MLB Designates Independent Atlantic League As “Partner League”

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Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday that the Independent Atlantic League has been officially named as MLB’s first “partner league”. As a partner league, the Atlantic League “will meet regularly with the MLB to discuss joint marketing and promotion opportunities, including the leagues’ common goal of delivering baseball to communities across the United States,” according to the press release announcing the partnership.There was already a relationship between MLB and the Atlantic League, which in recent years has been a testing ground for experimental MLB rules such as the extra-inning runner on second base, pitch clocks, larger bases and even automated strike zones. Today’s deal not only extends that relationship, but extends the deal into the 2023 season.

“We are delighted to expand our relationship with the Atlantic League, which provides us with a unique means to advance the sport,” said Morgan Sword, MLB executive vice president for baseball economics and operations, in a press release in the press release. “The clubs and players of the Atlantic League have been great partners for us as we together test ways to make our game even more interesting and engaging for the fans.

Athletic’s Evan Drellich reported this morning that MLB has made deals not only with the Atlantic League, but also with other top independent leagues, including the American Association and the Frontier League. Minor league team owners who spoke with Drellich have expressed apprehension that such partnerships could be used as leverage by MLB in ongoing discussions with MiLB over a new professional baseball deal between the two parties.

It’s also possible that some clubs that are cut into the inevitable, high-profile contraction of lower-tier minor leagues could land in the Atlantic League or other newly named “partner leagues”, according to Drellich. A timeline on additional deals with the American Association, Frontier League or other independent circuits is unclear, but the PBA between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball expires next week.

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