Atlantic League of Professional Baseball
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2022 Atlantic League season
Atlantic League of Professional Baseball logo.svg
SportBaseball
Founded1998
PresidentRick White[1]
No. of teams10
CountryUnited States
Most recent
champion(s)
Lexington Legends (2021)
Most titlesSomerset Patriots (6)
Official websiteatlanticleague.com

The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB) is a professional independent baseball league based in the United States. It is an official MLB Partner League[2][3] based in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States. The Atlantic League's corporate headquarters is located at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The Atlantic League operates in cities not served by Major League Baseball (MLB) or Minor League Baseball (MiLB) teams; most of its teams are within suburbs and exurbs too close to other teams in the organized baseball system to have minor league franchises of their own. The Atlantic League requires cities to have the market for a 4,000 to 7,500-seat ballpark and for the facility to be maintained at or above Triple-A standards.[4] When Atlantic League professionals are signed by MLB clubs, they usually start in their Double-A or Triple-A affiliates.[5]

The league uses a pitch clock and limits the time between innings in an effort to speed up the game.[6] In 2019, the Atlantic League began a three-year partnership with Major League Baseball allowing MLB to implement changes to Atlantic League playing rules, in order to observe the effects of potential future rule changes and equipment.[7] In 2020, the Atlantic League, together with the American Association, the Frontier League, and the Pioneer League, expanded this agreement to become an official MLB Partner League.[8][9]

The Atlantic League is generally regarded as the most successful and highest level of baseball among independent leagues.[10][11] The Atlantic League has had more marquee players than any other independent league, including Jose Canseco, Mat Latos, Steve Lombardozzi Jr., Francisco Rodríguez, Chien-Ming Wang, Roger Clemens, Rich Hill, Scott Kazmir, Juan González, and Dontrelle Willis. Two former Atlantic League players are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Tim Raines and Rickey Henderson. Gary Carter, another Hall of Famer, managed in the league. The Atlantic League has had many notable managers and coaches, including Wally Backman, Frank Viola, Tommy John, Sparky Lyle, and Bud Harrelson . The Atlantic League has consistently posted higher per game and per season attendance numbers than other independent circuits including the American Association, Can-Am League, and Frontier League.[12][13][14][15]

History

In 1998, the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball played its inaugural season, with teams in Bridgewater, Newark, and Atlantic City, New Jersey; Nashua, New Hampshire; Newburgh, New York; and Bridgeport, Connecticut. The creation of the league was the result of the New York Mets' objection to Frank Boulton's proposal to move the former Albany-Colonie Yankees because of its territorial rights to the region. Boulton, a Long Island, New York native, decided to create a new league that would have a higher salary cap for its players and a longer season than most of the other independent baseball organizations. He modeled the Atlantic League after the older Pacific Coast League, with facilities that exceed AAA-level standards. Boulton also emphasized signing players of Major League Baseball experience for all Atlantic League teams, raising the level of play above other independent leagues.

In 2010, the league announced that it would be expanding to Sugar Land, Texas and adding its first franchise not located in an Atlantic coast state.[16] The Sugar Land Skeeters began play in 2012. In 2010, amid financial struggles, the Newark Bears moved from the Atlantic League to the Can-Am League, leaving the Bridgeport Bluefish and Somerset Patriots as the only teams remaining from the league's inaugural season.[17] In the summer of 2013, then-ALPB President Frank Boulton announced that he would be resigning so that he could devote more time to operating the Long Island Ducks. He was replaced by longtime high-ranking Major League Baseball executive Rick White.[18] On July 8, 2015, the Atlantic League began using Rawlings baseballs with red and blue seams, virtually unused in the sport since the American League swapped the blue in their seams for red in 1934.[19]

On September 1, 2015, the Atlantic League announced conditional approval for an expansion team or a relocated team to play in New Britain, Connecticut for the 2016 season.[20][21][22][23] On October 21, 2015, the Camden Riversharks announced they would cease operations immediately due to the inability to reach an agreement on lease terms with the owner of Campbell's Field, the Camden County Improvement Authority.[24] The team was replaced by the New Britain Bees for the 2016 season.[25] On May 29, 2016, Jennie Finch was the guest manager for the league's Bridgeport Bluefish, thus becoming the first woman to manage a professional baseball team.[26]

Shortly before the conclusion of the 2017 season, the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut voted to not continue with professional baseball in the city and announced plans to convert The Ballpark at Harbor Yard into a music amphitheater; the Bridgeport Bluefish announced plans to relocate to High Point, North Carolina in 2019 when the construction of a new multipurpose facility in High Point is completed.[27] League officials announced the return of the Pennsylvania Road Warriors, an all road game team, to keep the league at an even eight teams while the Bluefish go inactive for the 2018 season.[28]

