Frontier League

The Frontier League is a professional independent baseball league with teams in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States and Eastern Canada. Formed in 1993, it is the oldest currently running independent league in the United States. The league is headquartered in Sauget, Illinois. In 2020, the Frontier League, together with the American Association and the Atlantic League, became an official MLB Partner League.[1]

Frontier League
Upcoming season or competition:
2022 Frontier League season
SportBaseball
Founded1993
No. of teams16
CountryUnited States
Canada
Most recent
champion(s)
Québec Capitales (2022)
Most titlesSchaumburg Boomers (4)
Official websitewww.frontierleague.com

The league has a partnership agreement with the California Winter League for player development.[2]

Structure and history

Teams in the Frontier League must recruit and sign their own players, who usually are undrafted college players or one-time prospects who have been released by their teams.

Frontier League rules limit teams to three "veterans" (Players older than 29 years as of October 1), while a minimum of ten of the 24-man roster are required to be rookies.[3]

Typically, teams play a 96-game regular season from May to September.

Pay in the Frontier League is minimal. For the 2020 season, each team had a salary cap of $85,000 and the player salaries ranged from a minimum of $600 up to $1,600 per month.[4] Veterans could earn up to $2,500 per month, and each team's highest-paid player could make as much as $4,000 a month with only one-third of the salary counting against the cap.[5]

Due to the low pay, players typically live with host families and receive meal money during the season.

The first league champions were the Zanesville Greys. Eight teams have won more than one championship: Springfield in 1996 and 1998; Johnstown in 1995 (as the Steal) and in 2000 (as the Johnnies), Richmond Roosters in 2001 and 2002, Windy City in 2007 and 2008, the Joliet Slammers in 2011 and 2018, and the Evansville Otters in 2006 and 2016. With four titles, the Schaumburg Boomers have won the most league championships.

On June 20, 2000, Brian Tollberg debuted with the San Diego Padres, becoming the first player from the Frontier League to make it to the Majors. A week later, Morgan Burkhart made his debut with the Boston Red Sox.

Although the league does not have any teams located in the same city as Major League teams, it does nonetheless have teams located within the markets of Major League teams. The Chicago area has three teams (Joliet Slammers, Schaumburg Boomers and Windy City ThunderBolts), as does the New York area (New Jersey Jackals, Sussex County Miners, and New York Boulders), and St. Louis (Gateway Grizzlies), Cleveland (Lake Erie Crushers), Cincinnati (Florence Y'alls) and Pittsburgh (Washington Wild Things) each have one. The Wild Things, in particular, have been able to market themselves as a successful alternative to the Pittsburgh Pirates due to the latter franchise's long stretch of losing seasons, which lasted from the Frontier League's founding in 1993 until 2013 when the Pirates finished with a record of 94–68.[6]

2019–2020: Merger, MLB Partner League

On October 16, 2019, it was announced that the Frontier League would be merging with the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball, absorbing five of its teams to form the largest independent professional baseball league. This added the New Jersey Jackals, New York Boulders, Quebec Capitales, Sussex County Miners, and Trois-Rivieres Aigles to the league; the Ottawa Champions, the last remaining Can-Am League team, was not invited to participate.[7] The divisions were renamed, with the easternmost teams playing in the Can-Am Division and the westernmost in the Midwestern Division.

On September 24, 2020, Major League Baseball announced that it named the Frontier League an MLB Partner League.[8] This enables collaboration with MLB to jointly discuss marketing and promotional initiatives to grow, expand, and enhance the game of baseball.

2021: New teams, border issues

For the 2021 season, the Frontier League announced it would be adding two new teams. The first announcement came around the same time as the announcement of the partnership with Major League Baseball, as Ottawa was granted an expansion franchise in the league. The team, as chosen by fans in a contest, was named the Titans and will play at RCGT Park.[9][10] Then, on January 8, 2021, after the reorganization of Minor League Baseball, the league added the Tri-City ValleyCats, which were one of several teams that were orphaned or disbanded when the New York-Penn League was folded. The Titans and ValleyCats joined the five former Can-Am League teams and Washington in the Can-Am Division; to even the divisions at seven teams, Lake Erie was moved to the Midwestern Division.

