1. Toledo, Ohio
2. Rochester, N.Y.
3. Hershey-Harrisburg, Pa.
4. San Bernardino County, Calif.
5. Springfield, Mass.
6. Syracuse, N.Y.
7. Fort Wayne, Ind.
8. Des Moines, Ind.
9. Spokane, Wash.
10. Sioux Falls, S.D.
12. Providence/Pawtucket, R.I.
13. Portland, Maine
14. Modesto, Calif.
15. Appleton, Wis.
Source: SportsBusiness Journal
SportsBusiness Journal editors obviously didn’t eat enough Peanut Butter Jalapeno Burgers at The Joe.
Sadly, they seem unaware of what’s on tap at the Charleston Battery’s Three Lions Club. Must have missed the pink ice in North Charleston.
Congrats to the RiverDogs, Battery and Stingrays. Charleston is No. 11 in the SportsBusiness Journal’s 2013 rankings of 229 minor league sports markets released Thursday.
But holy Toledo, Ohioans — of all people — beat out the Holy City to top the list. Charleston also is ranked behind such minor league sports havens as Fort Wayne, Ind., and Sioux Falls, S.D.
Could be worse. We outrank Las Vegas (No. 44) and Birmingham (No. 88).
Of course, we’re ahead of Greenville (No. 69). Columbia isn’t ranked at all.
But Charleston deserves No. 1. Here are 10 good reasons for top 10 status, at least:
1. Fundamental fun
“We have a passionate and loyal fan base, one that appreciates the fun we present, but also good baseball,” said Dave Echols, general manager of baseball’s RiverDogs, a member of the Class A South Atlantic League. “And we take great pride in the fact that all three professional teams, the RiverDogs, Stingrays and Battery, not only enjoy a tremendous working relationship, but strive to represent the Lowcountry in a positive manner.”
2. So-called top 10
There’s nothing to do in Toledo but attend Mud Hens baseball games and Walleye hockey games, or eat walleye while raising mud hens. Charleston’s teams must compete with offerings in an internationally ranked destination city.
Sure, San Bernardino, Calif., has the quirky Rancho Cucamonga Quakes baseball team, and Fort Wayne has the somewhat interesting Mad Ants in the NBA D-League. But those are destination cities only if you’re obligated to attend a wedding involving people who can’t wait to move.
3. Limited criteria
The SBJ rankings are determined by fan base, tenured clubs and the economy. This year, researchers analyzed 235 markets, 47 leagues, 408 teams, 249.8 million in total minor league attendance, and $2.64 billion in construction at 50 new or extensively renovated venues.
Yeah, but what about Cool Ray, the Stingrays’ mascot, and live video streaming of all Charleston Battery soccer games?
Esquire magazine this year said the RiverDogs have the “Best Food” in minor league baseball. That alone deserves a top 10 spot.
Rachael Ray raved about the RiverDogs’ concession stand. Adam Richman, the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food” dude, challenged the Homewrecker Hot Dog.
Battery fans can enjoy The Three Lions Club, a 5,000-square-foot pub. Take that, Sioux Falls.
The Stingrays have played top-notch hockey — three Kelly Cup titles in the ECHL since 1993.
Their community-service work wins too. The Teddy Bear Toss is a big hit, and an annual pink ice display each season helps drive breast cancer prevention donations.
Nobody at the SBJ knows about Nobody Night? Famous for crazy marketing stunts, the RiverDogs struck gold last summer by staging the first round of the South Atlantic League All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby on the deck of the Yorktown aircraft carrier, which was named minor league baseball’s “Promotion of the Year.”
7. Bill Murray
Charleston has a RiverDogs co-owner who starred in “Stripes” and dozens more fine films. He frequently shows up at ball games.
8. Darius Rucker
The Stingrays this week honored the music star and Charleston native with a customized jersey and bobblehead as Darius Rucker Boulevard was unveiled near the North Charleston Coliseum.
Blackbaud Stadium attracts Major League Soccer teams to play exhibition games against the United Soccer League’s Battery. The Ashley River and surrounding marsh give The Joe postcard coziness. Recently tweaked North Charleston Coliseum is ideal home ice.
Star-crossed New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez visited for two rehabilitation starts with the RiverDogs in July. He went on about the “Southern hospitality.” The discerning Charleston crowd distinguished itself with just enough booing within a golf-clap reception.
Just after Ryan Braun was zapped with a season-long suspension last month, the New York Daily News gave Rodriguez its entire back page with the headline “You’re next, A-Roid.” He was wearing a RiverDogs ball cap in the photo.
The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes can only dream of that kind of publicity.
Surely, the SportsBusiness Journal folks, over one of the RiverDogs’ Guinness caramel beer milkshakes and some talk about Battery soccer and the Stingrays’ upcoming Darius Rucker Night, will reconsider that No. 11 ranking.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff