Gulf Coast League
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Gulf Coast League logo
|No. of teams||17|
|Gulf Coast League Cardinals (1st title)|
|Most titles||Gulf Coast League Yankees (11 titles)|
|Official website||Official website|
GCL teams play at the minor league spring training complexes of their parent Major League Baseball clubs and are owned by those parent clubs. Admission is not charged and no concessions are operated at the teams' games. The players assigned to this level are first-year players who are drafted in the MLB entry draft a few weeks prior to the start of the GCL season, and emphasis is therefore placed on skill development, rather than competitive play.
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.
Complex-based baseball leagues, which played before sparse crowds and often scheduled morning games to avoid the summer heat and afternoon thunderstorms, were adopted after the drastic shrinking of minor league baseball during the 1950s and 1960s. MLB teams needed an entry level to professional baseball for 18- and 19-year-old players graduating from high schools or signed from Latin America. They are typically considered the lowest rung on the minor league ladder, a notch below other Rookie-level leagues such as the Appalachian or the Pioneer circuits.
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. The SRL's four teams consisted of squads sponsored by the Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Braves, New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals. The SRL Braves, managed by Paul Snyder, future Atlanta farm system director, won the championship with a 36–23 record.
The league added teams in Bradenton in 1965 and changed its name to the Florida Rookie League.
The league adopted its current name, Gulf Coast League, for the 1966 season. It expanded to Florida's east coast in the 1990s.
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 are not referred to by their home city, but simply by their parent club's name, the prefix "GCL" or "Gulf Coast" if necessary to differentiate between them and another club sharing the nickname, and a cardinal number if the parent club sponsors more than one team in the league. 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 Tampa Yankees, three levels up from the GCL Yankees 1 and GCL Yankees 2, who also play in Tampa).
- Gulf Coast League Athletics (1967–1968)
- Gulf Coast League Cubs (1972–1982, 1993–1996; renamed Arizona League Cubs and moved to Arizona League, 1997–present)
- 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 Indians (1967–1975, 1988–1990, 2006–2007; renamed Arizona League Indians 2009–present)
- Gulf Coast League Padres (1981–1982)
- Gulf Coast League Rangers (1973–2002; renamed Arizona League Rangers in 2003 and moved to Arizona League, 2003–present)
- Gulf Coast League Red Birds (1972–1973)
- 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; renamed Arizona League Royals in 2003 and moved to Arizona League, 2010–present)
- GCL Royals Academy (1974)
- GCL Royals Blue (1979–1981)
- GCL Royals Gold (1979–1981)
- Gulf Coast League Tourists (1970)
- Gulf Coast League White Sox (1966–1977, 1980–1997; renamed Arizona League White Sox in 1998 and moved to Arizona League, 1998–2002, 2014–present)
- "Gulf Coast League Encyclopedia and History". Baseball Reference. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
- Bender, Bob (1964-07-07). "Rookie League Should Aid Sarasota Economy". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
- "Special Ceremonies Mark League Opening". St. Petersburg Times. 1964-06-27. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
- Rivera, Joe. "Minor League Baseball hires first female umpire since 2007". Sporting News. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
- "Gulf Coast League playoff procedures". Minor League Baseball. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
- "Davenport, Florida Minor League history". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved 13 September 2012.