It’s that time of the year again… INDY BALL SEASON!
After a summer of little to no independent baseball due to the COVID 19 pandemic, baseball is back… although there are some changes to the landscape of indy ball, and minor league baseball in general, around the country.
The MiLB has been cut down drastically, and the MLB has partnered with the top three independent leagues in America, as well as a former affiliated MiLB league to help enhance and grow independent baseball.
Tomorrow, May 18th is the first Opening Day for one of the top “MLB Partner” independent leagues, the American Association.
This league consists of 12 teams, with one team – the Houston Apollos – designated as a travel team operated by the Pecos League, and another team – the Winnipeg Goldeyes – playing their home games in Jackson, Tennessee at The Ballpark at Jackson due to COVID travel restrictions between the US and Canada Border.
The full schedule for the American Association can be found HERE.
Then on May 22nd, the former MiLB league that went from affiliated to an independent MLB Partner League, the Pioneer League, plays their first games of the regular season.
This league consists of eight teams, the majority of which retain their team identities from the MiLB version of the Pioneer League last ran in 2019 – with the exception of the Orem Owlz relocating to Windsor, Colorado, as the Northern Colorado Owlz. In addition, joining the Pioneer League for 2021 will be the Boise Hawks from the Northwest League.
Their complete schedule can be found HERE.
The Atlantic League kicks off their season on May 27th with Lancaster @ Gastonia. The rest of the league will follow with their opening game on May 28th.
The Atlantic League is welcoming the Gastonia Honey Hunters this season as well as two former MiLB affiliated teams – the Lexington Legends and the WV Power.
Along with those three teams, the High Point Rockers will round out the South Division. The North Division will consist of the Lancaster Barnstomers, Long Island Ducks, Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, and the York Revolution.
The Atlantic League’s 2021 schedule can be found HERE.
Also opening up the season on May 27th will be the last of the MLB Partner Leagues, the Frontier League.
The Frontier League merged with the Can-Am League at the end of the 2019 season but were unable to compete in 2020. They will also go through some reconfiguration due to the continuing issue at the Canadian/American border. The three Canadian teams are merging into one – Equipe Quebec. This team will play through mid-July as a road team in the United States. Should the border reopen, this team will split their home games between Stade Canac in Quebec City and Stade Quillorama in Trois-Rivieres. If the border does not reopen, the team will finish the 2021 schedule in the United States.
The complete, updated Frontier League schedule can be found HERE.
If you step out from the MLB partner umbrella, there are still various other independent leagues to check out around the country.
The Mavericks League began play on Thursday May 13th. All four teams in the league play at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer, Oregon.
This league was formed when the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes were left without an affiliation due to the MiLB restructuring. The ownership did not want to leave the city without baseball, so they took matters into their own hands and formed a new league.
This league is technically an adult amateur league as they will not be paying their players this season. They are focusing on some college-level athletes as well as some former minor league and independent players who are looking for a chance to play this season. They do plan on expanding moving forward and look to become a true professional independent league with player salaries next season.
The Maverick’s League schedule can be found HERE.
Another league looking to develop players and move them on to higher indy leagues is the Yinzer League. This league was formed by the Black Sox and the Washington WildThings as a solution to COVID-era baseball last summer. The league has lasted another year, now solely ran by the Black Sox while operating out of the WildThings ballpark in Washington, PA.
The four teams will play in the late mornings/early afternoons before WildThings games and when the ‘Things are on the road. The league is hoping to have 65-80 games. While the players will not be paid, there is no fee if you are selected to play, and being in just one location makes it easier for the players. It is a great opportunity to get in game reps and be seen.
You can find out more information on the Yinzer League, which will be officially starting play in Washington on June 4th, HERE.
A new league, The Southern Shores Professional Baseball League, is also looking to have their inaugural season(s) as a collegiate-prep and adult developmental league out of Virginia and the Carolinas. There are three difference distinctions/age groups under their name: Pro Showcase, Collegiate and Pro.
You can find more information about the league HERE.
The USPBL will be starting their season May 28th in Utica, Michigan. The league, which began play in 2016, consists of four teams that play Thursday – Sunday games at Jimmy John’s Field.
The one field, four team configuration has worked well for the league and has offered a place for many young players to get their first taste of professional baseball. (As previously mentioned, this is what the Maverick’s League is trying to accomplish).
Their upcoming schedule can be found HERE.
The long standing Pecos League will began their season on June 2nd. This year, the league consists of the Pacific Division (8 teams based in California) and the Mountain Division (9 teams based in Colorado, Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas).
The Pecos League, while considered by most to be lower-level indy ball, still offers players a chance to play every day.
The 2021 Pecos League schedule can be found HERE.
Similar to the Pecos League in terms of play level, the Empire League operates mainly in the north eastern part of the United States.
The league has a mandatory tryout/spring training for all prospective players which starts on June 6th in Tupper Lake, New York.
At this time, it appears as if there will be six teams in the Empire League for the 2021 season. A full schedule does not seem to be available yet on their website; however, in years past, they have had a slate of 50 to 65 games per team.
If you want to look outside of the continental United States for independent baseball, the Puerto Rican Instructional League is looking to make the leap from instructional to professional independent for the upcoming season.
The Puerto Rican Independent Baseball League plans to begin play on June 25th with four teams. This professional indy league will be the first of its kind in Puerto Rico, offering a schedule of 30 games to players looking to get additional work.
Their inaugural schedule can be found HERE.
Unlike last season, there is no short supply of independent professional baseball this summer.