When MLB reorganized its minor league system during 2020, each of the thirty major league teams were limited to four full-season affiliates.  In most cases, teams that were left out of the reorganization joined one of MLB’s four partner leagues.  Where the players come from depends on whether or not the team is affiliated with an MLB team.  For affiliated teams the parent club supplies the players.  Other teams (including partner league teams) independently find their own players.

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The Partner Leagues have indeed formed a partnership with the support of MLB.  These leagues provide a testing ground for potential rule changes. Before its appearance in some Low-A ballparks in 2021, the automated strike zone was tested in the Atlantic League. Here are the four partner leagues. 

Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls, ID — home of the Pioneer League’s Chukars.

The partner leagues saw attendance drops in 2021 as compared to 2019 (with the 2020 season lost to COVID).  COVID restrictions and lingering cautions were behind the drop in attendance most locations. 

Declining attendance was also due to a couple of very popular teams leaving for affiliations with MLB teams. The Saint Paul Saints, who left the American Association to affiliate with the Twins, had average attendance twice as high as that league’s 2nd place team in 2019.  The Sugarland Skeeters (Houston metro area) left the Atlantic League, where their average 2019 attendance was 3rd out of 16 teams, to become Houston’s AAA team.

When we examine the locations of teams in these partner leagues, it shows where opportunities exist for some great baseball excursions in locations that are outside major cities.  These teams have far lower ticket and concession prices than MLB parent clubs.  The cost of attending a game is often lower even than going to minor league game.