Baseball Challenge League

The Route Inn BCL, formerly known as the Baseball Challenge League (ベースボール・チャレンジ・リーグ, Bēsubōru Charenji Rīgu), is an independent minor baseball league in Japan. The league's abbreviated designation is "BC League (BCリーグ)."

Route Inn BC League
Inaugural season2007
PresidentMurayama Tetsuji
No. of teams11
Most recent
Tochigi Golden Braves (2019)
Most titlesGunma Diamond Pegasus, Ishikawa Million Stars (4)
Official website

League structure

The Baseball Challenge League has three divisions, East, Middle, and West, with four teams in each division. From 2008 to 2019, this League had two divisions, East and West.

Not every team has a home stadium; instead, the team travels around its home prefecture, playing in different stadiums, each one called "home” for that game.[1]

The 72-game season runs from April–October, split into two half-terms, with the division champion from each half-term meeting in a playoff at the end of the year to determine which two teams compete for the league championship. Each team carries 27 players.[2]

Typically, players earn 150,000 yen (c. U.S. $2,000) per month, with another 50,000 yen in potential bonuses.[3] The league imposes a 7.2 million yen (c. U.S. $60,600) salary limit for team managers.[4]

In September 2021, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui and Shiga(the West division) announced that they would leave the league in 2022 and form a new league, the Nihonkai OCEAN League.[5]


The BC League began play in 2007 as the Hokushinestu Baseball Challenge League. It originally consisted of four teams based in the Hokuriku region: the Ishikawa Million Stars, the Niigata Albirex Baseball Club, the Shinano Grandserows, and the Toyama Thunderbirds. In 2008 the league added two teams, Gunma Diamond Pegasus and the Fukui Miracle Elephants, and split into two divisions, Jōshin'etsu (Gunma, Shinano, and Niigata) and Hokuriku (Fukui, Ishikawa, and Toyama).

Ishikawa Million Stars Infielder Kensuke Uchimura led the league in steals in 2007, which led to him being drafted by Nippon Professional Baseball's Rakuten Golden Eagles. In 2008, he became the first player to reach NPB after playing in the BC League.

In February 2014, the league agreed to a naming rights deal with Route Inn Group, becoming the Route Inn BC League.[6]

That same month, it was announced that a new team, the Musashi Heat Bears, based out of Saitama Prefecture, would join the league in time for the 2015 season.[6] In July 2014, it was announced that a second new team, the Fukushima Hopes, would also join the league for the 2015 season.[7]

Late in the summer of 2014, along with the Shikoku Island League Plus, the Route Inn BCL formed the Japan Independent Baseball League Organization.[8]

With the addition of two new teams, in 2015 the league realigned and renamed its divisions, replacing the previous divisions Jōshin'etsu and Hokuriku with Future—East and Advance—West.[9][10]


Division Team Name Founded Location League


Division Titles Half Term


Team Colour Home Park
East Kanagawa Future Dreams 2019 Kanagawa Prefecture 1 1 0 Hiratsuka Studium
Ibaraki Astro Planets 2017 Ibaraki Prefecture 0 0 0 Kanakubo Athletic Park Baseball Stadium
Tochigi Golden Braves 2016 Tochigi Prefecture 1 1 1 Oyama Athlete Park Baseball Stadium
Saitama Musashi Heat Bears 2014 Saitama Prefecture 0 0 0 Kumagaya Park Stadium
Middle Fukushima RedHopes 2014 Fukushima Prefecture 0 1 1 Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium
Gunma Diamond Pegasus 2008 Gunma Prefecture 4 7 14 Takasaka City Jonan Baseball Stadium
Niigata Albirex 2007 Niigata Prefecture 2 4 8 Niigata Prefectural Baseball Stadium
Shinano Grandserows 2007 Nagano Prefecture 1 3 3 Nagano Olympic Stadium
West Toyama GRN Thunderbirds 2007 Toyama Prefecture 1 1 6 Takaoka Western General Park Stadium
Ishikawa Million Stars 2007 Ishikawa Prefecture 4 6 9 Kanazawa Municipal Baseball Stadium
Fukui Wild Raptors 2008 Fukui Prefecture 0 4 6 Fukui Phoenix Stadium
Ocean Shiga Blacks 2016 Shiga Prefecture 0 0 0 Moriyama Municipal Stadium

