Now that its first season is nearly in the books, all indications are that the launch of United Shore Professional Baseball League (USPBL) was a success.
Heading into this season, the start of the USPBL was notable for several reasons. Led by experienced sports executive Andy Appleby, the independent league features three teams that playe out of the same ballpark in Utica, MI. That facility–Jimmy Johns Field—received a good deal of anticipation before its May opening. Positioned just 37 feet behind, its backstop is one of the closest in professional baseball and Jimmy Johns Field manages to pack several common amenities– such as a kids area, premium seating, and group areas–into a ballpark with a capacity for 4,500.
Having a new ballpark and experienced leadership seems to have helped the USPBL, which pulled off a successful first season and is already looking to add a fourth team by next spring. Fueling the league was strong attendance numbers, likely triggered by the USPBL’s focus on the ballpark experience. More from the Detroit Free Press:
Appleby said Jimmy John’s Field averaged 3,200 fans per game. The season kicked off May 30 with four games each week.
“Fan attendance exceeded my expectations,” Appleby said. “Even though we had a condensed schedule this year, playing Wednesday through Sunday, we were able to do well over 200,000 fans. That’s really quite good for a completely brand new product and league.”
The USPBL put in extra effort to provide a great fan experience. Whether it was cleanliness, giveaways or the mere experience of enjoying a game, Appleby thought no other league trumped his.
“We wanted the safest ballpark in America, too, and it’s a safe zone for kids,” he said. “We’ve netted the entire ballpark, which has reduced injuries by fouls balls by 98%.”
Interestingly enough, the Free Press reports that the fourth club is unlikely to play at Jimmy Johns Field, but instead have its own facility. The hope for the USPBL would be that the team and ballpark can build off the success of Jimmy Johns Field in 2016, thereby keeping the league strong in the future.