Category Archives: Independent Ball

Atlantic League, American Association and Frontier League All Form Partnership with MLB

The top three independent leagues are now partner leagues with Major League Baseball.

Earlier this week, the Atlantic League announced their further partnership with the MLB.

ALPB Named First MLB Partner League

September 23, 2020 – Major League Baseball (MLB) announced today that it has named the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB) its first “Partner League.”  As a Partner League, ALPB will meet regularly with MLB to discuss joint marketing and promotional opportunities, including the leagues’ shared goal of providing baseball to communities throughout the United States.  This designation expands the current agreement between the leagues, which permits MLB to test experimental playing rules and equipment during Atlantic League games.  The existing agreement has also been extended through the 2023 season. During the 2019 season, MLB and ALPB partnered to successfully test the Automated Ball-Strike System (ABS), which used radar tracking technology to assist home plate umpires in calling balls and strikes.  In addition, the Atlantic League tested rules limiting defensive shifting, mound visits, shortening inning breaks, and larger bases. “We are excited to extend our relationship with the Atlantic League, which provides us a unique means to push the sport forward,” said Morgan Sword, MLB’s Executive Vice President, Baseball Economics & Operations. “The Atlantic League clubs and players have been great partners to us as we jointly test ways to make our game even more interesting and engaging to fans.”  “The Atlantic League is inspired by the evolution of its relationship with Major League Baseball and thrilled to be named their first Partner League,” said ALPB President Rick White. “We value MLB’s confidence in ALPB and look forward to advancing our sport together.”  

Today, the American Association and Frontier League followed with announcements of their own.

American Association, Frontier League Designated as Partner Leagues of MLB

September 24, 2020 – Major League Baseball (MLB) announced today that it has named both the American Association and the Frontier League as “Partner Leagues” of MLB. The American Association and the Frontier League join the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB), which was designated a Partner League earlier this week.

As Partner Leagues, the Frontier League and the American Association will collaborate with MLB on initiatives to provide organized baseball to communities throughout the United States and Canada.

Morgan Sword, MLB’s Executive Vice President, Baseball Economics & Operations, said: “We welcome the American Association and Frontier Leagues as Partner Leagues, and look forward to working with them toward our shared goal of expanding the geographic reach of baseball.”

“We look forward to our partnership with MLB incorporating the American Association into the MLB family. To grow America’s Pastime, it’s critical to bring all stakeholders in professional baseball to the table,” said American Association Commissioner Joshua Schaub. “We believe this association with Major League Baseball will culminate in a comprehensive agreement that will grow baseball and shine an even brighter light on the American Association. The American Association has already established itself as a premier professional league in North America, this partnership will only enhance the American Association’s stature among the professional baseball world.”

Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee says, “The Frontier League is honored to become a Partner League with Major League Baseball. This partnership will be beneficial in growing our great game of Baseball in all of our United States and Canadian markets. Our teams and fans will all be excited to see the League grow in years to come. The Frontier League began in 1993, to have a relationship with Major League Baseball, is one of the greatest moments in League history.”

This could lead to a major restructuring of professional baseball across America as well as Canada.

MLB Trade Rumors and The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reported that Minor league team owners who spoke with Drellich expressed trepidation that such partnerships could be used as leverage by MLB in ongoing talks with MiLB about a new Professional Baseball Agreement between the two parties.

It’s also possible that some clubs that are cut in the inevitable, broad-reaching contraction of the lower-level minor leagues could land in the Atlantic League or other newly appointed “partner leagues,” per Drellich. A timeline on additional agreements with the American Association, Frontier League or other indie circuits isn’t clear, but the PBA between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball expires next week.

Official Statement: Wild Things Suspend Season

Wild Things Suspend Season Under Threat of State Enforcement

For Immediate Release
August 10, 2020

Washington, PA – The Washington Wild Things confirm the organization was warned by the Pennsylvania State Police that a continuation of the baseball season could lead to enforcement actions. “We are extremely frustrated right now,” said Steven Zavacky, Executive Director and President of the organization, “We have done everything humanly possible to safely operate our facility…… we have gone above and beyond, and it was working.“

Earlier this spring, Governor Wolf permitted professional sports to resume play in front of 250 people; the Wild Things immediately went to work putting together an efficient and effective plan that would enable spectators to safely enjoy an afternoon or evening at the ballpark. 

“It was my job,” said General Manager Tony Buccilli, “to put together a program that would ensure our players and fans stayed safe while enjoying quality competition. To that end, the Wild Things invited three other teams to play a season in Washington County.  The teams did not travel, and all players remained in the Washington area.  From the very beginning, we worked to ensure safety for everyone involved.  All four teams were in isolation before the season began, and all the players were extremely responsible about this because they knew how important it was for this project to be successful.”

“When the Governor limited in person attendance to 250 people he also outlined a procedure for requesting an exception.  The Wild Things submitted a comprehensive plan to the Secretary of Health outlining all of the steps the Wild Things would take to keep people safe,” said Zavacky. “The Wild Things requested that they be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, which would be 2200 people. And we were extremely pleased the Secretary of Health approved the plan,” he added.  “At the beginning of the season when we saw an uptick in the number of cases in Southwest Pennsylvania, the Wild Things decided to not exceed 250 people, even though we had an exemption because this action was the most responsible way to respond to the circumstances.

Protocol throughout the summer at Wild Things Park has included minimizing in-person ticket sales, monitoring employees and players health, performing temperature checks on fans entering the park, requiring masks, and offering a concession menu that included canned beverages, prepackaged condiments, prepackaged ice cream products and prepackaging hot dogs and hamburgers. The Wild Things also added social distancing signage, a reserved section for people aged 55 and older, plexiglass shields as well as hand sanitizing stations throughout the park.  The facilities were cleaned and disinfected before and after every game.

Zavacky continued, “Despite the fact that we were successfully providing families with safe, quality entertainment, I was warned this morning that the Wild Things were out of compliance with the Governor’s edicts.  While we vehemently disagree, the message was clear.  End the season or face consequences that would cripple the organization going forward.”

Buccilli went on to say, “We feel terrible. We never want to disappoint our fans and we were hoping not to have layoffs. Equally painful, we’re pulling the rug out from under our players and coaching staff who are in the middle of playoffs.  It’s terrible to work hard, trying do the right things, and then to be accused of doing something wrong.”

Stu Williams, one of the team owners added, “The Wild Things have continued to be an economic generator for Washington County this summer, drawing people from all over the country to Washington, PA where they could experience one of a handful of places hosting live professional baseball.  In addition, the Wild Things generated business for area hoteliers, landlords, and restaurants, by drawing four baseball teams to live here for six weeks.   We couldn’t have done any of these without several individuals who helped us to have as successful a summer as we had.  From state officials: Senator Camera Bartolotta, Representative Tim O’Neal to County Commissioners Diana Irey-Vaughn, Nick Sherman, and Larry Maggi to the great folks at North Franklin Township including Supervisors Bob Sabot, Sil Passalacqua, and Mike Quinn and their staff, and to everyone at The Washington County Tourism and Promotion Agency.  We also thank our corporate partners for staying with us this summer.  The Washington County Community is a very helpful and supportive one and we will always be grateful for the consideration they extend to us.”

Official release provided by washingtonwildthings.com