Futures Collegiate Baseball League
|Current season, competition or edition:|
2018 FCBL season
|Motto||Who will be the first?|
|No. of teams||7|
|Martha's Vineyard Sharks /|
|Most titles||Nashua Silver Knights|
FCBL ballplayers are unpaid collegiate athletes who join the league to gain experience and exposure to Major League Baseball scouts. The FCBL mission is to prepare young men for the rigors of playing professional baseball.
The league accepts players who were on college baseball rosters during the preceding spring season, as well as players who have signed a commitment to play college baseball in the upcoming school year. In 2018, teams were allowed to carry up to five "commits". At least 15 of the 30 players on a roster must have a local connection, either residing in New England or affiliated with a college in New England.
Since 2017, regular-season games that are tied after regulation and remain tied after one extra inning have been decided by a home-run hitting contest that may take three rounds.
The Futures League was co-developed by:
- Drew Weber, who owned the Single A Lowell Spinners and developed and owned the Double A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, and
- Chris Carminucci, whose Carminucci Sports Group operated the Brockton Rox of the independent Can-Am League.
The Carminucci Sports Group sought to place an NECBL franchise on the island of Martha's Vineyard, and the Spinners hoped to do the same in Nashua, New Hampshire. The NECBL declined to expand, so the organizations formed a separate league. The FCBL aimed to use professional baseball operators with proven histories. Most FCBL venues are former professional ballparks (marked with an asterisk in the table below), but some teams play in high-school ballparks.
The league started play in the 2011 season. Martha's Vineyard, Nashua, Seacoast, and Torrington were the charter franchises. The championship paired the top two franchises in a best-of-three series. Nashua (27–16) won the regular season and defeated Torrington (25–17) for the championship.
Expansion in 2012
For the 2012 season, the FCBL expanded from four to nine teams. The league expanded into the Leominster/Fitchburg, Massachusetts area with the addition of the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs. In addition, the FCBL induced the North Shore and Old Orchard Beach franchises to jump from the NECBL, as well as the Pittsfield and Brockton franchises of the professional, independent Can-Am League to convert to the collegiate format.
The Pittsfield franchise was operated by majority owner Marvin Goldklang and the Goldklang Group, which owns and operates four other minor-league baseball teams. The move by the Brockton franchise was described as a one-year "hiatus" from professional baseball, but it continued in 2013.
An all-star game was played, pitting selected players from the four charter teams against the five new teams.
The post-season was also revamped to involve four of the nine teams. The winners of two best-of-three division series (#4 plays #1, #3 plays #2) competed in a best-of-three championship series. Nashua repeated as FCBL Champion.
The 2013 season was played with the same nine franchises as in 2012. The playoffs were expanded to include the top six teams of the nine. The teams finishing first and second got a first-round bye, with the remaining playoff teams to play a new initial round consisting of a single game.
Earlier, there had been boilerplate text on a league press release that "The FCBL is planning and negotiating with other locations for further expansion in the 2013 season." Speculation had centered on Worcester, Massachusetts, where the Worcester Tornadoes had lost its affiliation with the Can-Am League. A Tornadoes creditor, John Creedon Jr., was in discussions with the College of the Holy Cross to secure a lease for Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field.
The all-star game was structured as Massachusetts versus "New England" (the four non-Massachusetts teams).
The regular season was extended by two days (to August 9 and 10) in view of the season's many rain-outs. The games scheduled for these days sometimes were not against opponents that were due to complete a rained-out game. The one-game play-in games occurred on the afternoon of August 11—not at the site of the higher-seeded team, but at the site of the winner's opponent in the next round, which began the same evening. This next round, a best-of-three series, was slated for alternating sites, though in neither case was the third game necessary. The final round reverted to the prior year's rule, in which the higher-seeded team (in this case, Martha's Vineyard) had the option of hosting the first game or any remaining games. Martha's Vineyard elected to open the series in Nashua, on August 14, and won the series at home the next day.
On September 20, 2013, John Creedon Jr., who prior to the 2013 season had discussed bringing baseball back to the city of Worcester, announced that he would indeed operate the league's tenth franchise at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field starting in 2014, and unveiled the Bravehearts on December 2, 2013.
The league split into an East and West division of five teams each. The All-Star Game assembled teams comprising the best players of each division; on July 24, the West beat the East, 4-1. The regular season expanded to 56 games, with each team playing 28 home games and 28 road games. No team actually played 56 games, as rain-outs occurring late in the season were not made up. The 2014 FCBL playoffs were conducted as in 2013, except that the rules gave the winner of each division the bye in round one, and guaranteed that, of the next four teams with the best overall records, the higher-seeded team would host the one-game play-in.
