The Frontier League, based in Sauget, Illinois, is a professional, independent baseball organization located in the Midwestern United States and Western Pennsylvania. It operates mostly in cities not served by Major or Minor League Baseball teams and is not affiliated with either. Though not part of the official minor league system, its level of play is considered comperable to low A-level. The league was formed in 1993.
Description and history
The Frontier League exists so that professional baseball players who are not signed by a Major or Minor League organization could have another chance at playing at a higher level. Although the level of Frontier League play can be categorized at the single A standard, players in independent baseball are usually not scouted heavily by Major League teams. The league also caters to players who are not quite talented enough to play at a higher level.
Teams in the Frontier League must recruit and sign their own players, which usually consist of undrafted college players or one-time prospects who have been released by their teams. Frontier League rules limit teams to three "veterans" (those with three or more years of professional experience), two two-year players and seven one-year players (those with at least 150 professional at-bats or 50 innings pitched). The other half of the 24-man roster is confined to rookies. Players cannot be older than 27 as of January 1.
Pay in the Frontier League is minimal, as each team has a salary cap of $72,000, and the league minimum is set at $600 per month. Due to the low pay, players typically live with host families.
The first league champions were the Zanesville Greys. Only four 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 (now Traverse City) in 2001 and 2002, and Windy City in 2007 and 2008. The Florence Freedom (including years as Erie and Johnstown) and the Rockford RiverHawks (including years as Portsmouth and Springfield) are currently tied for the most league championships with each franchise winning three.
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. His story was a "feel good" human interest story for part of the summer. A week later Morgan Burkhart made his debut with the Boston Red Sox.
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