In April 2021, the league announced that the Québec Capitales, the Trois-Rivières Aigles, and the Ottawa Titans would not compete in the 2021 season due to the prolonged closure of the Canada–United States border as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Titans, the Aigles and the Capitales later joined forces to form a new team that competed as a member of the Atlantic Division.[11] Known as Équipe Québec, they began the season as a traveling team, and starting on July 30, 2021, started sharing home games between Québec City and Trois-Rivières following a loosening in border restrictions.[12][13] 10 games were played in Québec City and 11 in Trois-Rivières. They did not play in Ottawa due to COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario.

On October 6, 2021, the owners of the Southern Illinois Miners, Jayne and John Simmons, announced they would be retiring from professional baseball to spend more time with family and the Miners would be ceasing operations and dropping out of the Frontier League.[14][15] As a result, the league formed the Empire State Greys, to compete as a traveling team with a roster of players from the Empire Professional Baseball League.[16]

Broadcasting

On February 24, 2022, the Frontier League announced that all games for the 2022 season would be available through the streaming platform FloSports.[17]

Teams

Current team locations:
  East Division
  West Division
Frontier League
Division Team Founded Joined City Stadium Capacity
East Empire State Greys 2022 Travel team none n/a
New Jersey Jackals 1998 2020 Paterson, New Jersey Hinchliffe Stadium 7,500
New York Boulders 2011 2020 Pomona, New York Clover Stadium 6,362
Ottawa Titans 2020 Ottawa, Ontario RCGT Park 10,332
Québec Capitales 1999 2020 Quebec City, Quebec Stade Canac 4,300[18]
Sussex County Miners 2015 2020 Augusta, New Jersey Skylands Stadium 4,500
Tri-City ValleyCats 2002 2021 Troy, New York Joseph L. Bruno Stadium 4,500
Trois-Rivières Aigles 2012 2020 Trois-Rivières, Quebec Stade Quillorama 4,500
West Evansville Otters 1995 Evansville, Indiana Bosse Field 5,181
Florence Y'alls 2003 Florence, Kentucky Thomas More Stadium 4,500
Gateway Grizzlies 2001 Sauget, Illinois GCS Ballpark 6,000
Joliet Slammers 2011 Joliet, Illinois DuPage Medical Group Field 6,016
Lake Erie Crushers 2009 Avon, Ohio Mercy Health Stadium 5,000
Schaumburg Boomers 2012 Schaumburg, Illinois Wintrust Field 7,365
Washington Wild Things 2002 Washington, Pennsylvania Wild Things Park 3,200
Windy City ThunderBolts 1995 1999 Crestwood, Illinois Ozinga Field 3,200

Former teams

  • Canton Coyotes (2002, became the Mid-Missouri Mavericks)
  • Canton Crocodiles (1997–2002, became the Washington Wild Things)
  • Chillicothe Paints (1993–2008, joined the Prospect League)
  • Dubois County Dragons (2000–2002, became the Kenosha Mammoths)
  • Erie Sailors (1994, became the Johnstown Steal)
  • Florence Freedom (2003–2019, became the Florence Y'alls)
  • Johnstown Johnnies (1998–2002, became the Florence Freedom)
  • Johnstown Steal (1995–1998, became the Johnstown Johnnies)
  • Kalamazoo Kings (2001–2010, folded)
  • Kalamazoo Kodiaks (1996–1998, became the London Werewolves)
  • Kenosha Mammoths (2003, became the Springfield-Ozark Ducks)
  • Kentucky Rifles (1993–1994, folded)
  • Lancaster Scouts (1993–1994, became the Evansville Otters)
  • London Rippers (2012, folded)
  • London Werewolves (1999–2001, became the Canton Coyotes)
  • Mid-Missouri Mavericks (2003–2005, folded)
  • Midwest Sliders (2008–2009, became the Oakland County Cruisers)
  • Normal CornBelters (2010–2018, joined the Prospect League)
  • Newark Buffaloes (1994–1995, became the Kalamazoo Kodiaks)
  • Oakland County Cruisers (2010-2011, became the London Rippers)
  • Ohio Valley Redcoats (1993–1998, became the Dubois County Dragons; returned 2005, folded)
  • Portsmouth Explorers (1993–1995, became the Springfield Capitals)
  • Richmond Roosters (1995–2005, became the Traverse City Beach Bums)
  • River City Rascals (1999–2019, folded)
  • Rockford Aviators (2013–2015, folded)
  • Rockford RiverHawks (2002–2009, moved to Northern League; returned 2011–2012, replaced by Rockford Aviators)
  • Slippery Rock Sliders (2007, became the Midwest Sliders)
  • Southern Illinois Miners (2007–2021, folded)
  • Springfield Capitals (1996–2001, became the Rockford Riverhawks)
  • Springfield-Ozark Ducks (2004, became the Ohio Valley Redcoats)
  • Traverse City Beach Bums (2006–2018, folded)
  • Tri-State Tomahawks (1993, folded)
  • West Virginia Coal Sox (1993, folded)
  • Zanesville Greys (1993–1996, became the River City Rascals)
  • Équipe Québec (2021, Travel team composed of the Canadian players from Trois-Rivières Aigles and Québec Capitales due to the COVID-19 Pandemic travel restrictions)

