Frontier League announces merger with Can-Am League
The landscape of independent, professional baseball changed significantly Wednesday, as the Frontier League — the oldest independent league in the country — announced it will be absorbing five teams from the Can-Am League in a merger for the 2020 season.
A process that started two years ago, according to Frontier League commissioner Bill Lee, came to fruition at a news conference in Washington County.
The 14-team league, which locally includes the Washington Wild Things, will begin play May 14 and will stick with the Frontier League’s playing rules.
“It’s absolutely an honor for me and a pleasure for me, after 26 years in this business, to make this announcement,” Lee said. “The Frontier League and Can-Am League are merging to join forces. It’s a great honor.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of everyone’s efforts behind making this historic merger a reality,” Can-Am League Chairman Al Dorso added. “It’s been a long time coming and yet the final stages came together overnight. I can’t wait for what will be our first Frontier League meetings as we implement our vision of fostering exciting baseball and expansion into new markets.”
The expanded Frontier League will now be the largest independent-ball league in the country. In 2019, the Frontier League finished its 27th season of baseball, while the Can-Am League finished its 14th under the Can-Am name. For the first time, the two leagues met in an All-Star Game, hosted by the Can-Am League’s Rockland Boulders, which is where the discussions heated up.
“This vision started about two years ago. We’ve had meetings ever since, we’ve met up in different places,” Lee said. “Things really heated up in Rockland. We’re excited to see where this thing can go.”
Lee, among others including Dorso at the news conference, said the objective is to expand to close to 20 teams by the beginning of the 2021 season.
“Bringing the 14 teams from basically the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River, we want to make sure we can watch this thing grow,” Lee said. “We are so excited that all of our fans are going to get to see this. It’s a move for growth and a strength for us.”
The league will have two divisions of seven teams, so there will be a non-traditional scheduling system, where certain teams will play other teams fewer times than others.
The five Can-Am teams entering the Frontier League for 2020 — Sussex County, Rockland, New Jersey, Quebec and Three Rivers — will join Lake Erie and the Washington Wild Things in the Can-Am Division.
The Midwestern Division will have the other seven Frontier League teams — Schaumburg, Joliet, Windy City, Southern Illinois, Evansville, Gateway and Florence.
The two leagues had different salary caps, roster rules and playing rules, which are all being worked on, but, according to Lee, the Frontier League’s rules will be adopted for the most part.
More details are being worked out, and Lee said those will be announced when decided and voted on.
For now, the landscape of the indy ball scene has seen a seismic shift, and the Washington Wild Things will be right in the middle of it.
A full archive of today’s press conference is available here.