The Minor Leagues

Independent baseball leagues were popular around the U.S. since the late 1800s, but the farm system as we know it – with Minor League teams affiliated with specific Major League teams – did not get started until the 1930s.

The Minor Leagues reached their peak of popularity in around 1949, when there were approximately 59 leagues and 448 teams. Then, in the ‘50s, most Americans bought televisions and started watching sports on TV instead of in person. Minor League attendance dropped quickly.

Attendance eventually stabilized, and it has increased in recent years. Today, there are 16 leagues and 187 teams – counting only leagues that play in the summer in the U.S. and that are affiliated with Major League teams.

Most Major League teams have one Minor League affiliate at each of six levels. Players typically take a few years to work their way up from the lower levels.

Triple-A, composed of the Pacific Coast League and International League, is the highest level of the Minors. Most teams are located in large cities such as Buffalo, Columbus, Indianapolis, and Sacramento.

Double-A teams in the Eastern League, Southern League, and Texas League are located mostly in medium-sized cities such as Akron, Erie, Richmond, Chattanooga, and Tulsa.

Aces Ballpark, Reno

Advanced Class-A leagues (generally in smaller cities) are the California League, Florida State League, and Carolina League.

Class-A leagues are the South Atlantic League and Midwest League.

Short Season-A leagues are the New York-Penn League and Northwest League.

Rookie leagues are the Appalachian, Pioneer, Gulf Coast, and Arizona leagues.