The earliest professional baseball association, the National Association of 1871 to 1875, comprised all fully professional teams. This system proved unworkable, however, as there was no way to ensure competitive balance, and financially unsound clubs often failed in midseason. This problem was solved in 1876 with the formation of the National League, with a limited membership which excluded less competitive and financially weaker teams. Professional clubs outside the National League responded by forming regional associations of their own. There was a series of ad hoc groupings, such as the New England Association of 1877 and the Eastern Championship Association of 1881. These were loose groups of independent clubs which agreed to play a series of games for a championship pennant.
The first minor league is traditionally considered to be the Northwestern League of 1883 to 1884. Unlike the earlier minor associations, it was conceived as a permanent organization. It also, along with the National League and the American Association, was a party to the National Agreement of 1883. Included in this was the agreement to respect the reserve lists of clubs in each league. Teams in the National League and the American Association could only reserve players who had been paid at least $1000. Northwest League teams could reserve players paid merely $750, implicitly establishing the division into major and minor leagues. Over the next two decades, more minor leagues signed various versions of the National Agreement. Eventually, the minor leagues joined together to negotiate jointly.
In the late 1890s, the Western League run by the fiery Ban Johnson decided to challenge the National League's position. In 1900, he changed the name of the league to the American League and vowed to make deals to sign contracts with players who were dissatisfied with the pay and terms of their deals with the National League. This led to a nasty turf war that heated up in 1901 enough to concern Patrick T. Powers, president of the Eastern League, and many other minor league owners about the conflict potentially affecting their organizations. Representatives of the different minor leagues met at the Leland Hotel in Chicago on September 5, 1901. In response to the National–American battle, they agreed to form the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, called the NAPBL, or NA for short. (The NA uses the name Minor League Baseball today.) The purpose of the NA at the time was to maintain the independence of the leagues involved. Several did not sign the agreement and continued to work independently. Powers was made the first president of the NAPBL, whose offices were established in Auburn, New York.
In 1903, the conflict between the American and National Leagues ended in the National Agreement of 1903. The NAPBL became involved in the later stages of the negotiations to develop rules for the acquisition of players from their leagues by the National and the American. The 1903 agreement ensured that teams would be compensated for the players that they had taken the time and effort to scout and develop, and no NA team was required to sell their players, although most did because the cash was an important source of revenue for most teams. The NA leagues were still fiercely independent, and the term "minor" was seldom used in reference to them, save by the major-market sports writers. News did not travel far in the days before television and radio, so, while the leagues often bristled at the major market writers descriptions, they viewed themselves as independent sports businesses. Many baseball writers of that time regarded the greatest players of the minor leagues, such as Buzz Arlett, Jigger Statz, Ike Boone, Buddy Ryan, Earl Rapp and Frank Shellenback, as comparable to major league players. Leagues in the NA would not be truly called minor until Branch Rickey developed the first modern farm system in the 1930s. The Commissioner of Baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis fought Rickey's scheme, but, ultimately, the Great Depression drove teams to establish systems like Rickey's to ensure a steady supply of players, as many NA and independent teams could not afford to keep their doors open without the patronage of major league baseball. The leagues of the NA became subordinate to the major leagues, creating the first minor leagues. Other than the Pacific Coast League, which under its president Pants Rowland tried to become a third major league in the Western states, the other leagues maintained autonomy in name only, being totally economically dependent upon the American and National leagues.
In 1922, the United States Supreme Court decision Federal Baseball Club v. National League (259 U.S. 200), which grants baseball a special immunity from antitrust laws, had a major effect on the minor leagues. The special immunity meant that the American and National leagues could dictate terms under which every independent league did business. By 1925, major league baseball established a flat-fee purchase amount of $5,000 for the contract of any player from an NA league team. This power was leveled primarily at the Baltimore Orioles, then a Triple-A team that had dominated the minors with stars.
