10/29/2021 7:33 AM -
Chicago, Ill. – Nov. 2, 2021 – The Midwest Collegiate League will be rebranded as the Northern League, effective immediately.
“With so many changes occurring in organized baseball during the past 12 months, we feel it is time to shed our collegiate name classification and broaden our identity,” Commissioner Don Popravak said. “The 21st Century Northern League will continue as an unaffiliated pre-professional baseball league. Additionally, we will expand our talent pool by attracting players who have a wider level of playing experience in the game.”
In December of 2020, Major League Baseball took over and reorganized the Minor League system, effectively eliminating 43 franchises and 1,200 affiliated player jobs. The entire MiLB Rookie Leagues and Short-Season Class-A Affiliated leagues were eliminated as part of this consolidation. With the annual MLB Draft reduced to 20 rounds from 45 due to this contraction, it has created a more difficult path into the affiliated minor leagues for amateur baseball players.
Furthermore, it will take longer for undrafted players to fulfill their dreams of reaching the Major Leagues with so few playing opportunities available. However, these players need somewhere where they can continue to develop their skills and find their way either into or back into affiliated professional baseball.
“At the end of the day, all unaffiliated leagues are ‘Draft Leagues’ of Major League Baseball,” Popravak said. “That is why we will be expanding playing opportunities to these players to continue with their skill development. The Northern League will be looking to recruit the best collegiate, post-collegiate and limited-service players available.”
The Northern League owns a rich history of developing Major League and Hall of Fame players over the last century that needs to be kept alive in the collective memories of baseball fans. This includes HOF players Hank Aaron, Orlando Cepeda, Lou Brock, Gaylord Perry and Jim Palmer, as well as other greats such as Roger Marris and Don Larsen, to name a few who began their MLB career paths in the league. The Northern League is a symbol of our past greatness as a sport; it celebrates America’s honored pastime with its hallowed place in baseball history.
There were many baseball leagues that used the Northern League name throughout the 20th century. Beginning with its birth in 1902, the first Northern League was a Class D league centered in the Dakotas and Canada and operated between 1902-1906. Then came the mergers with the Northern-Copper League in 1906 and another Class D League in 1908, which lasted one season. In 1913-1916, it was a C League, then in 1917 returned to being a D League before ceasing operations due to World War I. The longest-lasting Northern League ran from 1933 to 1971 with a break due to World War II. From 1963-1971, it was reclassified as a Class A League with the last major reorganization of the Minor League system by Major League Baseball. Then, after a 22-year hiatus, it reemerged in 1993 as an Independent baseball league revived by Miles Wolff with six franchises in the upper Midwest. That version of the Northern League ceased operations in 2010.
The 21st Century Northern League will maintain a small geographic footprint, just like the Cactus League, where 15 Major League Baseball clubs are concentrated around the City and Suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona.
“We intend for the core of the Northern League’s footprint to emanate from Northern Indiana outward to Illinois and Michigan,” Popravak said. “The key to our success is to minimize expenses for our owners while developing affordable family fun experiences at our ballparks for the enjoyment of fans. Long and arduous summer travel is an unnecessary expense for our clubs at this level of play. We can keep the footprint tight and create natural rivalries that are close so fans can travel to see their teams play in cities and towns that are in close proximity to each other.”
For more information on the Northern League, visit www.thenorthernleague.com.