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Everything You Need to Know About Minor League Baseball in California
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Everything You Need to Know About Minor League Baseball in California

If you’re a fan of the Major Leagues, chances are you’ll love the up-and-coming talent in the Minor Leagues too.

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5 min read

May 28, 2021

“Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;

Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;

Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,

Defiance flashed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.”

—Ernest Thayer, Casey at the Bat

Baseball lovers, rejoice. Is there anything better than introducing your little ones to the sport you love dearly? We think not, which is why Major League baseball is an iconic part of California's culture. The Golden State is home to legendary baseball stadiums, celebrated athletes, and a whole lot of hustle, proving that great success comes to those who wear the gloves.

If you’re a fan of the Major Leagues, chances are you’ll love the up-and-coming talent in the Minor Leagues too. So ditch the traditional beach day and attend a ball game—California League Baseball never disappoints.

The current structure of MLB was created when the major leagues reached their agreement in 1903, and the minor leagues became a training ground.

The History of Minor League Baseball in California

The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, or Minor League Baseball as we know it today, was established in 1901. It began when a group of executives met at the famous Leland Hotel in Chicago, deliberated for hours, and agreed to form the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. At the time, their mission was to preserve the independence of the leagues involved. 

The first Minor League president was Patrick T. Powers. His leadership led to 14 leagues and 96 clubs becoming members of the Minor League a year after its establishment. By the time Powers left office in 1909, there were 35 leagues and 246 clubs—talk about crushing the game.

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Minor League Baseball has since been successful. Year after year, the league went through changes and categorized more classes. The 2008 regular season attendance established a new all-time record of 43,263,740 attendees. The total regular-season attendance increased in 28 of the last 36 seasons—it surpassed the 33-million fan benchmark. Mind you, this level hadn’t been attained since the late 1940s, when membership to the MLB club consisted of more than 50 leagues and a little over 400 teams.

Famous Minor League Baseball Teams in California 

The Rawhide are the first stop for prospects of the D-backs system, one of the most talented in all of baseball. Photo courtesy of Visalia Rawhide.

Visalia Rawhide 

In the 2011 movie Moneyball, do you recall the scene where Brad Pitt’s character Billy Beane drove to watch a minor league team play during their glorious winning streak? If not, perhaps another scene comes to mind. Did you see character Billy Beane watching a video of baseball legend Jeremy Brown tripping before diving into first base to make a home run? Well, regardless if you remember or not, we’re totally gonna brag about it. Billy Beane’s favorite team was none other than the Golden State’s Visalia Rawhide.

Recognized as one of the most talented teams, the Visalia Rawhide plays 136 games against their Low-A West rivals—teams found in Stockton and San Jose down to Lake Elsinore and the Inland Empire. The Minor League Baseball team also plays in the Southern Division along with the Inland Empire 66ers, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, and Lake Elsinore Storm. With renovations to Rawhide Ballpark and a renewed affiliation with the Major League club, this MLB team has embarked on a new journey.

When you attend a home game at Valley Strong Ballpark, snap a pic with the team’s mascot, a Holstein Bull named Tipper. Introduced on October 15, 2008, the mascot is representative of the thousands of Holsteins in Tulare County—the top dairy-producing region in the country.

The Stockton Ports play their home games at Banner Island Ballpark which seats over 5,000 people. Photo courtesy of Stockton Ports.

Stockton Ports 

Stockton is synonymous with baseball—it’s the city where champions are made. When professional baseball first arrived here in 1888, the Stockton Ballclub won the independent California League’s inaugural championship. That very summer, Ernest Thayer reportedly drew the inspiration for his famous poem Casey at the Bat at a Stockton home game, which was hosted at the present-day Banner Island Ballpark.

Stockton’s professional baseball history began in 1941 with the Stockton Filers, who—after a four-season hiatus after World War II—returned with a new nickname, the Stockton Ports. This name was a nod to the city’s massive seaport; it’s the biggest in the Golden State.

Over the course of 61 years, the Stockton Ports have won 11 titles (the most by any active team), have posted an overall 4,474-4,018 record, and made it to the postseason for 38 seasons. Come out to the Port’s beautiful home on Downtown Stockton’s waterfront, munch on ballpark fare, and cheer on the team.

San Jose Giants games are very much rooted in the older traditions of baseball. Photo courtesy of San Jose Giants.

San Jose Giants

Class-A-Advanced in the California League, the San Jose Giants have been crushing the game since 1988. With affiliation to the legendary San Francisco Giants, the MLB team has aimed to provide fun, affordable, and family-accessible entertainment to the entire community. The San Jose Giants have upheld a strong tradition of creating, nurturing, and presenting a winning environment for tomorrow’s big stars.

Striving for unprecedented success, the San Jose Giants are very much rooted in the older traditions of baseball. Picture a field filled with fans, players signing autographs before each game, and an outfield lined with advertisements, much like the stadiums of the 1920s and 1930s. A simple scoreboard shows basic data like rims, strikes, balls, and outs—it’s fun for the whole family.

Prior to 2015, the River Cats were the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics for 15 years. Photo courtesy of Sacramento River Cats.

Sacramento River Cats

Triple-A Championship wins, four triumphs at Pacific Coast League, and 11 PCL South Division Championship trophies—the Sacramento River Cats need no better introduction. The team hosts the most talented sportsman, including Mike Piazza, the first member of the River Cats to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

When they’re not swinging on the field, the River Cats are consistently the talk of the Golden State's capital, Sacramento. Numerous awards for business practices, sustainability efforts, and outstanding community presence have earned the team a household name—and a cute mascot.

The Quakes franchise has been in existence since 1966 when it played in Lodi, California. Photo courtesy of Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 

While the Quakes gained recognition during the 1993 season in Rancho Cucamonga, few people knew that the franchise traces its roots back to 1966 Lodi—the team had stops in Ventura and San Bernardino prior to settling on its current home base.

Led by 19-year-old Mike Trout, the Quakes reached the Cal League finals in 2010, a notable year for the team. A year later, after beginning a partnership with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Quakes began a record-breaking journey of 80 wins. The team also won both the First and the Second Half of the South Division Titles.

The Quakes continue to play their home games at the LoanMart Field stadium. While in its first few years of existence, this stadium held up to 7,000 fans, the stadium downsized, getting a little bit cozier. You can now join 4,900 other fans and scream your head off as California’s most favorite athletes hit all-time records right in front of you. 

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