Under most circumstances, minor league teams are not owned by major league clubs, but have affiliation contracts with them. A small number of minor league clubs are directly owned by major league clubs, but these are rare. Major league Rule 56 governs the standard terms of a Player Development Contract (PDC) which is the standard agreement of association between a minor league team and its major league affiliate. Generally, the parent major league club pays the salaries and benefits of uniformed personnel (players and coaches) and bats and balls, while the minor league club pays for in-season travel and other operational expenses.
Minor league teams often change their affiliation with major league clubs for a variety of reasons. Sometimes major or minor League clubs wish to affiliate with a partner that is geographically closer. In recent years, some MLB clubs have attempted to place as many affiliated teams within their blackout area as possible, in order to make scouting and player transfers more convenient and to take advantage of the existing fan base when interest in the parent team builds support for the minor league affiliate and early fan interest in developing minor league players reinforces support for the parent team as "local players" reach the majors. Sometimes a minor league club wishes to improve the caliber of players its major league affiliate sends to play there. Sometimes a major league club wishes to improve the facility where it will send its developing players. In even-numbered years, any major or minor league club with an expiring PDC may notify Major League Baseball or Minor League Baseball, respectively, of its desire to explore a re-affiliation with a different PDC partner. The Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball offices then send a list of the corresponding major and minor league clubs seeking new affiliations, and there is a limited period of time in September within which clubs may agree upon new PDCs. If any are left over after this process, the Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball offices are empowered to assign major and minor league clubs to each other.
Going into the 2010 season, the longest continuous link between major league and minor league clubs was the link between the Orioles and their Rookie-level Appalachian League affiliate, the Bluefield Orioles. The teams were affiliated for 53 years, from 1958 through 2010. Baltimore ended the PDC after the 2010 season. At the start of the 2011 season, the longest continuous affiliations were two 45-year links: between the Philadelphia Phillies and their Double-A Eastern League affiliate, the Reading Fightin Phils; and the one between the Detroit Tigers and their Single-A Florida State League affiliate, the Lakeland Flying Tigers. Both Reading and Lakeland are owned by their parent Major League clubs.
There are several baseball clubs that operate teams at multiple levels of the minor leagues; they are not required to affiliate all of their clubs to the same major league franchise. Bob Rich, Jr., for example, owns the AAA Buffalo Bisons and the short-season West Virginia Black Bears, the latter of which had been the Jamestown Jammers before the 2015 season. Even though the teams were located slightly more than 70 miles (110 km) apart before the Jammers' relocation, Rich has never affiliated the two teams with the same parent club.
The current minor league classification system divides leagues into one of five classes, those being Triple-A (AAA), Double-A (AA), Class A (Single-A or A), Class A Short Season, and Rookie. Furthermore, Class A is further subdivided into Class A and Class A-Advanced (often called Low-A and High-A, respectively), and Rookie is further subdivided into Rookie Advanced, Complex-based Rookie and international summer baseball. Under the rules governing the affiliated minor leagues (specifically Major League Baseball Rule 51), Class A Short Season is a separate classification from the other leagues bearing the "Class A" name, despite the similarity in name.
This classification currently includes two affiliated leagues: the International League and the Pacific Coast League, which feature teams from Eastern and Western United States respectively. For most of the 20th century, it also contained the American Association, based in the Midwest, but that league disbanded in 1997 as part of a reorganization of the Triple-A level that saw the American Association clubs absorbed by the IL and PCL. The Mexican League is also classified as a Triple-A league, though its clubs do not have PDCs with Major League clubs.
Both young players and veterans play for Triple-A teams. Teams usually hold many of the remaining 15 players of the 40-man major league roster whom the major league club has chosen not to play at the major league level. Players at Triple-A on the 40-man roster can be invited to come up to the major league club once the major league roster expands on September 1, although teams usually wait until their affiliates' playoff runs are over, should they qualify. For teams in contention for a pennant, it gives them fresh players. For those not in contention, it gives them an opportunity to evaluate their second-tier players against major-league competition. Some Triple-A players are "career minor leaguers", former prospects whose skill growth has halted and are not likely to be ready for MLB action unless as a temporary replacement.
