Gulf Coast League

The Gulf Coast League is a rookie-level Minor League Baseball league that operates in Florida, United States. Together with the Arizona League, it forms the lowest rung on the North American minor-league ladder.

GCL teams play at the minor league spring training complexes of their parent Major League Baseball clubs and are owned by those parent clubs. Admission is not charged and no concessions are operated at the teams' games. The players assigned to this level are first-year players who are drafted in the MLB entry draft a few weeks prior to the start of the GCL season, and emphasis is therefore placed on skill development, rather than competitive play.

Gulf Coast League
Gulf Coast League logo
Gulf Coast League logo
SportBaseball
Founded1964
No. of teams18
CountryUSA
Most recent
champion(s)
GCL Tigers West (2018)
Most titlesGCL Yankees (12 titles)
Official websiteOfficial website

History

Prior to the formation of this league, three separate leagues used the Gulf Coast League name, a 1907–1908 Class D league, a 1926 class D league and a 1950–1953 Class C League. All three leagues operated around the Gulf coasts of Texas and Louisiana.[1]

Complex-based baseball leagues, which played before sparse crowds and often scheduled morning games to avoid the summer heat and afternoon thunderstorms, were adopted after the drastic shrinking of minor league baseball during the 1950s and 1960s. MLB teams needed an entry level to professional baseball for 18- and 19-year-old players graduating from high schools or signed from Latin America. They are typically considered the lowest rung on the minor league ladder, a notch below other Rookie-level leagues such as the Appalachian or the Pioneer circuits.

The league was founded in 1964 as the Sarasota Rookie League with four teams playing in Sarasota. It was originally intended to be the Gulf Coast division of a statewide rookie league, with the eastern division based in Cocoa.[2][3] However, the eastern and western teams never played each other. The SRL's four teams consisted of squads sponsored by the Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Braves, New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals. The SRL Braves, managed by Paul Snyder, future Atlanta farm system director, won the championship with a 36–23 record.

The league added teams in Bradenton in 1965 and changed its name to the Florida Rookie League.

The league adopted its current name, Gulf Coast League, for the 1966 season. It expanded to Florida's east coast in the 1990s.

On June 21, 2016, the GCL hired Jen Pawol, the first female umpire in Minor League Baseball since 2007, and the first in the GCL since 1978.[4] In 2017 the GCL hired another woman umpire, Emma Charlesworth-Seiler.[5]

League procedures

The league plays a 52- to 56-game season that runs from mid-June to late August. Following the relocation of the Atlanta Braves spring training complex in 2019, teams in the league were divided into three divisions: East, North, and South (down from four in 2018). The three division winners plus a wild-card team (the remaining team with the best overall winning percentage) play in a one-game semifinal; the team with the best regular-season record plays the wild-card team, while the division winner with the second-best record plays the division winner with the third-best record. The semifinal winners meet in a best-of-3 game series for the Gulf Coast League championship.[6]

Current teams

GCL teams are not referred to by their home city, but simply by their parent club's name, the prefix "GCL" or "Gulf Coast" if necessary to differentiate between them and another club sharing the nickname, and a cardinal number if the parent club sponsors more than one team in the league. Some of these teams share stadiums with their club's High-A affiliate in the Florida State League, which can lead to confusion, as FSL teams do use the city name (e.g. the Tampa Tarpons, three levels up from the GCL Yankees East and GCL Yankees West, who also play in Tampa).

The New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and Philadelphia Phillies began fielding two teams in 2013, 2016, and 2018 (respectively), the first time since 1981 when the Houston Astros (1980—81) and Kansas City Royals (1974, 1979—81) did so.

