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A deeper look at Minors' 2019 attendance

A trip through the turnstiles with help from the Number Tamer
When it comes to Minor League attendance, there is a lot of information to digest. Over 41 million fans attended a game in 2019.
February 27, 2020

On Sept. 10, eight days after the conclusion of the regular season, Minor League Baseball revealed its 2019 attendance totals. One hundred seventy-six teams in 15 leagues combined to draw 41,504,077 fans, a 2.6 percent increase over 2018. For those seeking a better understanding of Minor League attendance numbers, there is

On Sept. 10, eight days after the conclusion of the regular season, Minor League Baseball revealed its 2019 attendance totals. One hundred seventy-six teams in 15 leagues combined to draw 41,504,077 fans, a 2.6 percent increase over 2018. 
For those seeking a better understanding of Minor League attendance numbers, there is no better resource than David "The Number Tamer" Kronheim. Since 2009, Kronheim has written endlessly detailed and meticulously organized annual attendance reports covering Major and Minor League Baseball. These reports -- provided free of charge -- offer great insight into the myriad factors that influence a team's fortunes at the gate. The numbers are clearly laid out, and historical perspective is plentiful. 
Kronheim's 2019 Minor League Baseball Attendance Analysis, clocking in at 211 pages, was released earlier this month. What follows is a small sampling of notable attendance facts from the season, largely culled from his report. This, of course, represents just the tip of the iceberg. Happy digging.
Note: The information contained below is all related to Minor League Baseball's 160 affiliated teams. It does not include numbers from the 16-team Mexican League. 

Minor League playoff games, not included in the official attendance numbers, often present a challenge to teams when it comes to drawing a good crowd. Reasons for this include -- but are not limited to -- cold weather, the start of the school year, competition with football season and unpredictability regarding when, or if, the games might be played.

Nonetheless, 382,417 fans attended a total of 150 Minor League playoff games, an average of 2,449 per game. The average crowd was 4,795 in Triple-A; 2,840 in Double-A; 1,971 in Class A/Class A Advanced and 1,533 in the four short-season leagues. 

The Columbus Clippers drew a crowd of 10,100 to one of their playoff games, the largest of the 2019 Minor League Baseball postseason, The secret? Free tickets

Hey Now...
All-Star Games, like the playoffs, are not included in overall attendance figures. There were 11 Minor League All-Star Games in 2019, which drew a combined 68,392 fans. The Triple-A All Star Game, hosted by the Pacific Coast League's El Paso Chihuahuas, led the way with a crowd of 9,706. The Eastern League All-Star Game, played at Richmond's The Diamond, was close behind with 9,560.

The Florida State League All-Star Game took place at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, which is home to both the Palm Beach Cardinals and the Jupiter Hammerheads. That game attracted 5,380 fans, over five times the average crowd for the Cardinals (973) and Hammerheads (1,045). 
Shark beats bird
As alluded to above, Jupiter outdrew Palm Beach in 2019. That's a familiar scenario for these stadium-sharing Florida State League entities. Since 2007, the Hammerheads have outpaced the Cardinals in average per-game attendance in every season but one. That anomalous campaign occurred in 2016.    
The 500 Club
Thirteen teams drew over 500,000 fans in 2019. Twelve of them were Triple-A teams, and the other was the Class A Dayton Dragons. The latter has sold out all 1,385 games in their 20-year history, the longest such streak in professional sports history. 
The Triple-A Buffalo Bisons drew over 500,000 for the 32nd year in a row, the longest run in Minor League Baseball. Buffalo's streak of 500,000-plus seasons was followed by Indianapolis (24), Sacramento (20), Round Rock (20) and, of course, Dayton. 
The team with the most-ever seasons of 500,000 or more is the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, who have eclipsed this number 33 times since 1979. This includes an active 15-season streak dating back to 2005. 
It happened in Vegas
There were 13 teams that drew over 500,000 fans in 2019, but only one that passed the 600,000 mark. That team was the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators, who drew 650,934 in their first season at Las Vegas Ballpark. This was Minor League Baseball's highest team total since 2015, when the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats drew 672,354. 
The Aviators' 2019 attendance was a 96 percent increase over 2018, when the team, then known as the 51s, played its final season at Cashman Field.
Small bird, biggest gain
While Las Vegas's 96 percent attendance gain was huge, there was another franchise that gained much, much more. The Class A Advanced Buies Creek Astros, playing on the campus of Campbell University, drew 24,068 fans in 2018. The team relocated to Fayetteville, changed its name to the Woodpeckers and played the 2019 season at brand-new Segra Stadium. The Woodpeckers drew 246,961 in 2019, a whopping 929 percent increase over the previous season in Buies Creek. 
A perfect season for baseball
The 14 affiliated leagues had 516 lost dates in 2019, largely due to weather. But none of those came from the Northwest League, as all eight of the circuit's teams played all 38 of their scheduled openings. This 100 percent success rate helped contribute to the league's all-time attendance high of 1,115,614. The Northwest League also set a new average attendance high of 3,670 per date, marking the fourth straight season in which a new record was set in this category. 

Appalachian Accolades
The Northwest League wasn't the only short-season circuit that enjoyed a banner year in 2019. The Appalachian League drew 411,189, its best total since 1994. This was a 5.5 percent increase over 2018, which had been a 10.1 percent increase over 2017.  

The Rookie Advanced Johnson City Cardinals set an all-time franchise high with 80,612, part of a successful campaign that included their largest-ever single-game crowd (4,095). But it was the Rookie Advanced Pulaski Yankees who continued to set the standard. The Yankees drew 95,897, the most of any Appalachian League team since switching to a short-season format in 1957. This marked the fifth consecutive year that the Yankees set a franchise record, largely the result of an extensive (and still-ongoing) series of improvements to their longtime home of Calfee Park.
Seems familiar
Many teams posted similar attendance totals in 2018 and 2019, but no one was as consistent as the Class A Short Season Hudson Valley Renegades. The team drew 148,156 fans in 2019, just two fewer than the year prior. 

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.