In 2015, the Atlantic League experienced a watershed moment for independent baseball when it signed a formal agreement with Major League Baseball which put into writing the rules which the ALPB would follow in selling its players' contracts to MLB clubs and their affiliates. This marked the first time that MLB, which has enjoyed a U.S. Supreme Court-granted antitrust exemption since 1922, had made any formal agreement with or acknowledgment of an independent baseball league.[29]

2020s

In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league announced that it would be unable to operate for the 2020 season with the current 8 member ballclubs, thereby canceling its season.[30] Several teams (Somerset, York, and Lancaster) did not gain necessary approval from governmental and health officials to open their ballparks to the capacity level necessary for competition.[31] They used their stadiums to host recreational and community-based events, as well as local baseball activities where allowed. Meanwhile, the Long Island Ducks, High Point Rockers, and Southern Maryland Blue Crabs initially attempted to partner with teams from other leagues in order to play a 70-game season from mid-July through the end of September. However, due to ongoing restrictions and capacity limitations, they ultimately decided to suspend all baseball activities for the 2020 season. The only teams that played in 2020 was the Sugar Land Skeeters, who would create a new 4-team independent league in Texas, with all 60 games played at Constellation Field, and the Somerset Patriots, who played weekend games with a second squad called the New Jersey Blasters.[32][33]

In July 2020, the league announced the addition of a new franchise in Gastonia, North Carolina beginning in 2021; it is the league's second team based in North Carolina.[34]

In November 2020, the Atlantic League lost its last charter franchise and its westernmost franchise when both teams became official minor league affiliates. On November 7, the Somerset Patriots announced that they were leaving the league to join the MLB-affiliated Eastern League, where they will replace the Trenton Thunder as the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees.[35] Approximately two weeks later, the Houston Astros announced that they had purchased a controlling stake in the Sugar Land Skeeters and, as a result, the Skeeters would become the Astros' Triple-A affiliate and join the Pacific Coast League.[36]

On February 18, 2021, the league announced the addition of the Lexington Legends, previously the Class A South Atlantic League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, for the 2021 season.[37] The Charleston Dirty Birds, formerly the West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League, announced their move to the league on February 24, 2021.[38]

In 2022, Kelsie Whitmore signed with the Staten Island FerryHawks of the Atlantic League, and started a game for them in left field; this made her the first woman to start an Atlantic League game.[39][40] Later that year she became the first woman to pitch in an Atlantic League game when she made her first pitching appearance for Staten Island; entering the game with the bases loaded and two outs, she retired Ryan Jackson, a former major leaguer, on a fly out to end the inning.[41]

Experimental rules

2019

In March 2019, the Atlantic League and Major League Baseball reached agreement to test multiple rule changes during the 2019 Atlantic League season:[42]

In April 2019, implementation of two of the changes was delayed:[43]

The tracking system for calling balls and strikes was introduced at the league's all-star game on July 10.[44] In addition to rule changes noted above, additional changes being implemented for the second half of the league's 2019 season are:[45]

2021

The Atlantic League and MLB jointly announced that the former would adopt several additional experimental rules for the 2021 season:[46]

2022

In January 2022, the Atlantic League announced they would no longer be using the following rules for the 2022 season:[47]

Teams

League timeline

Wild Health GenomesStaten Island FerryHawksCharleston Dirty BirdsLexington LegendsGastonia Honey HuntersHigh Point RockersNew Britain BeesSugar Land SkeetersSouthern Maryland Blue CrabsYork RevolutionLancaster BarnstormersCamden RiversharksLong Island DucksAberdeen ArsenalSomerset PatriotsPennsylvania Road WarriorsPennsylvania Road WarriorsNewburgh Black DiamondsNewark BearsNashua PrideBridgeport BluefishAtlantic City Surf