Division Team MLB Affiliation City Stadium Capacity
East GCL Astros Houston Astros West Palm Beach, Florida FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches 6,500
GCL Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals Jupiter, Florida Roger Dean Stadium 7,200
GCL Marlins Miami Marlins Jupiter, Florida Roger Dean Stadium 7,200
GCL Mets New York Mets Port St. Lucie, Florida First Data Field 7,160
GCL Nationals Washington Nationals West Palm Beach, Florida FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches 6,500
North GCL Blue Jays Toronto Blue Jays Dunedin, Florida Bobby Mattick Training Center at Englebert Complex 5,500
GCL Phillies East Philadelphia Phillies Clearwater, Florida Carpenter Complex 500
GCL Phillies West Philadelphia Phillies Clearwater, Florida Carpenter Complex 500
GCL Tigers East Detroit Tigers Lakeland, Florida Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium 8,500
GCL Tigers West Detroit Tigers Lakeland, Florida Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium 8,500
GCL Yankees East New York Yankees Tampa, Florida George M. Steinbrenner Field 11,000
GCL Yankees West New York Yankees Tampa, Florida George M. Steinbrenner Field 11,000
South GCL Braves Atlanta Braves North Port, Florida CoolToday Park 9,500
GCL Orioles Baltimore Orioles Sarasota, Florida Ed Smith Stadium 8,340
GCL Pirates Pittsburgh Pirates Bradenton, Florida Pirate City 7,500
GCL Rays Tampa Bay Rays Port Charlotte, Florida Charlotte Sports Park 7,000
GCL Red Sox Boston Red Sox Fort Myers, Florida JetBlue Park at Fenway South 8,000
GCL Twins Minnesota Twins Fort Myers, Florida Lee County Sports Complex 7,500

Past teams

League champions

  • 1984 – GCL Rangers (5)
  • 1983 – GCL Dodgers (1)
  • 1985 – GCL Yankees (3)
  • 1986 – GCL Dodgers (2)
  • 1987 – GCL Dodgers (3)
  • 1988 – GCL Yankees (4)
  • 1989 – GCL Yankees (5)
  • 1990 – GCL Dodgers (4)
  • 1991 – GCL Expos (2)
  • 1992 – GCL Royals (2)
  • 1993 – GCL Rangers (6)
  • 1994 – GCL Astros (3)
  • 1995 – GCL Royals (3)
  • 1996 – GCL Yankees (6)
  • 1997 – GCL Mets (1)
  • 1998 – GCL Rangers (7)
  • 1999 – GCL Mets (2)
  • 2000 – GCL Rangers (8)
  • 2001 – GCL Yankees (7)

References

  1. ^ "Gulf Coast League Encyclopedia and History". Baseball Reference. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  2. ^ Bender, Bob (1964-07-07). "Rookie League Should Aid Sarasota Economy". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  3. ^ "Special Ceremonies Mark League Opening". St. Petersburg Times. 1964-06-27. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  4. ^ Rivera, Joe. "Minor League Baseball hires first female umpire since 2007". Sporting News. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  5. ^ http://www.espn.com/espnw/features/article/19956500/another-crack-major-league-baseball-glass-ceiling
  6. ^ "Gulf Coast League playoff procedures". Minor League Baseball. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  7. ^ "Davenport, Florida Minor League history". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved 13 September 2012.

External links

Arizona League Dodgers

The Arizona League Dodgers are the rookie level minor league baseball affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They were formerly known as the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Dodgers and played in Vero Beach, Florida, at Dodgertown (specifically on the historic Field One). Dodgertown includes Holman Stadium, which is also the former spring training home to the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. The team was composed mainly of players who were in their first year of professional baseball either as draftees or non-drafted free agents.

The GCL Dodgers originally played from 1983–1992 and folded, but were reactivated by the franchise in 2001. In 2009, the Dodgers' announced that the team would move to the Arizona League and assume its new name. The team plays its home games at Camelback Ranch, the Dodgers' spring training facility.

Arizona League Indians

The Arizona League Indians, formerly the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Indians, are a minor league baseball team in Goodyear, Arizona. They are a Rookie-level team in the Arizona League that began play as a Cleveland Indians affiliate in the summer of 2009. The AZL Indians play home games at Goodyear Ballpark.