There are currently three leagues in this classification: Eastern League, Southern League, and the Texas League. Some players jump to the majors from this level, as many of the top prospects are put here to play against each other rather than against minor and major league veterans in Triple-A. A small handful of players might be placed here to start, usually veterans from foreign leagues with more experience in professional baseball. The expectation is usually that these players will be in the majors by the end of the season, as their salaries tend to be higher than those of most prospects.
Unlike the major league and the Triple-A level, two of the three Double-A leagues play a split season, the Eastern League being the exception. One team may clinch a spot in the playoffs by winning the division in first half of the season. The teams' records are then cleared and another team will also clinch a playoff slot during the second half. Wild cards are used to fill out the remaining teams. Usually, four teams qualify for the league playoffs. This system is used at the Class A level as well.
One level below Double-A, the California League, Carolina League, and the Florida State League play at the Class A-Advanced level, also known as "Class A+" or "High A". This is often a second or third promotion for a minor league player, although a few high first-round draftees, particularly those with college experience, begin at this level. These leagues play a complete season like Triple-A and Double-A, April through early September. Many of the teams in the Florida State League are owned by major league parent clubs and use their spring training complexes. The class consists of 30 teams from around the United States, from San Jose to Tampa.
Slightly below Class A-Advanced are the full season Class-A leagues, the South Atlantic League and Midwest League. These leagues are a mix of players moving up from the Short Season and Rookie leagues, as well as the occasional experienced first-year player. These leagues play a full, 140 game schedule, which runs from the first week of April through the first week of September.
Short season leagues, as the name implies, play a shortened season of 76 games, starting in mid-June and ending in early September, with only a few off-days during the season. The late start of the season is designed to allow college players to complete their college seasons in the spring, then be drafted, signed, and immediately placed in a competitive league (The MLB First Year Player Draft begins on the first Monday in June).
Players in short season leagues are a mixture of newly signed draftees who are considered more advanced than other draftees, and second-year pros who were not ready or for whom there was not space at a higher level to move up. Second-year pros are assigned to "extended spring training" in Florida or Arizona during April and May before reporting to their short season leagues.
Of the 30 major league clubs, 13 field teams in Class A Short Season only, 8 clubs field their top short season teams in the Rookie Advanced leagues, and 9 clubs have affiliates at both levels.
Class A Short Season, despite the name, is a separate classification from Class A. Class A Short Season teams are slightly more limited than Class A teams with respect to player age and years of experience in professional baseball. There are two short season leagues, the New York–Penn League and Northwest League.
The Appalachian League and Pioneer League are known as "Rookie Advanced" leagues. The players in these leagues are thought to be further along in their development than players in the pure Rookie leagues, and hence games are more competitive. Teams in these leagues sell concessions and charge admission.
Leagues in the Rookie classification play a shortened season, similar to, but slightly shorter than, the short season leagues, starting in mid-June and ending in late August or early September. This lowest level of minor league baseball consists of two domestic leagues, the Arizona League and Gulf Coast League, and one foreign-based league, the Dominican Summer League.
The domestic Rookie leagues play a 60-game schedule, and are usually called "complex leagues" because games are played at their parent clubs' spring training complexes. Rosters comprise newly drafted players who are not ready for a higher level of play. These leagues are intended almost exclusively to allow players to hone their skills; no admission is charged and no concessions are sold.
Players on the disabled list (DL) can be sent to the minor leagues to aid in rehabilitation following an injury, typically for one or two weeks. Players are often sent to minor league clubs based on geography and facilities, not necessarily by class for these reassignments.
Curt Schilling's recovery from an ankle injury in 2005 saw him rehab in Pawtucket, Rhode Island at the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, very close to the home club in Boston. The Cincinnati Reds often send players to their Class-A affiliate, the Dayton Dragons, for rehab assignments. Despite Dayton's status as Low Class-A, Dayton is a short, 50-mile drive away from the Reds' Great American Ball Park.
