It was a good year for Minor League Baseball attendance: while most leagues saw a small decline in per-game attendance, plenty of teams set records for single-game and single-season attendance.
All in all, a total of 40,450,337 attended Minor League Baseball games in 2018. That number includes all 15 leagues under the Minor League Baseball umbrella, including the Mexican League. (We don’t count the Mexican League in our year-end totals, as teams in that league are run differently than the rest of Minor League Baseball. In addition, the Mexican League played a shorter season in 2018, making a comparison to 2017 a little misleading.) Still, with the shortened Mexican League season, 2018 represented a major milestone: it was the 14th consecutive season that Minor League Baseball drew more than 40 million fans.
Here’s our season-ending listings of 2018 attendance, with comparisons to 2017:
“Minor League Baseball continues to be the best entertainment value in sports, and these numbers support that,” said Pat O’Conner, Minor League Baseball President & CEO, in a press release. “For us to top 40 million fans for the 14th consecutive season despite the weather challenges our teams faced in April and May is a testament to the continued support of our loyal fan bases and the creative promotions and hard work done by all of our teams across the country.”
According to MiLB, 20 teams set single-game attendance records in 2018: Albuquerque Isotopes, Augusta GreenJackets, Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Birmingham Barons, Charlotte Knights, Corpus Christi Hooks, Erie SeaWolves, Frisco RoughRiders, Grand Junction Rockies, Great Lakes Loons, Hillsboro Hops, Johnson City Cardinals, Louisville Bats, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Omaha Storm Chasers, Pulaski Yankees, Richmond Flying Squirrels, Salem Red Sox, Tri-City Dust Devils and Winston-Salem Dash.
In addition, seven teams set franchise records for single-season attendance in their current ballparks: Augusta GreenJackets, Eugene Emeralds, Hartford Yard Goats, Johnson City Cardinals, Nashville Sounds, Pulaski Yankees and Spokane Indians.
Some other MiLB team accomplishments to note:
- The Dayton Dragons’ streak of consecutive sellouts, which began in 2000, sits at 1,316 games (the longest in professional sports history)
- The Hartford Yard Goats recorded 47 sellouts
- The Tri-City Dust Devils set a franchise record for average attendance
- The Binghamton Rumble Ponies had their highest average attendance in 25 years (Tim Tebow played a part, as did the hard work put into reviving the franchise the past few years)
- The West Michigan Whitecaps posted their highest average since 2001
- The Boise Hawks reached their highest season attendance figure in 18 years and have increased season attendance by 44 percent in the last four seasons
- The Fort Wayne TinCaps cracked four million fans all time
- The Bowling Green Hot Rods topped two million fans all time
Despite all these major achievements, 2018 didn’t represent any great leaps forward for Minor League Baseball (past the amazingly successful Copa de la Diversion promo, which we’ll cover next month). Out of the 15 U.S./Canadian leagues, only two saw per-game hikes in 2018 over 2017. Interestingly, these were the two Rookie leagues: the Appalachian League (which saw a robust 12 percent hike) and the Pioneer League (with a slight 1 percent hike). Otherwise, leagues were either even or down. (You can see all the league results here.) In a summer when MLB and MLS are seeing attendance declines, however, staying even can be seen as an accomplishment, especially during a season when the first six weeks were plagued by horrendously bad weather. So we’ll withhold judgment on any trends based on the 2018 numbers.
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