Florida Complex League

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Florida Complex League
Formerly
  • Gulf Coast League (1966–2020)
  • Florida Rookie League (1965)
  • Sarasota Rookie League (1964)
SportBaseball
Founded1964
No. of teams18
CountryUnited States
Most recent
champion(s)
FCL Rays (2021)[a]
Most titlesFCL Yankees (12 titles)
Official websitewww.milb.com/gulf-coast

The Florida Complex League (FCL) is a rookie-level Minor League Baseball league that operates in Florida, United States. Before 2021, it was known as the Gulf Coast League (GCL). Together with the Arizona Complex League (ACL), it forms the lowest rung on the North American minor-league ladder.

FCL teams play at the minor league spring training complexes of their parent Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs and are owned by those parent clubs. Admission is not charged and no concessions are operated at the teams' games. Every Grapefruit League team fields at least one team in the league. Night games are commonly played in the spring training stadium, although games may also be played at the team's practice fields.

As of the 2021 season, there is no league limit to how many players can be on an active roster, but no team can have more than three players with four or more years of minor-league experience.[1] Major-league players on rehabilitation assignments may also appear in the league.

History[edit]

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 considered the lowest rung on the minor league ladder.

The current league was founded in 1964 as the Sarasota Rookie League (SRL) 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.[2][3] 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.

Gulf Coast League[edit]

The league adopted Gulf Coast League (GCL) naming for the 1966 season. It expanded to Florida's east coast in the 1990s.

Historically, three separate leagues also used the Gulf Coast League name: a 1907–1908 Class D league, a 1926 Class D league and a 1951–1953 Class C League. The 1907 founding members were the Alexandria White Sox, Lafayette Browns, Lake Charles Creoles, Monroe Municipals, Opelousas Indians and Orange Hoo-Hoos.[4] The 1951–1953 version featured the Brownsville Charros, Corpus Christi Aces, Galveston White Caps, Harlingen Capitals, Lake Charles Lakers, Laredo Apaches, Port Arthur Seahawks and Texas City Texans. All three leagues operated around the Gulf coasts of Texas and Louisiana.[5][6]

On June 21, 2016, the GCL hired Jen Pawol, the first female umpire in Minor League Baseball since 2007, and the first in the GCL since 1978.[7] In 2017, the GCL hired another woman umpire, Emma Charlesworth-Seiler.[8]

The start of the 2020 season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic before ultimately being cancelled on June 30.[9][10]

Florida Complex League[edit]

Prior to the 2021 season, in continuation of MLB's reorganization of the minor leagues, the two US-based complex leagues were renamed, with the Gulf Coast League becoming the Florida Complex League (FCL).

For 2021, the league consists of 18 teams affiliated with 15 different MLB franchises, as three franchises are fielding two teams each.[11]

League format[edit]

The league plays a 52- to 56-game season that runs from mid-June to late August. Following the relocation of the Atlanta Braves spring training complex in 2019, teams in the league were divided into three divisions: East, North, and South (down from four in 2018). The three division winners plus a wild-card team (the non-division winner with the best overall winning percentage) play one-game semifinals: the division winner with the best regular-season record plays the wild-card team, while the other two division winners play each other. The semifinal winners then meet in a best-of-three series for the league championship.[12]

Current teams[edit]

Teams in the league are not referred to by their home city, but simply by their parent club's name. A prefix of FCL (previously GCL) is typically used to differentiate the team from its parent club and other farm teams with the same nickname. For instances when a parent club fields two teams in the league, a suffix is used—typically this is a direction (e.g. East, West) or a color (e.g. Blue, Orange). Some teams share stadiums with their club's Low-A affiliate in the Low-A Southeast league (previously, Class A affiliates in the Florida State League). Note that Low-A teams do use city names—for example the Tampa Tarpons, who also use the Yankees' spring training complex.

After the Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals each fielded two teams as late as 1981, no franchise did so until the New York Yankees in 2013. The Yankees were joined by the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies in fielding two teams in 2016 and 2018, respectively. As of the 2021 season, the Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, and Pittsburgh Pirates are each fielding two teams.

Division Team MLB Affiliation City Stadium Capacity
East FCL Astros Houston Astros West Palm Beach, Florida FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches 6,500
FCL Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals Jupiter, Florida Roger Dean Stadium 7,200
FCL Marlins Miami Marlins
FCL Mets New York Mets Port St. Lucie, Florida Clover Park 7,160
FCL Nationals Washington Nationals West Palm Beach, Florida FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches 6,500
North FCL Blue Jays Toronto Blue Jays Dunedin, Florida Bobby Mattick Training Center at Englebert Complex 5,500
FCL Phillies Philadelphia Phillies Clearwater, Florida Carpenter Complex 500
FCL Tigers East Detroit Tigers Lakeland, Florida Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium 8,500
FCL Tigers West
FCL Yankees New York Yankees Tampa, Florida George M. Steinbrenner Field 11,000
South FCL Braves Atlanta Braves North Port, Florida CoolToday Park 9,500
FCL Orioles Black Baltimore Orioles Sarasota, Florida Ed Smith Stadium 8,340
FCL Orioles Orange
FCL Pirates Black Pittsburgh Pirates Bradenton, Florida Pirate City 7,500
FCL Pirates Gold
FCL Rays Tampa Bay Rays Port Charlotte, Florida Charlotte Sports Park 7,000
FCL Red Sox Boston Red Sox Fort Myers, Florida JetBlue Park at Fenway South 8,000
FCL Twins Minnesota Twins Fort Myers, Florida Lee County Sports Complex 7,500

Past teams[edit]

League champions: 1964–present[edit]

Numbers in parentheses indicate a franchise's instance of winning the championship, after its first instance.

dagger 2019 playoffs canceled due to Hurricane Dorian[14]
double-dagger 2020 season canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic[10]

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Johnson, Lloyd; Wolff, Miles (2007). The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball. Baseball America (3rd ed.). Durham, North Carolina.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In 2021, the league did not have a postseason; FCL Rays had the best winning percentage for the season, 42–15 (.737).
  2. ^ In 2021, the league did not have a postseason; FCL Rays had the best winning percentage for the season, 42–15 (.737).

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Official Professional Baseball Rules Book (PDF). New York City: Office of the Commissioner of Baseball. 2021. pp. 10–11, 100. Retrieved June 26, 2021 – via mlbpa.org.
  2. ^ Bender, Bob (1964-07-07). "Rookie League Should Aid Sarasota Economy". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  3. ^ "Special Ceremonies Mark League Opening". St. Petersburg Times. 1964-06-27. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  4. ^ https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/league.cgi?code=GULF&class=C[bare URL]
  5. ^ "Gulf Coast League Encyclopedia and History". Baseball Reference. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  6. ^ https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/league.cgi?code=GULF&class=B[bare URL]
  7. ^ Rivera, Joe. "Minor League Baseball hires first female umpire since 2007". Sporting News. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  8. ^ http://www.espn.com/espnw/features/article/19956500/another-crack-major-league-baseball-glass-ceiling[bare URL]
  9. ^ "A Message From Pat O'Conner". Minor League Baseball. March 13, 2020. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  10. ^ a b "2020 Minor League Baseball Season Shelved". Minor League Baseball. June 30, 2020. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  11. ^ "Florida Complex League: Standings". MiLB.com. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  12. ^ "Gulf Coast League playoff procedures". Minor League Baseball. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  13. ^ "Davenport, Florida Minor League history". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  14. ^ Gulf Coast League (August 28, 2019). "GCL cancels remainder of 2019 season". milb.com. Retrieved August 29, 2019.

External links[edit]