Yet another new independent league--the Continental League--made its debut tonight, including in League City, Texas, where the hometown Bay Area Toros faced the traveling-team Texas Heat. The Continental League is one of eight independent leagues to play this year; together, the leagues total 64 teams, including probably the most famous independent team, the St. Paul Saints of Mike Veeck.
The Bay Area Toros are apparently run by a former Rice assistant athletic director; they play their home games at a high school, Clear Creek HS. (This is a larger high-school ballpark than I'm used to in the Northwest; it seats at least 1,000 in its bleachers, though it has no seat backs.) Overall, they seem like a well-run operation.
Tonight's game was well-attended in relation to the stadium, as there were few empty seats. Notably, the focus was on baseball, not on gimmicks; the crowd seemed into the game, and a large percentage stayed until the end of a game that went 10 innings and took almost four hours. The league president was there and went around meeting fans, and overall the environment was very positive. (The quality of play at a glance seemed around Class A ball).
As would be expected, the park was the only real negative. In addition to the lack of seat backs, the park is oriented towards the northwest, meaning some serious glare. A chain-link fence between the backstop and the field interferes with vision. The only real solution is to succeed at the gate and eventually get a new park (as was already discussed a few days ago in the Chronicle).
I'm quite surprised that the Continental League chose to begin play this year, given that it has only three home markets--two in the DFW market, plus League City (situated between Houston and Galveston). The track record isn't good for leagues that begin without at least a few solid home teams. The Houston area, however, would seem ripe for independent league play; in a market of over 3 million, the Astros are the only game in town once NCAA baseball ends.
I meant to provide pictures, but I forgot my camera, so that will have to wait for the next game... perhaps tomorrow.
[Final note for those in the Northwest: Clear Creek HS was attended by none other than Jay Buhner--"the Bone"! There's a name I hadn't heard in a while...]
Update: Hey, it's me on the Toros homepage! Check out this nice pic...