The Big Orange Guy’s Top 5 Things About the South Atlantic League

With another week ahead of us, I have decided to bring another minor league onto your screen.  Last week, I introduced you all to the Carolina League.  The Carolina League is an Advanced A League and this week, I will stay in the same region of the United States but drop down a level.  The “A” league in the southeast of the United States is the South Atlantic League, also known as the “Sally” League.

The current league was formed in 1980.  There was a previous South Atlantic League that changed its name to the Southern League in 1964, but for this week we are speaking of the league that is only 30 years old.  As I said above it operates mostly in the southeast United States with teams in New Jersey and formerly in Ohio.

When you go to the league’s website, http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/index.jsp?sid=l116, the league does promote its establishment in 1903.  It has gone through many changes.  However, for the purposes of this article, I am considering the current format.

Currently, there are 14 teams in the Sally League.  The Northern Division is comprised of;  Delmarva Shorebirds (Baltimore Orioles), Greensboro Grasshoppers (Florida Marlins), Hagerstown Suns (Washington Nationals), Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers), Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox), Lakewood BlueClaws (Philadelphia Phillies) and the West Virginia Power (Pittsburgh Pirates).  The South Division is comprised of; Asheville Tourists (Colorado Rockies), Augusta GreenJackets (San Francisco Giants), Charleston Riverdogs (New York Yankees), Greenville Drive (Boston Red Sox), Lexington Legends (Houston Astros), Rome Braves (Atlanta Braves) and the Savannah Sand Gnats (New York Mets).  Now that you have met the league, allow me to introduce you to the Top 5 Facts You Need to Know About the South Atlantic League.

#1 – The league started in 1980.  Therefore the alumni that have played in the league are not Hall of Famers (yet), but many of them will be.  Players who have played in the Sally League that you may know are Ryan Braun, Roger Clemens, Carlos Delgado, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Ryan Howard, Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, Mariano Rivera and CC Sabathia.

#2 – There are eight states that have been represented within the league since 1980.  There have been six cities in Georgia (Augusta currently since 1988, Rome since 2003 and Savannah since 1984).  There have been two cities in Kentucky (Lexington since 2001).   The two cities in Maryland currently have teams (Hagertown since 1993 and Salisbuty has been the home of Delmarva since 1996).  North Carolina has had eight cities (Asheville and Greensboro are original members since 1980, Hickory has been iont he league since 1993 and Kannapolis since 2001).  New Jersey’s team, Lakewood has been in the league since 2001.  Leading with nine cities, South Carolina currently has Charleston (an original member since 1980) and Greenville since 1995.  In West Virginia, the city of Charleston has been represented since 1987.

#3 – The city of Lakewood has the record one season attendance record for the Sally League of 482,206 in 2001.  During the same season, the city of Lexington had an attendance of 451,079.  In contract, Kannapolis had their record attendance in 2009 of 132,342.  The stadium sizes in the league range from 7,499 in Greensboro to 4,000 in Asheville.

#4 – In 2010, the Lakewood BlueClaws made Sally League history by becoming the first team in 16 years to become back-to-back champions.  In fact, the 2009 and 2010 finals pitted the BlueClaws against the Asheville Tourists.  The Savannah Cardinals won back-to-back titles in 1993 and 1994.  In the first three years of league existence, the Greensboro Hornets won three titles in a row.

#5 – The South Atlantic League has its own Hall of Fame and it includes the entire history of the Sally League.  It has inducted 95 members through 2010 and includes all 107 years of the league’s name and all reincarnations of the league including the different names of the league.  The only player inducted from the new reincarnation of the league (1980 to the present) before 2007 was Don Mattingly, who was inducted in the initial Hall of Fame class of 1994.

There is your introduction to the South Atlantic League.  Poke around their website and take a look at their long history and their numerous team’s websites.  When you do, stop be the Delmarva Shorebirds.  Drop an email to General Manager Chris Bitters or Director of Marketing & Community Relations Shawn Schoolcraft.  Tell them Russ sent you.  I worked with both of those guys with the Bakersfield Blaze in 2005.  Ask them about Luigi and his appearances in Bakersfield.  Fun stories.

That is all for this week.  Enjoy your time and I hope to have some results from the Winter Meetings next week.  Until then, see you on the other side.

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