenville (which changed affiliations) was followed by Pulaski and Idaho Falls. Also in the Pioneer League, nostalgia for Helena's final season as an affiliated club seemed to cancel out any unhappiness over the upcoming departure. Helena stayed relatively steady by drawing 51 fewer fans per game than in 2017.
The steadiest clubs overall, however, were the Rookie-level Danville Braves and the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits. Danville drew an average of one more fan per game than in 2017, and Montgomery drew one fewer fan per game.
And then there's the Tebow Effect. After the quarterback-turned-outfielder spent 2017 blessing Columbia and St. Lucie with his presence, it was Binghamton's turn in 2018. The effect took a little while to kick in because of the early frigid weather in the northeast, but once it did the results were obvious. The Rumble Ponies drew a total of 220,279 fans to NYSEG Stadium, and an average of 3,553 fans per opening.
The total marked the eighth time in 25 years that the franchise had topped 220,000 fans, and the average was the highest in the club's history. The team also set a single-game attendance record on July 20, when 7,488 fans came out for the Ponies' game against the Trenton Thunder. Those figures might have been even larger had Tebow's season not been cut short in mid-July with a broken hand that ended his season.
On the other side of that coin, both Columbia and St. Lucie felt the Tebow Aftereffect. Columbia, in its third year after relocating from Savannah, felt one of the biggest stings of the year at the box office. Their average attendance dropped by 1,018 fans per game, the second-largest drop in the minors. St. Lucie's downturn wasn't quite as stark, but they still lost an average of 485 fans per game, the sixth-largest dip in the minor leagues.
The biggest drop, however, belonged to the New Orleans Baby Cakes, who lost 97,269 overall and dropped their average attendance by 1,727 fans per game. This was despite losing four fewer games in 2018 than they did in 2017. Using their average attendance of 3,827 from this year, those four rainouts cost New Orleans 15,308 fans, which still leaves a drop of roughly 82,000 fans for the season. Part of this is certainly attributable to the sheen wearing off of the Baby Cakes name, which is in its second year.
The Hartford Yard Goats, however, got a boost in their second season at Dunkin' Donuts Park (after their inaugural campaign was spent entirely on the road). The Goats drew 405,403 fans this season, making them the first minor league team in Connecticut to draw more than 400,000 in a season. In fact, they joined Dayton as one of just two teams (and one of just 21 overall) to eclipse the 400,000 mark.
The Florida Fire Frogs once again were the unluckiest team in terms of weather. After losing 17 openings in 2017, the team had 14 washouts in 2018, giving them a total of a whopping 31 rain dates over two seasons. To put that in perspective, that's 22 percent of their home dates lost to weather over two seasons. Similarly, the Hagerstown Suns have lost 17 percent of their home games to weather over the last two seasons. SIx teams in each of the last two years have lost double-digit games to weather. Thirty-two teams in 2018 went the entire season without losing a home opening.