As a result of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the twelve teams of the league were organised into three different Divisions, as a control measure for the spread of the virus. Each division has two groups of two teams.[10]


  • Group A: Ibaraki and Tochigi
  • Group B: Saitama, Kanagawa


  • Group C: Fukushima and Niigata
  • Group D: Gunma, Shinano


  • Group E: Toyama and Ishikawa
  • Group F: Fukui and Shiga

Franchise locations

Yearly standings

  League champion
  Division champion
Joshin'etsu DivisionHokuriku Division
2008First halfNiigataGunmaShinano2008First halfToyamaIshikawaFukui
Second halfGunmaNiigataShinanoSecond halfToyamaIshikawaFukui
2009First halfGunmaNiigataShinano2009First halfIshikawaToyamaFukui
Second halfGunmaNiigataShinanoSecond halfIshikawaToyamaFukui
2010First halfGunmaShinanoNiigata2010First halfIshikawaFukuiToyama
Second halfGunmaNiigataShinanoSecond halfFukuiIshikawaToyama
2011First halfGunmaShinanoNiigata2011First halfIshikawaToyamaFukui
Second halfNiigataShinanoGunmaSecond halfFukuiIshikawaToyama
2012First halfNiigataShinanoGunma2012First halfIshikawaFukuiToyama
Second halfNiigataShinanoGunmaSecond halfFukuiToyamaIshikawa
2013First halfNiigataGunmaShinano2013First halfIshikawaToyamaFukui
Second halfNiigataShinanoGunmaSecond halfFukuiToyamaIshikawa
2014First halfGunmaNiigataShinano2014First halfToyamaFukuiIshikawa
Second halfNiigataGunmaShinanoSecond halfIshikawaToyamaFukui
YearFirstSecondThirdFourthFifth SixthYearFirstSecondThirdFourthFifth
2015First halfNiigataMusashiGunmaFukushima- -2015First halfFukuiShinanoIshikawaToyama-
Second halfFukushimaNiigataGunmaMusashi- -Second halfToyamaFukuiIshikawaShinano-
2016First halfGunmaFukushimaNiigataMusashi- -2016First halfIshikawaFukuiShinanoToyama-
Second halfGunmaFukushimaNiigataMusashi- -Second halfIshikawaShinanoToyamaFukui-
2017First halfGunmaNiigataFukushimaMusashiTochigi -2017First halfToyamaShinanoFukuiShigaIshikawa
Second halfGunmaFukushimaNiigataTochigiMusashi -Second halfShinanoToyamaFukuiIshikawaShiga
2018First halfGunmaFukushimaNiigataMusashiTochigi -2018First halfFukuiShinanoIshikawaToyamaShiga
Second halfGunmaFukushimaTochigiNiigataMusashi -Second halfToyamaFukuiShinanoIshikawaShiga
2019First halfGunmaNiigataTochigiFukushimaMusashiIbaraki 2019First halfShinanoToyamaIshikawaShigaFukui
Second halfTochigiNiigataGunmaMusashiFukushimaIbaraki Second halfShinanoIshikawaToyamaFukuiShiga


  1. Ryo. "Independent Leagues in Japan," NPB Tracker: Baseball in Japan & Around the World (May 26, 2009).
  2. "Professional Baseball Tryout," Archived 2015-04-13 at the Wayback Machine San Diego Sports Authority (2012). Archived on the Western Baseball Association website. Accessed April 7, 2015.
  3. Patrick. "Japan’s Independent Leagues 2014," NPB Tracker (09 February 2014).
  4. Jun Hongo, "Julio Franco, 56 Years Old, Joins a Japan Team as Player-Manager," The Wall Street Journal, February 9, 2015.
  5. "野球独立リーグから独立?「日本海オセアンリーグ」設立 BCリーグ西地区4球団、その狙いは("Foundation of "the Nihonkai OCEAN League")". Fukui Shimbun(ja:福井新聞) (in Japanese). 2021-09-17. Retrieved 2021-09-17.
  6. Gen. "BC League agrees to naming rights deal with Route Inn Group," (Feb. 25, 2014).
  7. Gen. "New BC League team from Fukushima will be named the Fukushima Hopes," (July 18, 2014).
  8. Gen. "Island League, BC League to establish Japan Independent Baseball League Organization," (Aug.30, 2014 ).
  9. "順位表".
  10. "チーム情報".
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