League members Moved to another league

Former teams

Team City Stadium Seasons History
Aberdeen Arsenal Bel Air, Maryland Thomas Run Park 2000 Replaced by the Aberdeen IronBirds (Orioles Class-A affiliate)
Atlantic City Surf Atlantic City, New Jersey The Sandcastle 1998–2006 Moved to Can-Am League, folded prior to the 2009 season
Bridgeport Bluefish Bridgeport, Connecticut The Ballpark at Harbor Yard 1998–2017 Folded when they lost the lease on their ballpark; replaced by the High Point Rockers
Camden Riversharks Camden, New Jersey Campbell's Field 2001–2015 Replaced by the New Britain Bees
Lehigh Valley Black Diamonds Quakertown, Pennsylvania Quakertown Memorial Stadium 1999–2001 Formerly the Newburgh Black Diamonds (1998), became the first Pennsylvania Road Warriors
Nashua Pride Nashua, New Hampshire Holman Stadium 1998–2005 Moved to Can-Am League, later relocated to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, folded at the end of the 2011 season
Newark Bears Newark, New Jersey Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium 1998–2010 Moved to Can-Am League, folded prior to the 2014 season
Newburgh Black Diamonds Newburgh, New York Delano-Hitch Stadium 1998 Became the Lehigh Valley Black Diamonds (1999–2001), which became the first Pennsylvania Road Warriors (2002–2004)
New Britain Bees New Britain, Connecticut New Britain Stadium 2016–2019 Moved to Futures Collegiate Baseball League; Replaced by the Road Warriors for the 2020 season[50]
Somerset Patriots Bridgewater Township, New Jersey TD Bank Ballpark 1998–2020 Moved to Minor League Baseball as part of MiLB realignment; became New York Yankees Double-A affiliate.
Sugar Land Skeeters Sugar Land, Texas Constellation Field 2012–2020 Moved to Minor League Baseball as part of MiLB realignment; became Houston Astros Triple-A affiliate.[51][52]

Proposed teams that never played

Team City Stadium Planned start
Bergen Cliff Hawks East Rutherford, New Jersey Bergen Ballpark 2000–2011
Loudoun Hounds Ashburn, Virginia Edelman Financial Field 2012–2016
Virginia Beach Neptunes Virginia Beach, Virginia Wheeler Field 2016–2017

Championship Series

The ALPB Championship Series is played as a best-of-five. Numbers in parenthesis denote the number of championships won by a team to that point, when more than one.

Year Winner Runner-up Result Championship Series MVP
1998 Atlantic City Surf Bridgeport Bluefish 3–1 Chris Eddy
1999 Bridgeport Bluefish Somerset Patriots 3–0 Duane Singleton
2000 Nashua Pride Somerset Patriots 3–0 D.J. Boston
2001 Somerset Patriots Newark Bears 3–2 Robert Dodd
2002 Newark Bears Bridgeport Bluefish 3–0 Jimmy Hurst
2003 Somerset Patriots (2) Nashua Pride 3–2 Jeff Nettles
2004 Long Island Ducks Camden Riversharks 3–0 Justin Davies
2005 Somerset Patriots (3) Nashua Pride 3–0 Mark DiFelice
2006 Lancaster Barnstormers Bridgeport Bluefish 3–0 Jeremy Todd
2007 Newark Bears (2) Somerset Patriots 3–1 José Herrera
2008 Somerset Patriots (4) Camden Riversharks 3–1 Brandon Larson
2009 Somerset Patriots (5) Southern Maryland Blue Crabs 3–1 Jeff Nettles
2010 York Revolution Bridgeport Bluefish 3–0 Ramón Castro
2011 York Revolution (2) Long Island Ducks 3–1 Vince Harrison
2012 Long Island Ducks (2) Lancaster Barnstormers 3–2 Dan Lyons
2013 Long Island Ducks (3) Somerset Patriots 3–2 John Brownell
2014 Lancaster Barnstormers (2) Sugar Land Skeeters 3–0 Gabe Jacobo
2015 Somerset Patriots (6) Southern Maryland Blue Crabs 3–1 Roy Merritt
2016 Sugar Land Skeeters Long Island Ducks 3–0 Juan Martinez
2017 York Revolution (3) Long Island Ducks 3–0 Telvin Nash / Chase Huchingson
2018 Sugar Land Skeeters (2) Long Island Ducks 3–2 James Russell
2019 Long Island Ducks (4)[53] Sugar Land Skeeters 3–2 Deibinson Romero
2020 Season cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic
2021 Lexington Legends Long Island Ducks 3–1 Courtney Hawkins

