Carolina League logo
|No. of teams||8|
|Most recent champion(s)||Potomac Nationals|
|Official website||Official Website|
The Carolina League is a minor league baseball affiliation which operates along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. Before 2002, it was classified as a "High A" league, indicating its status as a Class A league with the highest level of competition within that classification, and the fifth step between Rookie ball and the major leagues. Although Minor League Baseball, the umbrella organization for minor leagues that are affiliated with Major League Baseball, has eliminated the distinction between High-A and other full-season A leagues, most major-league teams still use such leagues as a standard promotion step.
The organization that later became the Carolina League formed in 1945, just as World War II was ending, and consisted of only two teams based in southern Virginia. Historically, however, as many as 12 teams in a given year have competed in the Carolina League. Today, the league consists of eight teams in a region stretching from Delaware to South Carolina, and is divided into a Northern Division and a Southern Division.
The league originated in the vicinity of Raleigh, North Carolina, and has since branched out.
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).
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 Carolina League.
As of 2013, each team plays a 140-game schedule, with 20 games against each team. The division champions from the first half (before the All-Star break) and second half (after the break) of each season compete in a best-of-three divisional playoff, with the winners advancing to the best-of-five league championship, the winner of which receives the Mills Cup. Before 2012, the divisional playoff was a best-of-five series.
To determine the first half winner if two or more teams are tied, the team with the better head-to-head record is declared the first half winner. If those record are also tied, then the winner of the first meeting in the second half is declared the winner. If two teams are tied at the end of the second half, a one game playoff will determine the winner. Game 1 of the division playoff will take place at one site, with Game 2 and Game 3 if necessary at the other site. The winner of the first half is given the option of opening the series at home or on the road. If a team is the winner of both halves, it will host all games against the runner-up of the second half.
In even-numbered years, the Southern Division champion hosts the first two games of the Mills Cup series with the remaining necessary games at the Northern Division champion. In odd-numbered years, this format is reversed.
|Northern||Frederick Keys||Baltimore Orioles (since 1982)||Frederick, Maryland||Harry Grove Stadium||5,400|
|Lynchburg Hillcats||Cleveland Indians (since 2015)||Lynchburg, Virginia||Calvin Falwell Field||4,000|
|Potomac Nationals||Washington Nationals (since 2005)||Woodbridge, Virginia||G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium||6,000|
|Wilmington Blue Rocks||Kansas City Royals (since 2007)||Wilmington, Delaware||Daniel S. Frawley Stadium||6,532|
|Southern||Carolina Mudcats||Atlanta Braves (from 2015)||Zebulon, North Carolina||Five County Stadium||6,500|
|Myrtle Beach Pelicans||Chicago Cubs (from 2015)||Myrtle Beach, South Carolina||TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark||6,600|
|Salem Red Sox||Boston Red Sox (since 2009)||Salem, Virginia||Lewis-Gale Field||6,300|
|Winston-Salem Dash||Chicago White Sox (since 1997)||Winston-Salem, North Carolina||BB&T Ballpark||5,500|
Current team rosters
Carolina League champions
- (1) ^ Myrtle Beach and Wilmington were declared co-champions when the series was tied 2–2 and canceled because of Hurricane Floyd.
All-time teams (1945–present)
All teams that have competed in the Carolina League from its founding in 1945. Teams in bold are currently active.
(Through end of 2014 season).
|Wilmington Blue Rocks||22||1626||1432||.532||4|
|Myrtle Beach Pelicans||16||1145||1079||.515||2|
|Frederick Keys (1)||34||2311||2397||.491||5|
|Salem Red Sox||46||3165||3353||.486||5|
|Potomac Nationals (2)||37||2490||2633||.486||5|
- (1)^ Includes Hagerstown from 1981–88.
- (2)^ Includes Alexandria from 1978–83 and Prince William from 1984–98.
- "Playoff Format". Carolina League. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
- Young, Ryan (April 3, 2013). "Pelicans Through the Years". The Sun News. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
- "2013 Carolina League Media Guide and Record Book". p. 4.