CP file photo

All hail the mighty, mighty Charleston RiverDogs, back-to-back 2022 baseball champs in the single A Carolina League. In fact, all hail minor league sports in the Lowcountry, which has been named the top minor league sports market in the nation, according to a recent biennial ranking by Sports Business Journal. It’s the first time a city in the Southeast has won the top honor.

“With its cobblestone streets, gaslight lanterns, stunning waterfront sunsets, Palmetto trees and world-class hospitality, a Southern coastal town might not immediately fit a sports fan’s psychological image of a typical minor league market,” the Journal wrote last week. “But with the nation’s oldest professional soccer team, a hockey team that is about to drop the puck on its 30th season, and a 43-year-old baseball team that spends every day proving to the city that ‘Fun is Good,’ Charleston, S.C., is Sports Business Journal’s 2022 No. 1 minor league market.”

Thanks for the honor, but it’s due to decades of hard work by the franchises and dedication by the region’s fans.

In 2022, like in the previous year, the RiverDogs dominated ballfields around the South. The ’Dogs won 88 games and lost 44 during the 2022 regular season and took four straight postseason victories to win its second-straight championship in 99 years. In 2021, the team had a record of 82 wins and 38 losses.

And look at the local support for the franchise of the Tampa Bay Rays. In 2022, Joseph P. Riley Jr. stadium hosted 251,491 fans in 63 home games — an average of just under 4,000 fans per game. Wow! And that’s 42,000 more fans than in the slightly shortened 2021 season. 

If you look at all three franchises, more than 600,000 local fans passed through turnstiles in the recent year making Charleston the home to one of the country’s most loyal minor league fan bases.

“We have always known how special Charleston is when it comes to supporting local sports franchises, so it is fulfilling to see this community receive the appropriate recognition,” RiverDogs President and General Manager Dave Echols said. “We are elated to be part of this community alongside our friends with the Stingrays and Battery and value the lasting relationships we have established in Charleston.”

The Sports Business Journal also recognized the three franchises’ attention to fans and their investments in facilities to make them models for other communities.

In a baseball stadium that celebrates good times — including part-owner Bill Murray who is the RiverDog’s director of fun — we’re already waiting for the next zany promotions to top some of what we saw thing year — Toilet Paper Night, Used Car Salesman Appreciation Night, Anime Night and Bite Night. We’ll wait patiently until the spring for our weekly infusions of Dog Day Tuesdays, Wicked Wednesdays, Thirsty Thursdays and Fireworks Fridays. And we’ll look forward to alternative team uniforms celebrating the Perros Santos de Charleston, boiled peanuts and the old Rainbows (still one of the worst names in minor league ball).

Keep up the fun and congratulations, RiverDogs. Maybe next year: A tasty City Paper hotdog (a newsy sausage with cheesy filler)?

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