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Sales of MiLB licensed merchandise up for fourth consecutive year

Sales of licensed merchandise for Minor League Baseball teams came in at $55.4 million last year, according to newly available data from MiLB. That marks a fourth-consecutive annual increase for the MLB affiliated clubs and surpasses the $54.7 million sum posted in pre-recession 2008, an amount that had been a high in recent years.

There was, however, a year two decades ago when the total was even higher — $60 million — setting a mark that still stands as the best year ever for MiLB merchandise sales. That year: 1994 — the year future NBA hall of famer Michael Jordan spent the season playing for the Class AA Birmingham (Ala.) Barons.

The Barons’ attendance that year was 467,868, a Southern League record that has never come close to being broken, and fans throughout the country were calling the team to order Jordan’s #45 jersey. (Remember: Those were the pre-online store days.)

MiLB does not have specific sales data for the Barons’ 1994 season, but Jordan’s stint in Alabama clearly spiked interest in the team and in the minors overall. Also helping was MLB having introduced, several years prior, a set of minimum standards for new and existing ballparks designed to improve the fan (and player) experience. Any new or renovated ballpark whose construction began after Jan. 1, 1991, had to adhere to the new standards, and all other venues had to meet the standards by the start of the 1995 season. The decree ignited a surge in minor league ballpark construction, including a then-record 10 new facilities that opened in 1994. Attendance gains followed, with MiLB topping 33 million for the first time in 1994.

New or significantly upgraded ballparks
1991: 5
1992: 3
1993: 9
1994: 10
1995: 10

1991: 26.6 million
1992: 27.2 million
1993: 30.0 million
1994: 33.4 million
1995: 33.1 million

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