Minnesota Twins superstar Joe Mauer, who missed most of the first two months of the 2011 season due to a difficult recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery after the 2010 season, reported to Minnesota's Class-A Florida State League team, the Fort Myers Miracle, which is based in their well-equipped Spring Training facility in Fort Myers. In addition, the Miracle manager at the time was Mauer's older brother Jake. The Twins would later send Joe Mauer and pitcher Ricky Nolasco to rehab with the club's Low-A affiliate located across the Minnesota-Iowa border in Cedar Rapids.
The current minor league structure is largely based on a significant reorganization that occurred before the 1963 season, which was caused by the club and league contraction of the 1950s and early 1960s. In 1949, the peak of the post-World War II minor league baseball boom, 438 teams in 59 leagues were members of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. By the end of 1963, only 15 leagues survived in the United States and Canada.
Before 1946, the minors' highest level was labeled Double-A. In 1946, the Triple-A classification was created and the three Double-A circuits (the Pacific Coast and International leagues, and the American Association) were automatically reclassified Triple-A. The Class A1 level, two rungs below the Majors and comprising the Texas League and the Southern Association, was then renamed Double-A.
Prior to 1963, the Class A level was a higher-rung classification. In 1946, Class A consisted of the Eastern League and the original South Atlantic or "Sally" League, and it would soon include the Western League (1947–1958), the Central League (1948–1951), and the Western International League (1952–1954). The WIL became the Class B Northwest League in 1955, and the Western and Central loops folded. But postwar Class A cities included communities such as Denver, in Major League Baseball since 1993, as well as Vancouver, Omaha, Colorado Springs, Scranton and Allentown, which would establish themselves as Triple-A venues.
The lower levels of the minors were ranked Classes B through D in descending order. With the exception of the 1952–1957 Open Classification experiment for the Pacific Coast League, this structure would remain intact through 1962. (see Defunct levels, below)
After the 1962 season, the Triple-A American Association disbanded and the surviving International and Pacific Coast leagues absorbed the four remaining American Association franchises. Meanwhile, at the Double-A level and below there were even more significant changes:The two existing Class A leagues—the Eastern and South Atlantic—were upgraded to Double-A, joining the Texas League and the Mexican League, then Double-A, as members of this classification. This move was caused by the disbanding of the Southern Association after 1961, leaving the six-team Texas League as the only U.S.-based Double-A circuit in 1962. (The Mexican League, although a formal member of minor league baseball, was not affiliated with any Major League teams.) In addition, many Major League parent teams had frequently treated the pre-1963 Eastern and South Atlantic leagues as de facto Double-A circuits, one step (rather than two) below Triple-A.
The Class B Carolina League and Northwest League, the Class C California League, Pioneer League and Northern League, and the Class D Florida State League, Georgia–Florida League, Midwest League, New York–Penn League, and Western Carolinas League were all designated Class A (or Single-A) leagues. (The unaffiliated Mexican Central League of 1960–1978, ranked Class C in 1962, also was upgraded to Class A.)
The Class D Appalachian League, then the only "short-season" circuit, was given a new designation as a "Rookie" league.
As part of the 1963 reorganization, Major League clubs increased their commitments to affiliate with minor league teams through Player Development Contracts, outright ownerships, or shared affiliations and co-op arrangements.Triple-A: The American Association was revived as a Triple-A league in 1969 and flourished with the minor league baseball boom of the 1980s and 1990s. However, all of its teams were again absorbed into the International and Pacific Coast leagues in 1998 as part of a sweeping reorganization of the minors' top classification. The American Association and the International League also played an interlocking schedule during the late 1980s as part of the Triple-A Alliance. The Mexican League was upgraded from Double-A to Triple-A in 1967.
