Independent baseball league

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Independent baseball leagues
No. of teams74
CountriesUnited States

An independent baseball league is a professional baseball league in the United States or Canada that is not overseen by Major League Baseball or its affiliated Minor League Baseball system (historically referred to as organized baseball).[1]

Independent leagues have flourished in northeastern states, where dense populations can often support multiple franchises. Because they are not subject to the territorial limitations imposed on affiliated minor-league teams, independent clubs can relocate as close to affiliated teams (and one another) as they choose to. For example, the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, cannot have an affiliated team because of its proximity to the Harrisburg Senators and Reading Fightin Phils, leaving the Atlantic League to place a team—the Lancaster Barnstormers—to fill the void. Another example is the greater New York City metropolitan area, where there are many independent teams: the Long Island Ducks, Staten Island FerryHawks, New Jersey Jackals, New York Boulders, and Sussex County Miners.

The Atlantic League considered as the top level of competition among the independent leagues,[2] and has had more marquee players than any other independent league, including Jose Canseco, Mat Latos, Steve Lombardozzi Jr., Francisco Rodríguez, Chien-Ming Wang, Roger Clemens, Rich Hill, Scott Kazmir, Juan González, John Rocker, and Dontrelle Willis. Two former Atlantic League players are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Tim Raines and Rickey Henderson. Gary Carter, another Hall of Famer, managed in the league. The Atlantic League has had many notable managers and coaches, including Wally Backman, Frank Viola, Tommy John, Sparky Lyle, and Bud Harrelson. The Northern League alumni include Leon "Bull" Durham, J. D. Drew, and Darryl Strawberry.


Haymarket Park, home to the Lincoln Saltdogs, an independent baseball team in Lincoln, Nebraska

Independent leagues are those professional leagues in the United States and Canada not under the purview of organized Minor League Baseball and the Commissioner of Baseball. Independent baseball existed in the early 20th century and has become prominent again since 1993.[3]

Leagues operated mostly autonomously before 1902, when the majority joined the NAPBL. From then until 1915, a total of eight new and existing leagues remained independent. Most joined the National Association after one season of independence. Notable exceptions were the California League, which was independent in 1902 and from 1907 to 1909; the United States Baseball League, which folded during its independent 1912 season; and the Colonial League, a National Association Member that went independent in 1915 and then folded.[4] Another independent league, the Federal League, played at a level considered major league from 1914 to 1915.[5]

Few independent leagues existed between 1915 and 1993. Major exceptions included the Carolina League and the Quebec-based Provincial League. The Carolina League, based in the North Carolina Piedmont region, gained a reputation as a notorious "outlaw league" during its existence from 1936 to 1938.[6] The Provincial League fielded six teams across Quebec and was independent from 1948 to 1949. Similarly to early 20th-century independent leagues, it joined the National Association in 1950, playing for six more years.[4][7]

Independent leagues saw new growth after 1992, after the new Professional Baseball Agreement in organized baseball instituted more stringent revenue and stadium requirements on members.[8] The Northern League and Frontier League both started play in 1993, and the Northern League's success paved the way for other independent leagues like the Texas-Louisiana League and Northeast League. Over the next eight years, at least 16 independent leagues formed, of which six existed in 2002.[4] As of the 2024 season, there are seven active leagues, with four of them acting as MLB Partner Leagues.[9]

Current leagues[edit]

Overview of current independent baseball leagues
Affiliation League First season Teams Geographical area
MLB Partner
American Association of Professional Baseball 2006 12 Midwest, Manitoba, Texas
Atlantic League of Professional Baseball 1998 10 Mid-Atlantic, Southeast
Frontier League 1993 16 Northeast, Midwest, Ontario, Quebec
Pioneer Baseball League 1939 12 Northern Mountain States, California
Independent Empire Professional Baseball League 2016 4 Upstate New York
Pecos League 2011 16 California, Southwest, Southern Mountain States, Great Plains
United Shore Professional Baseball League 2016 4 Utica, Michigan
Map of independent baseball league teams
  American Association
  Atlantic League
  Frontier League
  Pioneer League
  Pecos League
  Empire League
  United Shore League (4 teams play in one stadium)

Defunct leagues[edit]

Overview of former independent baseball leagues
League First season Last season Geographical area
All-American Association 2001 2001 Southern United States
Arizona–Mexico League 2003 2003 Arizona, Mexico
Atlantic Coast League 1995 1995 Southeastern United States
Big South League 1996 1997 Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee
Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball 2005 2019 Northeast, Quebec, Ontario
Canadian Baseball League 2003 2003 Canada
Carolina League 1936 1938 North Carolina's Piedmont region
Central Baseball League 1994 2005 Southern United States
Continental Baseball League 2007 2010 Southwestern United States
Empire State League 1987 1987 New York
Freedom Pro Baseball League 2012 2013 Arizona
Golden Baseball League 2005 2010 Hawaii, Western United States, Western Canada, Mexico
Golden State League 1995 1995 California
Great Central League 1994 1994 Upper Midwest
Heartland League 1996 1998 Midwestern United States, Northeastern United States, Southeastern United States
Inter-American League 1978 1979 United States, Dominican Republic, Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela
Mid-America League 1995 1995 Midwestern United States
Mount Rainier Professional Baseball League 2015 2015 Washington, Oregon, Montana
North Atlantic League 1995 1996 Northeastern United States, Canada
North American League 2011 2012 Western United States, Texas, Illinois, Canada
North Central League 1994 1995 Upper Midwest, Canada
North Country Baseball League 2015 2015 New York, Maine
Northeast League 1995 2004 Northeastern United States, Canada
Northern League 1993 2010 Upper Midwest, Kansas, Canada
Pacific Association 2013 2019 California
Prairie League 1995 1997 Upper Midwest, Canada
South Coast League 2007 2007 Southeastern United States
Southeastern League 2002 2003 Southeastern United States
Southwest Baseball League 1995 1997 Southwestern United States
Thoroughbred Baseball League 2017 2017 Kentucky
United League Baseball 2006 2014 Texas
Western Baseball League 1995 2002 Pacific States

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What Is Independent Baseball?". FloBaseball. 10 November 2023.
  2. ^ "Indy Ball 101". 21 June 2018.
  3. ^ Kraus, Rebecca S. (2012). Minor League Baseball: Community Building Through Hometown Sports. Routledge. p. 43. ISBN 978-0789017567. Archived from the original on June 23, 2014. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Kraus, Rebecca S. (2012). Minor League Baseball: Community Building Through Hometown Sports. Routledge. p. 44. ISBN 978-0789017567. Archived from the original on June 23, 2014. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  5. ^ Thorn, John (May 4, 2015). "Why Is the National Association Not a Major League … and Other Records Issues". Our Game. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  6. ^ R.G. (Hank) Utley, Scott Verner (1999). The Independent Carolina Baseball League, 1936–1938: Baseball Outlaws. McFarland. ISBN 0786423188. Archived from the original on May 5, 2016. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  7. ^ Bjarkman, Peter C. (2005). Diamonds Around the Globe: The Encyclopedia of International Baseball. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 78–79. ISBN 0313322686. Archived from the original on June 29, 2014. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  8. ^ Kraus, Rebecca S. (2012). Minor League Baseball: Community Building Through Hometown Sports. Routledge. p. 47. ISBN 978-0789017567. Archived from the original on June 23, 2014. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  9. ^ "Partner Leagues". MLB.

External links[edit]