From top to bottom, the Cincinnati Reds organization has a strong and loyal contingent of fans. It starts with the Reds, of course, and trickles all the way down to the lowest level of the minors, the AZL Reds.
There are several affiliates sandwiched in between, including the Triple-A Louisville Bats, and the Single-A Dayton Dragons. Both squads annually rank among the leaders in attendance in their respective league and that is partly why Forbes recently tabbed them as two of the most valuable minor league franchises in baseball.
The Dragons claimed the No. 6 spot in the rankings while the Bats tied for No. 8.
Here is a snippet of what Forbes had to say about Dayton:
Though just a Single-A team, the Dragons have sold out every home game since the franchise moved to Dayton for the 2000 season, and in 2011 the team set the all-time record for most consecutive sold out games by a professional team (formerly held by the Portland Trailblazers at 814). In 2012 the Dragons won the John H. Johnson President’s trophy, awarded to the “complete baseball franchise -- based on franchise stability, contributions to league stability, contributions to baseball in the community, and promotion of the baseball industry.”
And about Louisville:
The Bats sold lifetime stadium naming rights to Hillerich & Bradsby, maker of the famed Louisville Slugger bats, for $2 million. The team has one of the more expensive lease agreements in minor league baseball, and in a 2001 modification to the team's stadium lease the Bats agreed to pay a base rent of $727,000 plus a significant portion of ticket, parking and commercial revenues.
For the record, the Sacramento River Cats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A's, topped the list with an estimated worth of $38 million. By comparison, the Bats are worth approximately $29 million, while the Dragons are valued at $31 million.
Of course, this pales in comparison to the $546 million the Reds are estimated to be worth, which surprisingly ranks just 24th among MLB's 30 teams. However, that figure represents a 29 percent increase from the 2012 valuation of $424 million.
No matter how you stack it up, pro baseball is big business.