View Full Version : Can Baseball in Canada Work?

Silver Sox Fan
07-18-2007, 11:03 PM
OK, before this is branded "OT", I decided to post this because the GBL has expressed interest in expanding to many markets, one of which was Canada.

Anyway, I'm on vacation in Vancouver and I was going to see the Vancouver Canadians (Short Season A affiliate of the As). They were rained out today so I will try again on Friday. They play at Nat Bailey Stadium which was home to the AAA Vancouver Canadians so that speaks to the history of baseball in the area.

Long story short...all of the pro baseball teams have left or will leave for the States by the end of the year except for Toronto (MLB), Vancouver (A Short Season), and 3 indy league teams in Edmonton, Calgary, and Quebec City.

Now, without rehashing the extremely painful post on how attendance is determined, the other minor league teams seem to draw well in an apples to apples comparison to, say, the GBL in 2006:

Quebec 3295
Vancouver 3259
Edmonton 1465 (2104 so far this year)
Calgary 1088 (1388 so far this year)

Now the reasons I have read for the teams failing or moving is weak Canadian dollar (which no longer seems to be the case since it is basically 1 to 1 with the USD) and the high government taxes. But I assume there has to be more to it than that. And Canada seems to produce a lot of guys for the MLB so the kids are playing it here.

So I have two questions for discussion:

1. Why doesn't baseball succeed in Canada? And is it correctable?

2. Can the GBL be successful if it were to expand there in a couple of years?

Pietsch Fan
07-18-2007, 11:10 PM
The NL also has a team in Winnipeg. And there is talk of a team in Saskatoon (sp?). I don't think baseball fares well up there because they'd rather watch hockey. Just like soccer doesn't fare well here because we'd rather watch anything else.


07-18-2007, 11:17 PM
I am from Canada---the answear is NO
I would love to see baseball in BC, Abbottsford -really. I dont see it working for the costs involved. The only way that BC/Canada can be in the league would be if they fly. The taxes alone just would not make sense. If they could find a team in Bellingham, so that they may bus across the border, you might have a chance. Other than that, or a corporate airline to discout airline tickets--its not going to happen. A great thought, but just not practical at this climate.

Silver Sox Fan
07-18-2007, 11:34 PM
So, RW22, can you talk a little more about the costs involved? For example, how do the other minors make it work? Quebec and Vancouver are all alone in their divisions with the rest of the teams in the U.S. Vancouver may get money from the big club or have less costs since they get the players for free but why is Quebec so successful--or are they? Are they making enough that the taxes don't put them in the red?

And since you are from here, what do Canadians think of baseball? I mean it really only runs the same time as the CFL so there is no NHL conflict.

07-18-2007, 11:51 PM
Hi Silver Sox Fan,

Thanks for checking in during your vacation with another interesting question. The one Canadian ballclub you left out of your list is currently the most successful in Canada -- the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the independent Northern League. Mayor Sam Katz owns the team and brought it to the city in 1994. They have played in 7 Northern League Championship Series but only won the single title that they took in their inauguaral season. The team replaced the Rochester Aces who had been a charter member of the Northern League that folded after the first season (one of 11 NoL teams no longer in the league) and has had tremendous fan support. They average over 6000 in announced attendance in the 7400 seat CanWest Global Park.

As for the Triple-A departures from Canada, I think it is more due to the distance and inconveniences of the MLB teams having their top farm clubs in a separate county. The Edmonton Trappers, the Calgary Cannons, and the Vancouver Mounties/Canadiens all drew well and were successful when in Triple-A even with the tough early season weather.

Nat Bailey Stadium, formerly Capilano Park, is over 50 years old but is a fine old-time baseball stadium now hosting a team in the short-season Northwest League -- it's my favorite large minor league stadium in Canada. The current team draws very well for a rookie level team as they regularly average over 3000 fans per game each year in the 6500 seat park. I believe they are playing Spokane (Rangers affiliate) at the moment -- if you go, watch for a Japanese pitcher on Spokane team by the name of Keisuke Ueno -- he was signed by the GBL out of high school in 2005 and was a member of the Samurai Bears that year, we sold his contract to the Texas Rangers at the end of the season.

Also, you'll see a number of White Spot Drive-In restaurants around Vancouver -- be sure to take the family to eat at one as their Triple-O burgers have been considered the best in western Canada for decades and the founder of the restaurant, Nat Bailey, used his profits to bring the original Triple A Mounties to Vancouver as the driving force of their first ownership group and had the stadium named after him when he passed away.

There are a number of smaller, former minor league ballparks in western Canada (some very near Vancouver) that could form the basis of a Northern GBL Division over time -- Victoria, Kamloops, Kelowna, Medicine Hat, and Lethbridge all have ballparks that have hosted minor league teams. Both Kamloops and Kelowna are about a 200 mile drive Northeast of Vancouver so it may be tough for you to see them on this trip.

Best Regards,
Kevin Outcalt
Golden Baseball League

Silver Sox Fan
07-19-2007, 12:07 AM
Wow, thanks for all the info, Kevin. As always, very informative. You seem to have a direct download on every stat, player, team, and schedule at any given time with or without your computer--very impressive. You're the Mel Kiper Jr of baseball in my opinion! Sorry, had football on the mind thinking of attending a BC Lions game tomorrow.

I will definitely give a Triple-O a try and tell the story you gave me! We probably won't be able to see those other stadiums, but it is nice to see Canada has a storied past with baseball--hopefully the GBL can resurrect some of those areas and create a whole new history.

And I can't believe I forgot Winnipeg...guess I figured the town disappeared when the Jets moved to Phoenix :)

07-19-2007, 11:41 AM
I remember that a few years ago there was an attempt at starting a Canada-only league. It was coast to coast and I think it died before the first season finished. I guess that travel costs were just too high.

07-19-2007, 01:06 PM

A great drop for White Spot Drive In!!! Some of the best, bad for you, food on the planet!!

Do stop in and try the Onion Rings!!

07-19-2007, 05:54 PM
Im not sure of the Quebec situation...but I do know that vancouver does has some cost saving travel partners. A team in general would have to pay "import" taxes on travel. If you, as you are now I think, travel by air to Canada, there is is about a $56 fee per person added to your ticket. Multiply that by a typical 28 person travelling squad, and you can see where that might be a problem. Minor leagues have a tight enough budget and to have to pay the extra fees to really hamsting operations. Canadiens LOVE baseball...not as much as hockey mind you, but they really do like the game.
I would love the GBL to expand to Abbottsford or Victoria, but they would have to have some other team in proximity to make it work. Heck, for So Cal, Reno to Yuma is a real tough grind!
Have a great rest of your vacation!

07-19-2007, 06:44 PM
Northwest League is generally by bus (same is true of the Western Hockey League, BTW), so Vancouver doesn't worry too much about traveling. Trips to Boise can run 12 hours, however (though I can do it in 10 in my Honda).

Everett is about 100 miles south of Vancouver. As such, Keizer is about 200 miles south of Everett (but right on the freeway), then add another 67 miles to make Eugene (nowhere near the freeway). Yakima is only 160 miles from Everett, so most of the eastern division isn't too darn far.

Kelowna is a lovely place, but it's not easy to get to, even from Vancouver. Really, there are several markets south of the 49th for which the GBL should first consider... though I wonder, for the sake of BC possibilities, if a Northwestern indy league wouldn't better serve that population.

Silver Sox Fan
10-24-2007, 11:35 AM
There are a number of smaller, former minor league ballparks in western Canada (some very near Vancouver) that could form the basis of a Northern GBL Division over time -- Victoria, Kamloops, Kelowna, Medicine Hat, and Lethbridge all have ballparks that have hosted minor league teams. Both Kamloops and Kelowna are about a 200 mile drive Northeast of Vancouver so it may be tough for you to see them on this trip.

Best Regards,
Kevin Outcalt
Golden Baseball League

Remember this post I started during the Summer? Say what you will about the GBL, but they do their research. I know the naysayers point to the number of folded teams as an indicator of stability but I see it more as them not being so committed to a location that they stay even when it hurts the rest of the league. With STG, OC, CAL, and EDM, half of the teams in the league are now privately owned. And with that many people with a dog in the fight so to speak, the GBL is looking pretty stable to me. And though the Silver Sox are on tenuous ground with a AAA team coming to town, I for one will be a fan of this league for a long time to come; and I have full faith that they will find a way to make the schedule work. The GBL is getting to the point where they have no off-season which is really nice. It keeps this board alive all year long.

10-24-2007, 12:00 PM
I read somewhere that Calgary & Edm. had to pay the NL a travel fee to level the costs for travel money.

Has anyone noticed anything like this with the GBL or does a northern division eliminate this?

Deson't everyone want to see Edm. & Calgary in the OC, LB, STG, Yuma, Chico, and Reno?


10-24-2007, 04:55 PM
Yes, the Vipers and Crackercats had to pay $50,000 each to subsidize the cost of travel for other teams. According to the Calgary Herald today, the Vipers ended up spending over $170,000 on travel last season. They expect to spend only a third of that in the GBL.

The Herald also stated the GBL is trying to put teams in Kamloops and Saskatoon in time for next year, which would lower costs even further.

As to whether baseball in Canada can work, it can, but obviously requires more work than you would need in the States.

Vancouver is a perennial attendance leader in the NWL. Winnipeg always leads the NorL. Quebec City draws well in the Can-Am league, and the Jays are still plugging away despite a long time of mediocre teams. Okotoks, a suburb of Calgary, averaged 1600 fans per game in a college summer league that only averages a couple hundred fans overall.

10-24-2007, 07:18 PM
I think any sport can be successful with the right marketing. I mean 25 years ago if someone said there would be a football league that is quite successful playing in hockey arenas, people would say you're nuts. I think the thing that teams have to do is look at what makes the St. Paul Saints successful. What it seems they do in my opinion is make the on-field action the secondary reason for coming to the ballpark. The action outside of the playing field at their games brings people out.

The other thing you have to do is provide a winning team. The Saskatoon Legends had the right on field talent, but needed to have a marketing person let people know there was games. What you need to do is advertise in the newspaper, on the radio and on TV that there's a game on whatever day at whatever time. You promote the team wildly and you'll find people will show up. The problem with the Canadian League its seems was lack of advertising. My friend is a casual sports fan and enjoys these sorts of sports, but he's not to the point of doing all this research like I do. If it wasn't for me, he'd never have known the Legends existed let alone gone to any of their games. So what a team needs to do is ensure fans like him know that games are going on.

The last thing a team needs to do is partner with minor baseball. The Northern League game here in Saskatoon in May drew around 3,000 people to the ballpark for this very reason. They had deals for tickets for the youth players and their parents. If you partner with the minor baseball teams, you'll draw the kids and their parents to a game. Providing you have the right atmosphere and game experience, these parents will bring their kids back without the ticket deals.