Double-A: In 1964, the South Atlantic League changed its name to its current identity, the Southern League. Because of continued contraction (and Major League expansion) that left each circuit with only seven teams, the Texas and Southern leagues merged into an umbrella circuit, the Dixie Association, in 1971. The arrangement lasted only for that season and the records and history of the Texas and Southern loops were kept distinct. In 1972, each league added an eighth team, rebalancing their schedules. They resumed their former, separate identities, and returned to prosperity with the revival of minor league baseball that began in the 1980s.
Class A: In 1965, the Class A–Short Season designation was created, and the Northern and Northwest loops moved from "full season" Class A into the new classification (with the New York–Penn League following in 1967). The Georgia–Florida League disbanded after the 1963 season, while the Northern League played its last year in official minor league baseball in 1971. In 1980, the Western Carolinas League changed its identity to become the modern incarnation of the South Atlantic League.
Rookie: In 1964, the Pioneer League stepped down from Class A to Rookie league status, and the first "complex-based" leagues, the Sarasota Rookie League and the Cocoa Rookie League, made their debuts. The Sarasota Rookie League underwent a name change to the Florida Rookie League in 1965 before becoming the modern Gulf Coast League the next season. The Cocoa Rookie League lasted only one season, but the Florida East Coast League of 1972 was based in the same region of the state. In 1989, an Arizona-based counterpart to the Gulf Coast League, the Arizona League, made its debut in minor league baseball, and it continues to operate as a Rookie-level league for MLB teams with spring training facilities based in that state.
Failed start-up leagues: During the 1970s, three "official" minor leagues attempted unsuccessfully to revive unaffiliated baseball within the organized baseball structure. These were the Class A Gulf States League (1976) and Lone Star League (1977), and the Triple-A Inter–American League (1979). None lasted more than a full season.
The Pacific Coast League, from 1952–1957, was the only minor league to obtain open classification. At this time, the major leagues only extended as far west as St. Louis and as far south as Washington, D.C. This classification severely restricted the rights of the major leagues to draft players out of the PCL, and at the time it seemed like the PCL would eventually become a third major league. The PCL would revert to Triple-A classification in 1958 due to increasing television coverage of major league games and in light of the Dodgers and Giants moving to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. The open classification no longer exists in the major league rules.
The forerunner to the modern Double-A classification, the A1 level existed from 1936 through 1945. In 1936, two Class A circuits, the Texas League and the Southern Association, were upgraded to Class A1 to signify their continued status as one step below the highest classification, then Double-A, yet a notch above their former Class A peers, the New York–Pennsylvania League and Western League. Ten years later, after World War II, with the minor leagues poised for unprecedented growth, classification terminology was changed. Beginning in 1946, the three Double-A leagues (the American Association and International and Pacific Coast leagues) joined a new classification, Triple-A, and the Class A1 level became known as Double-A.
Until 1963, there were also Class B, C, and D leagues (and, for half a season, one E league). The Class D of that day would be equivalent to the Rookie level today. The other class designations disappeared because leagues of that level could not sustain operation during a large downturn in the financial fortunes of minor league baseball in the 1950s and 1960s caused by the rise of television broadcasts of major league sports across broad regions of the country. The impact of the Korean War in 1950 caused a player shortage in most cities in class D and C. The Class E level existed briefly in 1943 in the form of the Twin Ports League. It folded July 13 after six weeks of operation.
Only 25 of the players on a Major League Baseball team's 40-man major league reserve list may be active for the major league club, with two exceptions. One minor exception is that when a team is scheduled to play a day-night doubleheader, it is allowed to carry 26 players on the active roster for that day only. The more significant exception is that from September 1 to the end of the regular season, teams are allowed to expand their game-day rosters to 40 players. The remaining 15 players are generally either on the disabled list or play at some level of the minor leagues (usually at the AAA or AA level). Players on the 40-man reserve list are eligible for membership in the Major League Baseball Players Association. The minor league players work at the lower end of major league pay scales and are covered by all rules and player agreements of the players association. Minor league players not on the 40-man reserve list are under contract to their respective parent Major League Baseball clubs but have no union. They generally work for far less pay as they develop their skills and work their way up the ladder toward the major leagues. Many players have signing bonuses and other additional compensation that can run into the millions of dollars, although that is generally reserved for early round draft picks.