All-Star Games

Year Location Stadium Winner Score
1998 Atlantic City, New Jersey The Sandcastle Atlantic City 6–4
1999 Bridgeport, Connecticut The Ballpark at Harbor Yard South 8–3
2000 Bridgewater, New Jersey Commerce Bank Ballpark North 2–0
2001 Newark, New Jersey Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium North 10–0
2002 Central Islip, New York Citibank Park South 4–1
2003 Nashua, New Hampshire Holman Stadium South 2–1
2004 Camden, New Jersey Campbell's Field North 10–8
2005 Atlantic City, New Jersey The Sandcastle North 9–6
2006 Bridgeport, Connecticut The Ballpark at Harbor Yard North 4–1
2007 Lancaster, Pennsylvania Clipper Magazine Stadium North 8–6
2008 Bridgewater, New Jersey Commerce Bank Ballpark Freedom 8–6
2009 Newark, New Jersey Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium Liberty 7–5
2010 Central Islip, New York Suffolk County Sports Park Liberty 7–1
2011 York, Pennsylvania Sovereign Bank Stadium Freedom 7–0
2012 Camden, New Jersey Campbell's Field Freedom 9–5
2013 Waldorf, Maryland Regency Furniture Stadium Freedom 2–1
2014 Sugar Land, Texas Constellation Field Sugar Land 5–3
2015 Bridgeport, Connecticut The Ballpark at Harbor Yard Freedom 5–1
2016 Lancaster, Pennsylvania Clipper Magazine Stadium Freedom 3–1
2017 Bridgewater, New Jersey TD Bank Ballpark Freedom 10–3
2018 Central Islip, New York Bethpage Ballpark Liberty 4–3
2019 York, Pennsylvania PeoplesBank Park Freedom 3–3dagger
2020 None (season cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic)
2021 None (season cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic)

dagger Freedom Division won the 2019 game in a "homer-off" after the teams were tied at the end of nine innings.[54]

League records

Main article: Atlantic League records

Major League Baseball players

Some Atlantic League players have come from, or advanced to, the higher ranks of Major League Baseball. Some have resurrected their careers and returned to the majors, while others played in the independent league during the start or end of their careers.[55] The following is a list of some of those players:

