Minor League history: Cocoa Rookie League

After a lot of leagues that are defunct for a long time, now a piece of more recent history.

The Cocoa Rookie League was a (like the name says) a rookie league that lasted for only one season in 1964. The league was situated in Cocoa and Melbourne in Florida and was one of the first spring training-complex based leagues in the US.
The league contained four teams that were all owned and operated by their MLB parent club: the Cocoa Colts (Houston Colts 45, now the Astros), the Cocoa Mets, the Cocoa Tigers and the Melbourne Twins (Minnesota Twins).

The league was started to give players that just signed a professional contract out of high school and did not fit in the other (high) Rookie circuits (Appalachian League and Pioneer League).

Several Big League players started in the Cocao Rookie League. Hall of Famer Rod Carew played with the Melbourne Twins and led them to the championship with a five game lead over the Cocao Mets. Other famous players that played that one season in the CRL are Jim Leyland (former manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins and Detroit Tigers) and Tug McGraw (relief pitcher for the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies).

The Cocoa Expo Sports Complex (photo: courtesy by http://www.digitalballparks.com)

The biggest part of the games was played on the Houston Colt 45s  Spring Trainng Complex, now known as Cocoa Expos  Sports Complex that is home to the women soccer team Cocoa Expos. In 1993 the facility was home to Major League Baseball as the Florida Marlins used it as their Spring Training home. Next to MLB, the complex has Joe Brinkman Umpire School, Clint Hurdle’s Big League Experience Camp, youth baseball, soccer, basketball and volleyball tournaments and is the home field for the Cocoa Expos professional women’s soccer team.


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