Gulf Coast League
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Gulf Coast League logo
|No. of teams||18|
|GCL Tigers West (2018)|
|Most titles||GCL Yankees (12 titles)|
|Official website||Official website|
The Gulf Coast League is a rookie-level Minor League Baseball league that operates in Florida, United States. Together with the Arizona League, it forms the lowest rung on the North American minor-league ladder.
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.
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. In 2017 the GCL hired another woman umpire, Emma Charlesworth-Seiler.
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 remaining team with the best overall winning percentage) play in a one-game semifinal; the team with the best regular-season record plays the wild-card team, while the division winner with the second-best record plays the division winner with the third-best record. 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 Tarpons, three levels up from the GCL Yankees East and GCL Yankees West, who also play in Tampa).
The New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and Philadelphia Phillies began fielding two teams in 2013, 2016, and 2018 (respectively), the first time since 1981 when the Houston Astros (1980—81) and Kansas City Royals (1974, 1979—81) did so.
- 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)
- 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 July 26, 2019.
- "Davenport, Florida Minor League history". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
- Gulf Coast League (August 28, 2019). "GCL cancels remainder of 2019 season". milb.com. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
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