For many people around the country, April signifies one thing above all else -- the return of our national pastime.
Minor League Baseball fans responded to this annual occurrence in near-record numbers, as the industry's 136 full-season teams combined to draw 5,971,139 fans in the month of April. There were 1,514 games played in the month, with an average crowd of 3,818 fans.
These figures represent a 1.5 percent increase over 2009, an average of 57 fans more per game. This season's April total is the second largest in Minor League Baseball history, behind the '08 season. That season, 6,665,662 fans passed through the turnstiles en route to a record campaign that exceeded 43.2 million.
"We're very encouraged by the April attendance numbers," Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Conner said. "I think these numbers indicate our fans are eager to enjoy Minor League Baseball in 2010. It also indicates favorable weather, especially in the Northeast Corridor, which has been burdened in years past with bad weather to start the season."
Six of the 11 leagues experienced an uptick in April attendance as compared to 2009; the Carolina League led the pack with a 21.5 percent increase in its average per game crowd. Other circuits showing improvement were Texas (12.5 percent), Eastern (8.1), Mexican (5.1), Midwest (5.1) and Southern (3.5). The Midwest League is hoping to establish a new attendance record for the fourth straight year, this time as a 16-team circuit due to the addition of Lake County and Bowling Green (formerly of the South Atlantic League).
In addition to the favorable weather noted by O'Conner, a host of small factors have helped contribute to 2010's attendance increase. These include new ballparks in Winston-Salem and Tulsa, extensive stadium renovations in Harrisburg and the relocation of the Eastern League's Connecticut Defenders to the thriving Richmond market.
April is traditionally the lowest-drawing month of the Minor League season, due to cold weather and the fact that school is still in session. Overall numbers are also lower due to the fact that four leagues (Appalachian, New York-Penn, Northwest and Pioneer) do not begin play until mid-June. Last year, these circuits combined to attract more than 3.7 million fans.