Baseball Challenge League
|No. of teams||8|
|Most recent champion(s)||Niigata Albirex Baseball Club|
|Most titles||Ishikawa Million Stars (4)|
The Route Inn BCL, formerly known as the Baseball Challenge League (ベースボール・チャレンジ・リーグ Bēsubōru Charenji Rīgu?), is an independent semi-professional baseball league in Japan. The league's abbreviated designation is "BC League (BCリーグ?)."
The Baseball Challenge League has two divisions, Future—East and Advance—West, with four teams in each division. Not every team has a home stadium; instead, the team travels around its home prefecture, playing in different stadiums, each one called "home” for that game.
The 72-game season runs from April–October, split into two half-terms, with the division champion from each half-term meeting in a playoff at the end of the year to determine which two teams compete for the league championship. Each team carries 27 players.
Typically, players earn 150,000 yen (c. U.S. $2,000) per month, with another 50,000 yen in potential bonuses. The league imposes a 7.2 million yen (c. U.S. $60,600) salary limit for team managers.
The BC League began play in 2007 as the Hokushinestu Baseball Challenge League. It originally consisted of four teams based in the Hokuriku region: the Ishikawa Million Stars, the Niigata Albirex Baseball Club, the Shinano Grandserows, and the Toyama Thunderbirds. In 2008 the league added two teams, Gunma Diamond Pegasus and the Fukui Miracle Elephants, and split into two divisions, Jōshin'etsu (Gunma, Shinano, and Niigata) and Hokuriku (Fukui, Ishikawa, and Toyama).
Ishikawa Million Stars Infielder Kensuke Uchimura led the league in steals in 2007, which led to him being drafted by Nippon Professional Baseball's Rakuten Golden Eagles. In 2008, he became the first player to reach NPB after playing in the BC League.
That same month, it was announced that a new team, the Musashi Heat Bears, based out of Saitama Prefecture, would join the league in time for the 2015 season. In July 2014, it was announced that a second new team, the Fukushima Hopes, would also join the league for the 2015 season.
With the addition of two new teams, in 2015 the league realigned and renamed its divisions, replacing the previous divisions Jōshin'etsu and Hokuriku with Future—East and Advance—West.
|Division||Team||Founded||State||League champion||Division champion||Half term champion||Team color||Stadium|
|Future—East||Fukushima Hopes||2014||Fukushima Prefecture||0||0||0||Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium|
|Gunma Diamond Pegasus||2008||Gunma Prefecture||2||4||8||Gunma Shikishima (Jomo Shimbun Shikishima) Baseball Stadium|
|Musashi Heat Bears||2014||Saitama Prefecture||0||0||0||Kumagai Park Stadium|
|Niigata Albirex Baseball Club||2007||Niigata Prefecture||1||3||4||Niigata Prefectural (Hard Off Eco) Baseball Stadium|
|Advance—West||Fukui Miracle Elephants||2008||Fukui Prefecture||0||1||4||Fukui Phoenix Stadium|
|Ishikawa Million Stars||2007||Ishikawa Prefecture||4||5||7||Ishikawa Prefectural Baseball Stadium|
|Shinano Grandserows||2007||Nagano Prefecture||0||0||0||Nagano Olympic Stadium|
|Toyama Thunderbirds||2007||Toyama Prefecture||1||1||2||Toyama Municipal (Alpen) Baseball Stadium|
Gold is the League Champion, and Silver is The Division Champion.
|Joshin'etsu Division||Hokuriku Division|
|2008||First half||Niigata||Gunma||Shinano||2008||First half||Toyama||Ishikawa||Fukui|
|Second half||Gunma||Niigata||Shinano||Second half||Toyama||Ishikawa||Fukui|
|2009||First half||Gunma||Niigata||Shinano||2009||First half||Ishikawa||Toyama||Fukui|
|Second half||Gunma||Niigata||Shinano||Second half||Ishikawa||Toyama||Fukui|
|2010||First half||Gunma||Shinano||Niigata||2010||First half||Ishikawa||Fukui||Toyama|
|Second half||Gunma||Niigata||Shinano||Second half||Fukui||Ishikawa||Toyama|
|2011||First half||Gunma||Shinano||Niigata||2011||First half||Ishikawa||Toyama||Fukui|
|Second half||Niigata||Shinano||Gunma||Second half||Fukui||Ishikawa||Toyama|
|2012||First half||Niigata||Shinano||Gunma||2012||First half||Ishikawa||Fukui||Toyama|
|Second half||Niigata||Shinano||Gunma||Second half||Fukui||Toyama||Ishikawa|
|2013||First half||Niigata||Gunma||Shinano||2013||First half||Ishikawa||?||?|
|Second half||Niigata||Shinano||Gunma||Second half||Fukui||?||?|
|2014||First half||Gunma||Niigata||Shinano||2014||First half||Toyama||Fukui||Ishikawa|
|Second half||Niigata||Gunma||Shinano||Second half||Ishikawa||Toyama||Fukui|
- Ryo. "Independent Leagues in Japan," NPB Tracker: Baseball in Japan & Around the World (May 26, 2009).
- "Professional Baseball Tryout," San Diego Sports Authority (2012). Archived on the Western Baseball Association website. Accessed April 7, 2015.
- Patrick. "Japan’s Independent Leagues 2014," NPB Tracker (09 February 2014).
- Jun Hongo, "Julio Franco, 56 Years Old, Joins a Japan Team as Player-Manager," Wall Street Journal, February 9, 2015.
- Gen. "BC League agrees to naming rights deal with Route Inn Group," Yakyubaka.com (Feb. 25, 2014).
- Gen. "New BC League team from Fukushima will be named the Fukushima Hopes," Yakyubaka.com (July 18, 2014).
- Gen. "Island League, BC League to establish Japan Independent Baseball League Organization," Yakyubaka.com (Aug.30, 2014 ).
- Baseball Challenge League Official Site (in Japanese)
- 2014 Final Standings, Playoff Results, Statistical Leaders