With the announcement of the big league club moving their spring training headquarters from Winter Haven, Florida to Goodyear, Arizona beginning in 2009, the former GCL Indians headed to the Arizona League for the 2009 season.

As of the 2019 season, the Indians operate two Arizona League clubs: AZL Indians 1 (designated the "Red" squad) and AZL Indians 2 (designated the "Blue" squad).

Arizona League Reds

The Arizona League Reds, formerly the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Reds, are a minor league baseball team in Goodyear, Arizona. They are a Rookie-level team in the Arizona League that begin play as a Cincinnati Reds affiliate in the summer of 2010. The AZL Reds play home games at the Goodyear Ballpark. The team is composed mainly of players who are in their first year of professional baseball either as draftees or non-drafted free agents from the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and other countries.

With the announcement of the big league club moving their spring training headquarters from Sarasota, Florida to Goodyear, Arizona beginning in 2010, the former GCL Reds headed to the Arizona League for the 2010 season. The GCL Reds played home games in Sarasota, Florida, at Ed Smith Stadium.

FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is a baseball park located in West Palm Beach, Florida. The stadium has a capacity of 6,500 people in fixed seats with room for 1,000 more on the outfield berm. The stadium hosts the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals Major League Baseball teams annually for spring training. It also hosts the Gulf Coast League Astros and the Gulf Coast League Nationals of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

Gulf Coast League Astros

The Gulf Coast League (GCL) Astros are a minor league baseball team of the Gulf Coast League (GCL), and a Rookie-level affiliate of the Houston Astros. They are located in West Palm Beach, Florida, and play their home games at The Fitteam Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. The team is composed mainly of players who are in their first year of professional baseball either as draftees or non-drafted free agents from the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and other countries.

The GCL Astros began play in 1977. However, in 1965, the team first played in the league's direct predecessor, the Florida Rookie League, as the Florida Rookie League Astros. The team suspended operations after the 1998 season, but returned to the GCL in 2009. In 1980 and 1981, the Houston Astros fielded two teams in the Gulf Coast League, named GCL Astros Orange and GCL Astros Blue. Prior to 2017, the team was located in Kissimmee, Florida, and played their home games at Osceola County Stadium.

Gulf Coast League Blue Jays

The Gulf Coast League Blue Jays are a Rookie level minor league affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. The team began play in 1981 and played until 1985. It did not play again until 1991 and was then a Rookie team again for the Blue Jays until 1995.In 2007, it replaced the Pulaski Blue Jays in the Blue Jays farm system. The GCL Blue Jays are based in Dunedin, Florida at the Bobby Mattick Training Center at Englebert Complex.

Gulf Coast League Braves

The Gulf Coast League Braves are the rookie-level minor league baseball affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. The team plays at CoolToday Park in North Port. The team is composed mainly of players who are in their first year of professional baseball either as draftees or non-drafted free agents from the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and other countries.

The team traces its history to the earliest days of "complex-based" baseball. Initially based in Sarasota, Florida, it was a member of the short-lived Sarasota Rookie League (1964) and Florida Rookie League (1965), and was a charter club in the Gulf Coast League when it formed in 1966. The GCL Braves have operated from 1964 to 1967 and continuously since 1976.In 2003, the Gulf Coast Braves won a best-of-three series to defeat the Gulf Coast Pirates and become the Gulf Coast League champions. They did not make the playoffs in 2006. In 2015, the Gulf Coast Braves finished second in the Northeast division with a 27–33 record. They were 9.5 games behind the division-winning GCL Tigers, and did not make the playoffs.

Gulf Coast League Cardinals

The Gulf Coast League Cardinals are a Rookie Level minor league baseball affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals that plays in the Gulf Coast League. The Cardinals were originally a team from 1964–1976 and then were reactivated in 2007. They play their home games in Jupiter, Florida at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, which is also the spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins.

Gulf Coast League Marlins

The Gulf Coast League Marlins are a Rookie Level minor league affiliate of the Miami Marlins that plays in the Gulf Coast League. The team plays their home games in Jupiter, Florida at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, which is also the spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins. The Marlins include mostly players who are in their first year of professional baseball either as draftees or non-drafted free agents.

The GCL Marlins were based in Kissimmee, Florida in 1992–1993, and Melbourne, Florida 1994–2001.

The GCL Marlins threw a combined perfect game against the GCL Astros on July 19, 2012. Justin Jackson pitched the first six innings, Patrick Merkling pitched the seventh inning and Dane Stone pitched the last two innings.

Gulf Coast League Mets

The Gulf Coast League Mets are a Rookie-level minor league affiliate of the New York Mets that play in the Gulf Coast League. The team plays at First Data Field in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The franchise entered the league in 1983 playing their home games in Sarasota, Florida at Twin Lakes Park. The team moved their base of operations to St. Lucie when the league expanded to Florida's east coast.

Gulf Coast League team rosters are thirty-five players, and cannot have more than twelve players over twenty years old, and no more than four players over 21. No player can have more than two years of prior service, excluding Rookie leagues outside the United States and Canada. The team is composed mainly of players who are in their first year of professional baseball either as draftees or non-drafted free agents from the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and other countries.

On December 20, 2011, it was announced the Mets would eliminate their Rookie level team due to financial reasons. On November 8, 2012, the Mets announced the re-establishment of a Gulf Coast League team based in Port St. Lucie.

Gulf Coast League Nationals

The Gulf Coast League Nationals, often called the GCL Nationals, are a rookie-level Minor League Baseball team of the Gulf Coast League and an affiliate of the Washington Nationals. The team plays its home games in West Palm Beach, Florida, at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. The Nationals previously played at Space Coast Stadium from their inaugural 2005 season through the end of the 2016 season. The team is composed mainly of players who are in their first year of professional baseball either as draftees or non-drafted free agents.

Gulf Coast League Orioles

The Gulf Coast League Orioles are a minor league baseball team that plays in the Gulf Coast League. The Orioles were originally a team from 1991–2003, but were reactivated in 2007. The Orioles play their home games in Sarasota, Florida at Ed Smith Stadium, which became the spring training home to the Orioles at the start of the 2010 season.

Gulf Coast League Phillies

The Gulf Coast League (GCL) Phillies are a minor league baseball team located at the Carpenter Complex, in Clearwater, Florida. A member of the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, the Phillies are an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. The team is composed mainly of players who are in their first year of professional baseball as either draftees or non-drafted free agents from the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and various other countries.

The GCL Phillies played some games at the Joe DiMaggio Complex in Clearwater in 2009 while the Carpenter Complex was being renovated. The GCL Phillies also play some home games at Bright House Field.

Beginning in the 2018 season, the Phillies have fielded two GCL teams, "East" and "West", originally named for the divisions (Northeast and Northwest) in which they competed. In 2019, both teams compete in the North division.

Gulf Coast League Pirates

The Gulf Coast Pirates or GCL Pirates are the North Division Gulf Coast League Rookie Level minor league baseball affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team plays in Bradenton, Florida, at Pirate City Complex. Established in 1978, the team is composed mainly of players who are in their first year of professional baseball either as draftees or non-drafted free agents from the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and other countries. The team won division championships in 2002, 2003 and in 2008. The team's current manager is Milver Reyes. In 2012, the team won its first GCL Championship in team history.The 2009 GCL Pirates had nine players each from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, with the United States a distant third at six. There were the two highly publicized, pioneering Indian pitchers, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, who became the first Indian-born players to sign professional baseball contracts in the United States, a second baseman named Henry Henry from Colombia, two players from Puerto Rico, and one each from Mexico, Panama, Australia, Canada and one of the first three players ever signed out of South Africa, Gift Ngoepe, while one of the Americans, Chris Aure, is from Alaska. "We eat together in the cafeteria, but sometimes we try each other's foods," Ngoepe says. "I listen to the Indians' music when I go past their rooms, and they listen to my music from Africa. We tell each other stories about our home countries. We do everything together." "Everybody's the same here, like family," Venezuelan infielder Elevys Gonzalez says.