The two division winners, Worcester (West) and Martha's Vineyard (East), won their semifinal series and met in the best-of-three final series. Worcester swept the series to become the 2014 champions.
For 2015, the Old Orchard Beach franchise was replaced by the Bristol Blues. The Nashua franchise was moved from the West Division to the East Division to maintain both divisions at five teams. The playoffs were further expanded to include eight of the ten teams in post-season play. The first two playoff rounds consisted of a single elimination game, in two days reducing the playoff field from eight teams to two. The East was the stronger division; the new Bristol team (33–23), which won the West Division, had a worse record than three of the teams in the East. Bristol faced the Worcester Bravehearts (26–30) in the final series; last year's champion had flirted with elimination for much of the season, but came on strong in the final weeks of the regular season to finish second in the West. The higher-seeded Bristol elected that the series begin in Worcester, where Worcester won. In the games played at Bristol, Bristol won Game 2, but Worcester won the deciding game, on August 16, to repeat as FCBL champions.
In November 2015, the league announced that the playoff format would revert to that of 2014, with six of ten teams making the post-season. The Seacoast Mavericks had the first winning season in its six-year history, but lost the semifinal series to Nashua in three games. Worcester returned to the finals, but Nashua won that series, defeating Worcester first at home and then in Worcester.
2017 season: Introduction of the Home Run Derby
On December 20, 2016, the Futures League published a 2017 schedule for a nine-team league not including the Titans.
On January 27, 2017, the league announced that regular-season games tied after 10 innings would be decided by a home-run hitting contest, and announced a point system as in the National Hockey League, envisioning tie games, to decide playoff seedings. The league stated that the purpose of this rule was to protect pitchers' arms and encourage college coaches to recommend the league to their pitchers.
The first use of the Home Run Derby was June 7, when the visiting Martha's Vineyard Sharks tied the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs, 13–13, after 10 innings. In the first (three-minute) round of the Home Run Derby, the Sharks hit a total of 5 home runs out of Doyle Field, using both their time-outs to substitute batters at each one-minute interval. The Dirt Dawgs used Zack Tower, who had not played in the regulation game. He hit 5 home runs in 70 seconds, at which point the Dirt Dawgs used their first time-out. Tower remained at bat and hit the deciding home run shortly after.
In the 238 games played in the 2017 regular season, a total of 10 used the Home Run Derby. There were no tie games. In 7-inning games of doubleheaders, the Home Run Derby was used if the teams were tied after 8 innings.
Near the end of the regular season, the league clarified that the basis for seeding teams in the playoffs would actually be "point percentage": the ratio of points to potential points (2 times the number of games played). The clarification was necessary because the clubs had had different numbers of games cancelled by bad weather. The interpretation eventually helped Worcester qualify for the post-season at the expense of Martha's Vineyard.
All six games of the play-in and semifinal rounds were won by the lower-seeded team. This set up a final series between fifth-seeded Nashua and sixth-seeded Worcester, a repeat of the 2016 finals. Defending champion Nashua Silver Knights won one game away and at home against the Worcester Bravehearts to repeat as champions.
At the end of the 2017 regular season, the Seacoast Mavericks announced that it would not remain at Leary Field in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 2018 as it awaited completion of a Sports Complex in Dover, N.H. The owner of the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs said that the city commission controlling the grounds declined to renew the operating agreement as "(The DPW) felt we weren't cleaning up after ourselves as well as we should". Both clubs paid their 2018 dues, anticipating a return to the league in 2019.
The league allowed teams to carry up to 5 "commits" (high-school graduates intending to play college baseball in the coming year). The league retained the Home Run Derby, but dropped the provision for tie games and standings based on a point system. The league also kept the 2017 format in which the top 6 teams made the playoffs (the lower-seeded four entering a one-game play-in), though this was now 6-of-7 rather than 6-of-9. In each three-game playoff series, the higher-seeded team was no longer given an option but was scheduled to host Game 1, and Game 3 if necessary.
A scoreless tie between Bristol and Nashua on June 7 was settled with the Home Run Derby, the league's first Derby that had ever gone past the first (3-minute) round into the second (2-minute) round. Bristol's Connor Nolan hit three home runs in each round to out-hit Nashua, 6–5, and to give Bristol the victory by an official score of 1–0. Two other Derbies were tied after one round and went to the second round.