A major league team's Director of Player Development determines where a given player will be placed in the farm system, in coordination with the coaches and managers who evaluate their talent. At the end of spring training, players both from the spring major camp and minor league winter camp are placed by the major league club on the roster of a minor league team. The Director of Player Development and the general manager usually determine the initial assignments for new draftees, who typically begin playing professionally in June after they have been signed to contracts. The farm system is ever-changing, and evaluation of players is a constantly ongoing process. The Director of Player Development and his managers meet or teleconference regularly to discuss how players are performing at each level. Personal development, injuries, and high levels of achievement by players in the classes below all steer a player's movement up and down in the class system.
Players will play for the team to which they are assigned for the duration of that season unless they are "called up" (promoted to a higher level), "sent down" (demoted to a lower-class team in the major league club's farm system), or "released" from the farm system entirely. A release from minor-league level used to spell the end of a minor league player's career. In more modern times, released players often sign with independent baseball clubs, which are scouted heavily by major league organizations. Many players get a second or third look from the major league scouts if they turn their career around in the independent leagues.
Even though minor league players are paid considerably less than their major league counterparts, they are nevertheless paid for their services and are thus considered professional athletes. Minor league salaries vary based on class level and length of season; however, the majority of players make less than $10,000 per season. Baseball cards refer to "pro record" and "pro seasons" as including both major and minor leagues. For this reason, minor league players generally consider it an insult when someone asks when they're going to "get to the pros". More accurately, a player's aim is to reach "The Show" or the "big leagues."
Umpires at the minor league level are overseen by Minor League Baseball Umpire Development, which is responsible for the training, evaluation, and recommendation for promotion and retention or release of the umpires.
The umpires are evaluated eight times a season by the staff of the MiLB Umpire Development, and receive a ranking at mid-season and the end of each year. Based on performance during the year, an umpire may advance in classification when a position opens in-season or during the off-season. Umpire Development holds an annual evaluation course every year in March to evaluate rookie umpires. Participants are normally the best students from the two professional umpire schools (one owned and operated by the same entity). The top students who pass the evaluation course are recommended for the first openings in the Rookie and short season leagues.
Any student who wants to work as an umpire must attend a professional umpire training school. The MiLB recognizes two schools for training prospective professional umpires, the Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School and Minor League Baseball Umpire Training Academy, both located in Florida. The Minor League Baseball Umpire Training Academy is owned and operated by Minor League Baseball Umpire Development (MiLBUD), while Wendelstedt is independently owned by MLB Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. The classes for each school are held for five weeks in January and February. The instructors at these schools are former or present major or minor league umpires. Simply attending one of these schools, however, does not guarantee that the candidate will also be recommended either to the evaluation course or to the openings in the Rookie or short season leagues. Generally, less than 20% of umpire school students move on to the Rookie Evaluation Course.
Before the umpire development program was created, the Minor League presidents would recruit umpires directly from the schools. Umpires were then "sold" from league to league by word of mouth through the various league presidents.
The umpire development program first started in 1964, when it was decided that a method of recruitment, training and development for umpires of both major and minor leagues was needed. The Umpire Development Program was founded at Baseball's 1964 Winter Meetings in Houston, and it began operating the next year. The program aimed to recruit more athletic, energetic and dedicated individuals who would also have high morals and integrity standards. In 1968, it was decided that the program needed its own umpire training course which would be held each year. The first "Umpire Specialization Course" was held in St. Petersburg, Florida the following year.
Presently, the candidates for a job in professional umpiring must meet several requirements in order to be considered. An applicant must have a high school diploma or a G.E.D., must be athletic, and also must have 20/20 vision, though they are permitted to wear glasses or contact lenses. They must also have good communication skills, good reflexes and coordination, and must have trained at one of the two professional umpire schools.
