Carolina League
ClassificationSingle-A (2022–present)
Low-A (2021)
Class A-Advanced (1990–2020)
Founded1945 (79 years ago) (1945)
No. of teams12
CountryUnited States
Most recent
Charleston RiverDogs (2023)
Most titlesWinston-Salem Dash (11)

The Carolina League is a Minor League Baseball league which has operated along the Atlantic Coast of the United States since 1945. Having been classified at various levels throughout its existence, it operated at Class A-Advanced from 1990 until its demotion to Single-A following Major League Baseball's 2021 reorganization of the minor leagues. The league temporarily operated for the 2021 season as the Low-A East before reassuming its original moniker in 2022.

The organization that later became the Carolina League formed in 1945, just as World War II was ending, and consisted of eight teams, six from North Carolina and two from southern Virginia. This later grew to as many as 12 teams at times.


The Carolina League was announced on October 29, 1944, after an organizational meeting at Durham, North Carolina. It was a successor to the Class D Bi-State League that existed before World War II. The league began play in 1945 with eight teams based in Burlington, Durham, Greensboro, Leaksville, Raleigh, Winston-Salem (all from North Carolina), along with Danville and Martinsville from Virginia.[1]

A few of the many Carolina League players who have gone on to star in the Major Leagues are: Johnny Bench (Peninsula, 1966), Wade Boggs (Winston-Salem, 1977), Barry Bonds (Prince William, 1985), Rod Carew (Wilson, 1966), Dock Ellis (Kinston, 1965), Dwight Evans (Winston-Salem, 1971), Dwight Gooden (Lynchburg, 1983), Zack Greinke (Wilmington, 2003), Andruw Jones (Durham, 1996), Chipper Jones (Durham, 1992), Willie McCovey (Danville, 1956), Joe Morgan (Durham, 1963), Dave Parker (Salem, 1972), Tony Pérez (Rocky Mount, 1962), Andy Pettitte (Prince William, 1993), Jorge Posada (Prince William, 1993), Darryl Strawberry (Lynchburg, 1981), Bernie Williams (Prince William, 1988), and Carl Yastrzemski (Raleigh, 1959).[citation needed]

Director and screenwriter Ron Shelton's 1988 film Bull Durham, starring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon, depicted a fictionalized account of the Durham Bulls, at that time a Carolina League team (they have since become a Class AAA team in the International League). Before he began making films, Shelton had a five-year minor league career in the Baltimore Orioles' organization, which included a stint in the International League.[2]

The Carolina League added two expansion teams for the 2017 season to fill two vacant spots at the Class A-Advanced level previously occupied by the California League's Bakersfield Blaze and High Desert Mavericks, which ceased operations at the end of the 2016 season. These additional teams were the Down East Wood Ducks in Kinston, North Carolina, and the Buies Creek Astros in Buies Creek, North Carolina.[3] After the 2018 season, the Buies Creek Astros relocated to Fayetteville, North Carolina as the Fayetteville Woodpeckers. After the 2019 season, the Potomac Nationals relocated within Northern Virginia to Fredericksburg, rebranding themselves as the Fredericksburg Nationals.

The start of the 2020 season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic before ultimately being cancelled on June 30.[4][5] As part of Major League Baseball's 2021 reorganization of the minor leagues, the Carolina League was demoted to Single-A and temporarily renamed the "Low-A East" for the 2021 season.[6] In the realignment process, the Frederick Keys were demoted out of professional baseball, the Wilmington Blue Rocks and Winston-Salem Dash were shifted to the South Atlantic League (retaining their High-A status), and five teams were moved from the old SAL to bring the CL to twelve member teams. Following MLB's acquisition of the rights to the names of the historical minor leagues, the Carolina League name was restored effective with the 2022 season.[7]

Current teams


Main article: List of Carolina League champions


Main article: Baseball awards § Carolina League

All-time teams (1945–present)

All teams that have competed in the Carolina League since its founding in 1945:[8]

League timeline (1945–present)

Kannapolis Cannon BallersColumbia FirefliesCharleston RiverDogsAugusta GreenJacketsDelmarva ShorebirdsBuies Creek AstrosCarolina MudcatsMyrtle Beach PelicansWilmington Blue RocksFrederick KeysHagerstown SunsFredericksburg NationalsPotomac NationalsPrince William CannonsAlexandria DukesRed Springs TwinsSalem Red SoxAsheville TouristsLynchburg HillcatsTidewater TidesPeninsula Pilots (minor league team)Peninsula Pilots (minor league team)Peninsula Pilots (minor league team)Rocky Mount PinesRocky Mount LeafsWilson PennantsWilson Tobs (minor league baseball)Down East Wood DucksKinston IndiansKinston ExposKinston Eagles (1956–1957)High Point-Thomasville Hi-TomsHigh Point-Thomasville Hi-TomsFayetteville WoodpeckersFayetteville A'sReidsville LuckiesWinston-Salem DashRaleigh CapitalsRaleigh CapitalsMartinsville A'sLeaksville-Draper-Spray TripletsGreensboro GrasshoppersDurham BullsDurham BullsDanville 97sDanville LeafsBurlington RangersBurlington Rangers

Current team Earlier team



  1. ^ Barrier, Smith (November 2, 1944). "Wilson Heads Carolina Loop: Seven Franchises Awarded to N.C. Cities, Another to Danville, Va". The Sporting News.
  2. ^ "Baseball Reference".
  3. ^ Glaser, Kyle. "Carolina League To Add Two Franchises In 2017". Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  4. ^ "A Message From Pat O'Conner". Minor League Baseball. March 13, 2020. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  5. ^ "2020 Minor League Baseball Season Shelved". Minor League Baseball. June 30, 2020. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  6. ^ Mayo, Jonathan (February 12, 2021). "MLB Announces New Minors Teams, Leagues". Major League Baseball. Retrieved February 12, 2021.
  7. ^ "Historical League Names to Return in 2022". Minor League Baseball. March 16, 2022. Retrieved March 16, 2022.
  8. ^ "2013 Carolina League Media Guide and Record Book". p. 4.