|No. of teams||10|
|Kingsport Axmen (2022)|
|Most titles||Bluefield Blue Jays (14)|
The Appalachian League is a collegiate summer baseball league that operates in the Appalachian regions of Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. Designed for rising freshmen and sophomores using wood bats, its season runs from June to August. The league is part of Major League Baseball and USA Baseball's Prospect Development Pipeline.
Between 1911 and 2020, the Appalachian League operated as part of Minor League Baseball and various of its teams were affiliated with Major League Baseball franchises. It operated as a Class D league during four stints through 1962, then was classified as a Rookie league from 1963 to 2020.
The original Appalachian League existed only for four seasons from 1911 to 1914 and was classified as a Class D circuit. All teams were independent with no Major League Baseball (MLB) affiliation. It consisted of the Asheville Moonshiners, Bristol Boosters, Cleveland Counts, Johnson City Soldiers, Knoxville Appalachians, and Morristown Jobbers in its inaugural season. After a six-year absence, the league reorganized for five seasons from 1921 to 1925, and, as before, it consisted entirely of independent teams at the Class D level. Following an 11-year period of inactivity, the third iteration of the Class D Appalachian League ran from 1937 to 1955. The league went dormant in 1956, but was revived in 1957.
Along with a reorganization of Minor League Baseball in 1963, the Appalachian League was classified as a Rookie-level league. In its final years as an MLB-affiliated league, the Appalachian League was one of two "Rookie Advanced" minor leagues along with the Pioneer League. As such, it occupied the second-lowest rung in the minor league ladder. Although classified as a Rookie league, the level of play was slightly higher than that of the two "complex" Rookie leagues, the Gulf Coast League and Arizona League. Unlike the complex leagues, Appalachian League teams charged admission and sold concessions. It was almost exclusively the first fully professional league in which many players competed; most of the players had just been signed out of high school. It was a short-season league that competed from late June (when major league teams signed players whom they selected in the amateur draft) to early September.
It continued to operate as a Rookie Advanced league through 2020, with the start of the 2020 season postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic before ultimately being cancelled. Thus, 2019 was the Appalachian League's last season of operation within Minor League Baseball, with the Johnson City Cardinals winning the league championship. Entering the 2021 Major League Baseball season, MLB stated that 29 of its 30 teams had players who had played in the Appalachian League when it was part of Minor League Baseball, with a total of 139 such players on Opening Day rosters.[a]
In conjunction with a contraction of Minor League Baseball in 2021, the Appalachian League was converted to a collegiate summer baseball league designed for rising freshmen and sophomores. The reconfigured league become a part of Major League Baseball's Prospect Development Pipeline, a collaboration between MLB and USA Baseball. It is scheduled to play a 54-game regular season and continue to host an annual All-Star Game. Each of the league's 10 cities will continue to host teams in the new configuration of the Appalachian League.
Main article: List of Appalachian League champions
League champions have been determined by different means since the Appalachian League's formation in 1911. Before 1984, the champions were usually the league pennant winners. With only a few early exceptions, champions since 1984 have been the winner of postseason playoffs.
Main article: Appalachian League Hall of Fame
The league established a hall of fame in 2019; through 2020 elections, 38 people have been inducted.