On the farm

Bus leagues. Maybe it is a page out of Obscure Sports Quarterly or something from ESPN8, the Ocho, but I enjoy minor league sports.

My fondness for the minors isn’t necessarily limited to one team, sport or league. I’m not a rabid fan of one team or another. My appreciation is more for the teams, the tickets, the uniforms, the logos and how they fit into the web of their respective sport.

Take baseball as an example. I personally discovered the minors when I was finding cheaper alternatives to the majors. At the time, tickets to the Tigers weren’t what they are now, but I was intrigued by the structure of the minors. From AAA on down, you would see the stops on the way to the majors on the backs of Topps cards. I would use books and magazines to learn more (because I’m in my late 30s and we didn’t have the Internet kids).

As I grew, or time progressed for the Internet, I grew to learn more about the minor league levels. I went to a few games like in Toledo, Lansing and Grand Rapids.

At the same time, I was learning about minor league hockey. Saginaw had the Wheels and Flint had the Generals in the old Colonial Hockey League. More lessons to be learned.

I firmly believe that in Michigan, especially lower Michigan, the emphasis is on the major pro teams and the pair of Big Ten college programs. It is a pro place.

My education continued some as the Wheels changed names twice and moved away. In came the Saginaw Spirit, and learning about Canadian junior hockey. I went to a game, even, as a member of the press. The same thing happened when the CBA, in its waning days as a pro basketball league, had the Great Lakes Storm in Birch Run. I still have a Storm press credential.

Once my family and I moved to Wisconsin, though, more doors open. They seem more open to things like the Midwest League in baseball and even collegiate summer woodbat baseball in the Northwoods League. My mind was opened up to the Wisconsin Woodchucks, the La Crosse Loggers, the Madison Mallards and the very nearby Eau Claire Express.

Learning about American junior hockey with the USHL and especially college hockey in the old WCHA helped. My mind was plenty more open to the layering of leagues. Beyond Wisconsin and Minnesota, there were college hockey teams seemingly all over and getting to see the Final Five at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., was fun.

That takes us to now. Every now and again, I look into and try to figure out the U.S. soccer pyramid. And I am just starting to get a handle on the European soccer leagues. It helps that I’m left wondering if one of the cities or states that hosted a World Cup game in 1994 still hasn’t received an MLS franchise. That would be Detroit. But they’re are the Michigan Bucks and Detroit City FC, which fit in that pyramid.

I am also intrigued by the past of American football leagues like the WFL and the USFL. I’m too young to recall those leagues, so watching and reading stories on each are interesting. I do know about the rise and fall of the XFL. What I am interested in is the the potential for new leagues to play in the spring and summer. There are so many leagues it appears are trying to get going. It is clear that there are audiences that could be served and a minor league to the NFL is nearly necessary. I don’t see the arena leagues being that and it seems the Canadian league isn’t one either. Side note, I like watching the CFL, too.

All in all, I’m attracted to minors sports, from where they fit in the grand scheme of things to the locales to the logos to the leagues.


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