There was a weeks-long struggle between Nashua and North Shore to avoid elimination, eventually joined by Pittsfield. North Shore failed to make the playoffs for the second straight year, while Nashua and Pittsfield lost their respective play-in games on August 5. Top-seeded Martha's Vineyard and Worcester, which avoided the one-game play-in, eventually became the finalists. When a weather-delayed final series resulted in a deciding Game 3 on Martha's Vineyard on August 13, which could not continue after being tied 1-1 in the first inning, Martha's Vineyard and Worcester were declared co-champions.
Chris Hall, the former general manager of the independent Nashua Pride and American Defenders of New Hampshire, has been the FCBL's commissioner since its founding. Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Bob Stanley is on the League's Board of Directors and is the President of the Seacoast Mavericks. Cecil Fielder and Pete Incaviglia are advisory board members for the Torrington Titans.
|Futures Collegiate Baseball League|
|Bristol Blues||2015||Bristol, Connecticut||Muzzy Field*|
|Brockton Rox||2012||Brockton, Massachusetts||Campanelli Stadium*|
|Martha's Vineyard Sharks||2011||Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts||Vineyard Baseball Park|
|Nashua Silver Knights||2011||Nashua, New Hampshire||Holman Stadium*|
|North Shore Navigators||2012||Lynn, Massachusetts||Fraser Field*|
|Pittsfield Suns||2012||Pittsfield, Massachusetts||Wahconah Park*|
|Worcester Bravehearts||2014||Worcester, Massachusetts||Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field*|
|Seacoast Mavericks||2011||Portsmouth, New Hampshire||Leary Field|
|Torrington Titans||2011||Torrington, Connecticut||Fuessenich Park|
|Wachusett Dirt Dawgs||2012||Leominster, Massachusetts||Doyle Field|
- * Former professional baseball venue
- 2011: Nashua Silver Knights
- 2012: Nashua Silver Knights
- 2013: Martha's Vineyard Sharks
- 2014: Worcester Bravehearts
- 2015: Worcester Bravehearts
- 2016: Nashua Silver Knights
- 2017: Nashua Silver Knights
- 2018: Worcester Bravehearts and Martha's Vineyard Sharks declared co-champions
- "Collegiate Baseball League includes Nashua team". Lowell Sun. 2010-12-19.
- "Extra Innings Homerun Derby Format". Futures League. 2017-01-27.
- Summer collegiate baseball team coming to Seacoast
- Tom King (2011-12-31). "Baseball's return to Holman tops local stories of 2011". Nashua Telegraph.
- "Futures League Announces 2012 Schedule". FCBL. 2012-02-29.
- FCBL contact page (See Playoff Format.)
- "David Adam selected as Manager of the Seacoast Mavericks Collegiate Baseball Team". FCBL. 2012-01-07.
- "What's 'future' of summer baseball in Worcester?". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 2012-11-01.
- Walter Bird Jr. (2013-09-30). "Summer baseball will be played in Worcester in 2014". Worcester Magazine.
- "Dirt Dawgs will open season on June 4 at Doyle". Sentinel and Enterprise. 2013-12-01. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
- "2014 Playoffs Rules". FCBL. Retrieved 2014-08-16.
- Keenan, Corey (August 15, 2014). "Worcester Bravehearts win FCBL title". Telegram & Gazette. Worcester, Massachusetts. Retrieved 2014-08-16.
- "FCBL to Call Muzzy Field Home". FCBL. 2014-11-06. Retrieved 2014-12-20.
- "Futures League Releases 2015 Regular Season Schedule". FCBL. 2014-12-12. Retrieved 2014-12-20.
- Suhoski, Shaun (August 16, 2015). "Worcester Bravehearts repeat as FCBL champs". Telegram & Gazette. Worcester, Massachusetts. Retrieved 2015-09-22.
- "2016 Playoff Format". FCBL. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
- "2017 Futures League Schedule Announced". Futures League. 2016-12-20.
- Associated Press (from league release) (2017-01-27). "Futures league will use home run derby to break ties". USA Today.
- "Dirt Dawgs Claw Back to Win 14-13 over Martha's Vineyard". Our Sports Central. 2017-06-08.
- "Standings Explanation". Futures League.
- "Seacoast Mavs done at Leary Field in 2018". Foster's. 2017-08-05.
- "On hiatus: Dirt Dawgs won't play in 2018 as team searches for new home". Sentinel and Enterprise. 2017-11-08.
- "Futures League Announces 2018 Schedule". Futures League. 2017-11-08.
- Tyler Roaix (2018-06-07). "Bristol Blues use home run derby to beat Nashua Silver Knights". The Bristol Press.
- "The Futures League Crowns Co-Champs in Finale". Futures League. Retrieved 2018-08-14.