See also

References

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  2. ^ "Indy Atlantic League designated MLB Partner League". Ballpark Digest. August Publishing. September 23, 2020. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  3. ^ "American Association, Frontier League now MLB Partner Leagues". Ballpark Digest. August Publishing. September 24, 2020. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  4. ^ "Atlantic League Market Requirements". Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Archived from the original on May 2, 2006. Retrieved May 6, 2006.
  5. ^ Walk, John (May 18, 2012). "Ian Thomas earns first affiliated contract". The York Dispatch. Archived from the original on August 21, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
  6. ^ Beach, Jerry (July 13, 2018). "For the Atlantic League, the All-Star Game is All About Its Amazing Balancing Act". Forbes. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  7. ^ "MLB to Test Experimental Rules, Equipment in Atlantic League". Ballpark Digest. August Publishing. February 26, 2019. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  8. ^ "Indy Atlantic League designated MLB Partner League". Ballpark Digest. August Publishing. September 23, 2020. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  9. ^ "American Association, Frontier League now MLB Partner Leagues". Ballpark Digest. August Publishing. September 24, 2020. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  10. ^ Fehrman, Craig (May 9, 2012). "Down And Out In Baseball's Indie Leagues; Or, What Made Tommy John Want To Rake The Infield?". Deadspin. Gawker Media. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  11. ^ "Creation of developmental indy league announced". Ballgamers. June 28, 2013. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  12. ^ Knight, Graham. "Independent Leagues 2014 Attendance". BaseballPilgrimages.com. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  13. ^ Recihard, Kevin (September 16, 2013). "2013 Independent Attendance by League". Ballpark Digest. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  14. ^ Reichard, Kevin (September 24, 2012). "2012 Independent Attendance by League". Ballpark Digest. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  15. ^ Reichard, Kevin (September 19, 2011). "2011 Independent Average Attendance by League". Ballpark Digest. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  16. ^ Reichard, Kevin (May 17, 2010). "Atlantic League to expand to Sugar Land". Ballpark Digest. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  17. ^ Reichard, Kevin (October 6, 2010). "It's official: Bears to Can-Am Association". Ballpark Digest. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  18. ^ Merrill, Everett (February 5, 2014). "Atlantic League's New President Wants To Innovate". Baseball America. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  19. ^ Fagan, Ryan (June 30, 2015). "Atlantic League set to introduce red, white and blue baseballs". Sporting News. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  20. ^ "New Britain gains Atlantic League OK". Record-Journal. September 1, 2015. Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved September 2, 2015.
  21. ^ "Baseball Will Likely Return to New Britain Next Season". NBC Connecticut. September 1, 2015.
  22. ^ "Conditional Deal For Baseball In New Britain In 2016". CBS Connecticut. September 1, 2015. Archived from the original on September 3, 2015. Retrieved September 2, 2015.
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  25. ^ Stacom, Don (October 22, 2015). "Atlantic League Baseball: Camden Is Out, New Britain Is In". Hartford Courant. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
  26. ^ Eisenberg, Matt (May 29, 2016). "Guest manager Jennie Finch leads Bridgeport Bluefish to win". Espn.go.com. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  27. ^ "End Of An Era: Bluefish Will Be Moving From Bridgeport To North Carolina". Daily Voice. Bridgeport, Connecticut. September 10, 2017. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  28. ^ "2018 Atlantic League Schedule Announced". atlanticleague.com. October 23, 2017. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  29. ^ Cooper, J.J. (May 15, 2015). "MLB, Atlantic League Sign Player Transfer Agreement". Baseball America. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  30. ^ "Independent Atlantic League cancels season due to virus". AP NEWS. June 19, 2020. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  31. ^ "Atlantic League Clubs Announce Updated 2020 Plans". atlanticleague.com. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  32. ^ "Skeeters Intend to Host Four-Team Pro Baseball League at Constellation Field". sugarlandskeeters.com. June 13, 2020.
  33. ^ "Somerset Patriots Series Brings Baseball To Sellout Crowds And Community". August 26, 2020. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  34. ^ "Atlantic League of Professional Baseball Expands to City of Gastonia, NC". AtlanticLeague.com. July 28, 2020.
  35. ^ "The Somerset Patriots Are The New York Yankees Double-A Affiliate". somersetpatriots.com. November 7, 2020.
  36. ^ Rome, Chandler (November 20, 2020). "Astros officially make Sugar Land Skeeters the Triple-A affiliate". Houston Chronicle.
  37. ^ "Atlantic League Welcomes Lexington Legends". AtlanticLeague.com. February 18, 2021. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  38. ^ "Power announces new league, ownership for 2021". Minor League Baseball. February 24, 2021. Retrieved February 24, 2021.
  39. ^ Adams, Cindy (April 11, 2022). "Welcome Whitmore — This woman is making baseball history in NYC". New York Post. Retrieved May 3, 2022.
  40. ^ Axisa, Mike (May 1, 2022). "Kelsie Whitmore becomes first woman to start game in Atlantic League of Professional Baseball". CBSSports.com. Retrieved May 3, 2022.
  41. ^ Randhawa, Manny (May 4, 2022). "Kelsie Whitmore makes history pitching for FerryHawks". MLB.com. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  42. ^ Jung, Tristan (March 8, 2019). "MLB's Experimental Rule Changes for 2019 Atlantic League Include Moving Mound Back, Banning Shifts". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved November 14, 2020.
  43. ^ "MLB Delays Atlantic League Robo Ump Experiment". Close Call Sports. April 10, 2019. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  44. ^ Maaddi, Rob (July 10, 2019). ""Robot umpires" debut in independent Atlantic League". lancasteronline.com. AP. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  45. ^ Imber, Gil (July 10, 2019). "Atlantic League Debuts New Rules, E-Zone". Close Call Sports & Umpire Ejection Fantasy League. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  46. ^ Rogers, Jesse (April 14, 2021). "MLB to have Atlantic League experiment with moving back mound, 'double-hook' DH". ESPN.com. Retrieved April 25, 2021.
  47. ^ Golden, Andrew (January 14, 2022). "The Atlantic League, pioneer of the robo umps, will return to human umps in 2022". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 24, 2022.
  48. ^ "New Hagerstown ballpark". The Herald-Mail. Herald-Mail Media. March 1, 2022. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  49. ^ Fitzpatrick, Alexis (October 28, 2021). "New Hagerstown indoor sports facility gets go-ahead, Municipal Stadium demolition a step closer". The Herald-Mail. Herald-Mail Media. Retrieved November 18, 2021.
  50. ^ McFarland, Shawn (October 28, 2019). "New Britain Bees set to leave Atlantic League, will join Futures Collegiate Baseball League". Hartford Courant.
  51. ^ Young, Matt (November 16, 2020). "Astros to make Sugar Land Skeeters their Class AAA affiliate". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  52. ^ Byrne, Connor (November 17, 2020). "Sugar Land Skeeters To Become Astros' Triple-A Affiliate". MLB Trade Rumors. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  53. ^ "Long Island Ducks Are 2019 Atlantic League Champions". NY Sports Day (Press release). Long Island Ducks. October 7, 2019.
  54. ^ @AtlanticLg (July 10, 2019). "Hometown hero Isaias Tejeda of the @YorkRevolution wins the 2019 Atlantic League All-Star Game in a homer-off after the teams were tied at three following nine innings!! Congratulations to the Freedom Division!" (Tweet). Retrieved July 11, 2019 – via Twitter.
  55. ^ "Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, About Us". Retrieved April 21, 2021.
  56. ^ "Lexington Legends Sign Future MLB Hall of Famer Brandon Phillips". MiLB.com. Retrieved June 7, 2021.

Further reading