Gulf Coast League Rays

The Gulf Coast Rays are a minor league baseball team in Port Charlotte, Florida managed by Paul Hoover. They are a Rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League and an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. The team plays most of their home games on field five of the Charlotte Sports Park complex, and will also play select games in the main stadium.

The team first played from 1996 to 1998, as the Gulf Coast League Devil Rays. The club struggled during their first two years, but made it to the league championship in 1998, before losing to the GCL Rangers. The team was not fielded after the 1998 season, however the Rays returned to the Gulf Coast League in 2009.

Gulf Coast League Red Sox

The Gulf Coast League Red Sox are the rookie level Minor League Baseball affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The team is located in Fort Myers, Florida, and plays its home games at the jetBlue Park in the Fenway South complex. The team played its first four seasons (1989–1992) in Winter Haven, Florida, moved to City of Palms Park in Fort Myers in 1993, and moved to its current facility in 2012.

Gulf Coast League Tigers

The Gulf Coast League Tigers or GCL Tigers are a minor league baseball club located in Lakeland, Florida, at Joker Marchant Stadium. A member of the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, the Tigers are an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. The team is composed mainly of players who are in their first year of professional baseball either as draftees or non-drafted free agents from the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and various other countries.

Starting with the 2016 season, the Tigers have fielded two teams in the Gulf Coast League, designated "East" and "West." The second team was created due to the cancellation of the Venezuelan Summer League, which left the Tigers with a roster full of players with no team. Most of these players were assigned to one of the two GCL teams, although some were assigned to the Tigers affiliate in the Dominican Summer League.

Gulf Coast League Twins

The Gulf Coast League Twins are the Rookie Level Minor League Baseball affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. The team plays in Fort Myers, Florida, at the Lee County Sports Complex.The team is composed mainly of players who are in their first year of professional baseball either as draftees or non-drafted free agents from the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and other countries. Gulf Coast League team rosters are thirty players, and cannot have more than twelve players over twenty years old, and no more than four players over 21. No player can have more than two years of prior service, excluding Rookie leagues outside the United States and Canada.

In 1965, the team first played in the league's direct predecessor, the Florida Rookie League, as the Florida Rookie League Twins. The team suspended operations after the 1971 season, but returned to the GCL in 1989.

The GCL Twins compete in the GCL's Southern Division. In 2009, the GCL Twins won the South with a 34-21 record under manager Jake Mauer, who is the older brother of the Minnesota Twins AL MVP catcher Joe Mauer. They lost 1-0 in twelve innings to the wild card winning GCL Nationals in the one game playoff. Following the season, Mauer was promoted to manager of the Florida State League Fort Myers Miracle, and Chris Heintz took the reins for the GCL Twins. Like Mauer, Heintz was also a player in the Twins organization. He coached with the Beloit Snappers the final two months of the 2009 season. In addition to managing the GCL club, Heintz will also run the Twins' extended Spring Training.On July 25, 2010, it was announced that Tom Brunansky, member of the 1987 Twin's championship team, accepted a job to be the hitting coach for the GCL Twins and had started working early this July.

Gulf Coast League Yankees

The Gulf Coast League Yankees (or GCL Yankees) are the Rookie League affiliate of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees. The GCL Yankees play in Tampa, Florida at the Yankee Complex. The team is composed mainly of players who are in their first year of professional baseball either as draftees or non-drafted free agents.

The GCL Yankees have won the Gulf Coast League championship twelve times, most recently in 2017 by the GCL Yankees East squad.

Gulf Coast League
East Division
North Division
South Division
Defunct teams

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