On June 21, 2016, the Gulf Coast League hired Jen Pawol, the first female umpire in Minor League Baseball since 2007.Patrick T. Powers, 1901–1909
Michael H. Sexton, 1909–1931
William G. Bramham, 1932–1946
George Trautman, 1947–1963
Phil Piton, 1964–1971
Hank Peters, 1972–1975
Bobby Bragan, 1976–1978
John H. Johnson, 1979–1988
Sal Artiaga, 1988–1991
Mike Moore, 1991–2007
Pat O'Conner, 2008–present
Minor League Baseball has a national television contract with CBS Sports Network, which airs 10–15 games on Thursday nights. The arrangement began in 2014 and will continue through the 2015 season. For the 2015 season, select MiLB games will be featured on the American Sports Network. Also, many individual teams have contracts with local over-the-air channels. Games are also occasionally simulcast on MLB Network.
MiLB.TV is the minor leagues' official online video streaming service, in the vein of Major League Baseball's MLB.tv. The service currently offers every Triple-A game and select games from the other classifications.
Nearly every minor-league team has its own local radio contract, though unlike their major-league counterparts, these generally consist of only one or two individual stations. Minor League Baseball currently has an arrangement with TuneIn to provide free audio streams of virtually every game.
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.
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 1907–1909, 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. Another independent league, the Federal League, played at a level considered major league from 1914–1915.
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 1936–1938. The Provincial League had six teams across Quebec and was independent from 1948–1949. Similarly to early 20th-century independent leagues, it joined the National Association in 1950, playing for six more years.
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. Over the next eight years, at least 16 independent leagues formed, of which six existed in 2002. As of 2016, seven independent leagues are in operation in the U.S. and Canada, compared to 19 in organized Minor League Baseball.AAA
Pacific Coast League
Florida State League
South Atlantic League
New York–Penn League
Gulf Coast League
Dominican Summer League
Arizona Fall League
Australian Baseball League
Colombian Professional Baseball League
Dominican Professional Baseball League
Mexican Pacific League
Puerto Rico Baseball League
Venezuelan Professional Baseball League
Empire Professional Baseball League
United Shore League
The Minor League Baseball Yearly (MiLBY) Awards (formerly "This Year in Minor League Baseball Awards") are given in nine categories. In five categories (Best Starter, Best Hitter, Best Reliever, Best Game, and Best Team), winners are selected in each of the five levels of minor-league baseball (Triple-A, Double-A, Class A Advanced, Class A – Full Season, and Class A – Short Season). In three categories (Play of the Year, Moment of the Year, and Homer of the Year), one overall winner is chosen for all of minor-league baseball. In the remaining category (Promo of the Year), there are overall winners in each of five subcategories: Best Promotion (of all types), Best Theme Night, Best Giveaway, Best Celebrity Appearance, and Best Miscellaneous Promotion.MiLB J.G. Taylor Spink Award (Topps/Minor League Player of the Year)
MiLB George M. Trautman Awards (Topps Player of the Year) (in each of 16 domestic minor leagues)
MiLB Joe Bauman Home Run Award
John H. Johnson President's Award (1974) – given each year, MiLB's top award recognizes "the complete baseball franchise—based on franchise stability, contributions to league stability, contributions to baseball in the community, and promotion of the baseball industry."
Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year (1976) – given each year to a woman in MiLB for exceptional contributions to her club, her league, or baseball.
Warren Giles Award (1984) – given each year to a league president for outstanding service.
King of Baseball (1951) – given annually in recognition of longtime dedication and service to professional baseball.
Larry MacPhail Award (1966) – given annually in recognition of team promotions.
Sheldon "Chief" Bender Award (2008) – given to a person with distinguished service who has been instrumental in player development.
Mike Coolbaugh Award (2008) – given to someone who has shown an outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game, and skill in mentoring young players on the field.
During its centennial celebration in 2001, Minor League Baseball compiled a list of the 100 best minor-league baseball teams of the century.