Gulf Coast League
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Gulf Coast League logo
|No. of teams||16|
|Most recent champion(s)||Gulf Coast League Nationals|
|Official website||Official Website|
The Gulf Coast League is a minor league baseball league that operates in Florida. It is a rookie league, and together with the Arizona League forms the lowest rung on the minor-league ladder. The league plays a 60-game season that runs from mid-June to late August. Teams in the league are divided into four divisions, East, Northeast, Northwest, and South. The four division winners play in a one-game semifinal; the team with the best regular-season record plays the division winner with the lowest record, while the division winner with the second-best record plays the division winner with the third-best record. Should the Northeast and Northwest Divisions finish 1st and 4th, the semifinal matchups place 1st vs. 3rd and 2nd vs. 4th. The semifinal winners meet in a best-of-3 game series for the Gulf Coast League championship.
GCL teams generally play at the minor league spring training complexes of their parent major league clubs, and are uniformly owned by those parent clubs. The teams generate little if any revenue, as admission is not charged and no concessions are operated. As almost all of the games are played in the heat and humidity of Florida summer afternoons, very few show up to watch the average contest. This does not, however, affect the quality of play or competition, as most of the players are drafted in that year's entry draft, two to three weeks before the season begins. The emphasis is therefore on skill development, rather than winning games or entertaining fans. For this reason GCL games, like their Arizona League counterparts, are among the least competitive in the minor leagues.
GCL teams are not referred to by their home city, but simply by their parent club's name, and the prefix "GCL" or "Gulf Coast" if necessary to differentiate between them and another club sharing the nickname. 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 Dunedin Blue Jays, three levels up from the GCL Blue Jays, who also play in Dunedin).
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. However, the eastern and western teams never played each other. It added teams in Bradenton in 1965 and changed its name to the Florida Rookie League. It adopted its current name, Gulf Coast League, for the 1966 season. It expanded to Florida's east coast in the 1990s.
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.
- Gulf Coast League Dodgers (1983–1992, 2001–2008; renamed Arizona League Dodgers in 2009 and moved to Arizona League, 2009–Present)
- Gulf Coast League Expos (1969-1970; 1974; 1977; 1986-2004; renamed Gulf Coast League Nationals 2005-present)
- Gulf Coast League Reds (1968–1973, 1984–1990, 1999–2009; renamed Arizona League Reds in 2010 and moved to Arizona League, 2010–Present)
- Gulf Coast League Royals (1971–1983; 1985–2002)