|Team||Openings||Openings Lost||Total||Average||Average Change||Total Change|
|Round Rock Express||70||0||616,636||8809||85||5,955|
|Lehigh Valley IronPigs||66||4||561,745||8511||-30||6,599|
|El Paso Chihuahuas||69||1||539,520||7819||-75||-5,148|
|Sacramento River Cats||69||1||538,785||7808||-224||-23,452|
|Toledo Mud Hens||69||1||507,965||7362||-252||-25,049|
|Salt Lake Bees||69||1||477,528||6921||18||-5,674|
|Oklahoma City Dodgers||69||1||463,195||6713||180||18,971|
|Rochester Red Wings||67||3||437,974||6537||-16||-7,607|
|Hartford Yard Goats||68||2||408,942||6014||202||13,746|
|Richmond Flying Squirrels||64||6||396,686||6198||164||10,501|
|Pawtucket Red Sox||66||4||394811||5982||-424||-15,149|
|Reading Fightin Phils||68||2||388,510||5713||-341||-23,188|
|West Michigan Whitecaps||67||3||386,609||5770||205||2,626|
|Fort Wayne TinCaps||66||4||376,422||5703||-228||-32,831|
|Kane County Cougars||64||6||350,028||5469||-420||-44,539|
|Portland Sea Dogs||61||9||346,341||5678||25||-9,812|
|Omaha Storm Chasers||65||5||345,830||5320||-35||-12,947|
|South Bend Cubs||70||0||343,763||4911||-374||-10,307|
|Corpus Christi Hooks||70||0||340,607||4866||-78||9,365|
|Las Vegas 51s||70||0||332,224||4746||-311||-26,835|
|San Antonio Missions||67||3||327,276||4885||328||21,925|
|New Hampshire Fisher Cats||63||7||319,099||5065||330||34,991|
|Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp||63||6||317,335||5037||-134||-8,408|
|Northwest Arkansas Naturals||68||2||304,526||4478||7||500|
|Pensacola Blue Wahoos||69||1||300,002||4348||28||1,894|
|Colorado Springs Sky Sox||64||6||262,657||4104||-104||-2,438|
|New Orleans Baby Cakes||66||4||252,614||3827||-1,727||-97,269|
|Wilmington Blue Rocks||65||5||249,746||3842||-3||19,069|
|Wisconsin Timber Rattlers||65||5||225,897||3475||37||-4,429|
|Binghamton Rumble Ponies||62||8||220,279||3553||264||29,514|
|Myrtle Beach Pelicans||66||4||219,589||3327||-260||-13,537|
|Quad Cities River Bandits||68||2||215,061||3163||-123||-14,945|
|Lake Elsinore Storm||70||0||214,955||3071||177||15,294|
|Lake County Captains||66||4||202,124||3062||-161||-10,623|
|Inland Empire 66ers||70||0||193,992||2771||-120||-8,344|
|Salem Red Sox||66||4||192,621||2919||-392||-22,623|
|Great Lakes Loons||65||5||187,220||2880||-141||-15,213|
|Bowling Green Hot Rods||66||4||178,329||2702||-153||-1,510|
|Rancho Cucamonga Quakes||70||0||171,767||2454||2||145|
|Cedar Rapids Kernels||68||2||160,165||2355||-23||-6,262|
|Hudson Valley Renegades||37||1||148,156||4004||6||220|
|San Jose Giants||70||0||147,668||2110||-258||-15,705|
|Fort Myers Miracle||67||3||123,882||1849||-175||2,444|
|State College Spikes||37||1||119,986||3243||-4||-3,415|
|Down East Wood Ducks||66||4||116,835||1770||-255||-28,945|
|West Virginia Power||61||9||112,273||1841||-216||-21,406|
|Charlotte Stone Crabs||63||8||104,193||1654||-262||-16,492|
|Idaho Falls Chukars||37||1||101,448||2742||352||10,632|
|St. Lucie Mets||65||5||98,823||1520||-485||-33,536|
|Mahoning Valley Scrappers||36||2||97,204||2700||-297||-10,690|
|Tri-City Dust Devils||37||1||86,283||2332||57||-178|
|Grand Junction Rockies||38||0||84,416||2221||71||4,869|
|Vermont Lake Monsters||38||0||83,956||2209||-153||1,282|
|Staten Island Yankees||35||2||72,894||2083||43||1,493|
|West Virginia Black Bears||38||0||69,430||1827||-202||-5,634|
|Johnson City Cardinals||31||4||68,881||2222||246||3,679|
|Palm Beach Cardinals||62||8||64,008||1032||98||5,176|
|Lakeland Flying Tigers||59||11||49,551||840||25||-2,640|
|Great Falls Voyagers||34||4||47,625||1401||157||365|
|Florida Fire Frogs||55||14||33,017||600||-482||-24,307|
|Dunedin Blue Jays||68||2||30,569||450||-123||-8,387|
|Buies Creek Astros||67||3||24,068||359||-158||-6,450|
|Bluefield Blue Jays||31||3||20,018||646||-51||-1,577|