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Touring the minors: GCL Mets

First stop on our tour of the Mets’ minor league system is St. Lucie, home of the GCL Mets!

Houston Astros v New York Mets
Clover Park
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Located in Port St. Lucie, Florida, a city of roughly 165,000, the GCL Mets play in Clover Field, the Mets spring training complex. Built in 1987, the stadium is shared with the St. Lucie Mets, the organization’s High-A affiliate.

The modern Gulf Coast League was founded in 1964, when minor league baseball was radically reconfigured. Prior to the modern GCL, three other incarnations existed, all centered around the Gulf of Mexico in Texas and Louisiana. The first, which was founded in 1907 and became defunct in 1908, had a great deal of turnover in its two short years of operation. In its inaugural year, the league was composed of the Alexandria White Sox, Lafayette Browns, Lake Charles Creoles, Monroe Municipals, Opelousas Indians and Orange Hoos-Hoos, and in their last only Alexandria, Lake Charles, and Orange returned, with the Lafayette Browns, Monroe Municipals, and Opelousas Indians being replaced by the Beaumont Cubs, Crowley Rice Birds, and the Morgan City Oyster Shuckers.

The league returned in 1926, but this incarnation lasted just a single year before folding, as three-quarters of the league was financially insolvent and changed cities midseason. In their lone year of operation, the Beeville Bees/Laredo Oilers beat the Corpus Christi Seahawks, Kingsville Jerseys/Mission Grapefruiters, and the Victoria Rosebuds/Edinburg Bobcats for the championship. The third incarnation of the league, which began in 1951 and ended in 1953, consisted of the Brownsville Charros, Corpus Christi Aces, Galveston White Caps, Harlingen Capitals, Lake Charles Lakers, Laredo Apaches, Port Arthur Seahawks, and the Texas City Texans.

In 1966, the modern Gulf Coast League was formed, a rookie-level short-season league composed of the GCL Braves, GCL Cardinals, GCL Twins, GCL White Sox, and GCL Yankees. The Mets first fielded a team in the league in 1983 playing in Sarasota, but did not field another GCL team until 1988, when the league expanded operations to Florida’s eastern coast, where the Mets’ new complex in St. Lucie was located. They have consistently fielded a team since then, with gaps from 2000-2003 and 2012.

Attendance in the GCL is generally limited to scouts, executives, the media, and die-hards. As per the rules of the league, the GCL Mets have 35 players on their roster, with no more than twelve over the age of 20 and no more than four over the age of 21. No player can have more than two years of professional service time, excluding foreign rookie league service time.

While the focus of the league is on player development, rather than wins and losses, the GCL Mets have a handful of playoff appearances to their credit. In 1993, they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the GCL Astros. In 1997, they won the league championship after beating the GCL Yankees in the first round of the playoffs and the GCL Rangers in the finals. In 1999, they won the league championship after beating the GCL Royals in the first round of the playoffs and the GCL Twins in the finals. In 2004, they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the GCL Red Sox. In 2005, they lost in the finals to the GCL Yankees. Their last playoff appearance came in 2010, when they lost to the GCL Phillies in the first round of the playoffs.