Franchise timeline

Tri-City Valley CatsTrois-Rivières Aigles (Frontier League)Québec CapitalesNew York BouldersNew Jersey JackalsPennsylvania Road WarriorsSchaumburg BoomersJoliet SlammersNormal CornBeltersLake Erie CrushersSouthern Illinois MinersCook County CheetahsCanton CrocodilesErie SailorsRiver City RascalsZanesville GreysWest Virginia Coal SoxLancaster ScoutsChillicothe Paints

Champions

Individual career records

Batting

Statistic Record Player
Games Played 588 Chris Sidick
At Bats 2,225
Runs 434
Hits 725 Santiago Chirino
Home Runs 127 Charlie Lisk
Runs Batted In 442

Pitching

Statistic Record Player
Games 255 Nick Kennedy
Games started 98 Aaron Ledbetter
Innings Pitched 671.2
Wins 51
Strikeouts 522
Complete Games 18
Saves 74 Zach Strecker

See also

  • Baseball awards#U.S. independent professional leagues

Notes

  1. "American Association, Frontier League now MLB Partner Leagues". Ballpark Digest. August Publishing. September 24, 2020. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  2. "California Winter League and Frontier League Extend Relationship into 2021" (Press release). California Winter League. August 27, 2020. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  3. "Player Eligibility". FrontierLeague.com. March 1, 2020. Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  4. "What Is Independent Baseball?". Prospects Live. Retrieved October 27, 2022.
  5. Chris, Dugan (February 4, 2020). "Frontier League hoping more experience means better baseball". Observer–Reporter. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  6. "Team History". Washington Wild Things. Archived from the original on July 11, 2011. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  7. "Frontier League, Can-Am League to Join Forces". FrontierLeague.com. October 16, 2019.
  8. "PressRelease". MLB. MLB. September 24, 2020. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  9. Reichard, Kevin (September 25, 2020). "Frontier League returns to Ottawa in 2021". Ballpark Digest. August Publications. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  10. Baines, Tim (September 23, 2020). "PLAY BALL! Sam Katz confident baseball will be a hit in Ottawa when it returns next year". Ottawa Sun. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  11. "ÉQUIPE QUÉBEC UNVEILS BRANDING" (Press release). April 27, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  12. "FRONTIER LEAGUE ADJUSTS 2021 SCHEDULE" (Press release). April 17, 2021. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  13. "Retour du baseball professionnel au Québec". Québec Capitales (in Canadian French). July 21, 2021. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  14. "Jayne and John Simmons Announce Retirement from Professional Baseball in Marion, Illinois" (Press release). Southern Illinois Miners. October 6, 2021. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  15. Reichard, Kevin (October 7, 2021). "Southern Illinois Miners ceasing operations". Ballpark Digest. August Publishing. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  16. Reichard, Kevin (February 12, 2022). "New for 2022: Empire State Greys". Ballpark Digest. Retrieved March 3, 2022.
  17. "Frontier League and FloSports Announce Landmark Streaming Rights Agreement". OurSports Central (Press release). Frontier League. February 24, 2022. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  18. "Sports facilities and competition venues". Quebec City Business Destination. Retrieved September 11, 2021. Capacity: 4,300 seats
  19. Dugan, Chris. "Frontier League season canceled". Observer-Reporter. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
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