League Shows Way Again
Summer Leagues Begin Play
contrast to the stable environment of the Cape Cod League, the
granddaddy of all summer-collegiate leagues, the summer baseball
landscape continues to undergo its usual annual makeover.
Cape begins its 129th season of operation on June 12 with
the same 10-team alignment that has been in place for 25 years,
making the Massachusetts-based, not-for-profit entity one of the
longest-standing, fully-intact leagues in the United States—any
sport, not just baseball.
in 1988, when Bourne and Brewster were added to the Cape League
membership to give the league its current 10-team structure, the only
acknowledged summer leagues at the time were the Alaska, Atlantic
Collegiate, Central Illinois, Great Lakes, Jayhawk and Valley
leagues. With the exception of the CICL, which was re-formed in 2009
as the Prospect League, all those leagues still exist, though not
without significant change in their basic membership.
the by the Cape, the popularity of the game at the summer-league
level has grown like wildfire over the last 25 years—assimilating,
to a degree, the exponential growth of the game at the minor-league
level in the last quarter century.
there are upwards of 30 recognized summer leagues in the U.S. and
Canada, encompassing some 300 teams, that are stocked solely with
college talent—or players with college eligibility. In contrast to
the Cape, the leagues come in all shapes and sizes, and are governed,
often loosely, by a variation of rules and philosophies. They have
one thing in common, though, in that they all use wood bats.
one extreme is the 16-team Northwoods League, formed in 1994, which
stands apart from most summer leagues in terms of basic philosophy.
It patterns itself largely along the lines of a conventional minor
league—complete with owners bent on drawing large crowds and making
a profit, to a lengthy schedule, to rugged travel conditions
typically found in the minor leagues.
the other end is the Southern Collegiate League, a seven-team
operation based in the heart of the Carolinas and one of 10
not-for-profit summer leagues (including the Cape) that rely on a
financial handout from Major League Baseball for its very survival.
While the Northwoods League recruits its players nationally, often
going head-to-head with the Cape for talent, the Southern League is
much more low-key, typically drawing its players from its immediate
year, new summer leagues have sprung up in North Carolina (the
All-American Collegiate Baseball League) and California (Golden State
Collegiate Baseball League), while numerous established leagues have
taken on a different look by adding clubs. The New England Collegiate
League has jumped to 13 franchises by adding three new teams
(including one in New York for the first time), while three of the
more-progressive summer leagues, the Cal Ripken, California
Collegiate and West Coast, have added two teams apiece.
the constant upheaval and often-unpredictable nature of summer ball,
the Hawaii Collegiate League has suspended operations after 10 years
while the Atlantic Collegiate League, the biggest summer league a
year ago, has downsized from 17 teams to seven—largely because
teams in the former Hamptons Division on Long Island have split off
to form their own seven-team alignment, the Hamptons Collegiate
competing first-year entities that operated in and around Myrtle
Beach, S.C., the Beach Collegiate League and Myrtle Beach Summer
Collegiate League, have amalgamated to form one 12-team league, which
will be known as the Beach Collegiate League.
no formal starting date for summer leagues, some like the Coastal
Plain and Prospect leagues (both May 28) and Northwoods (May 29) have
been underway for a week, while many others open play this week,
including the Perfect Game Collegiate League, which begins its third
season tonight. The Cape is traditionally the last league to kick off
its season because of the large number of players that are typically
still with the top NCAA Division I programs in post-season play, and
would otherwise be unavailable.
the backdrop of the explosion of leagues and teams in summer baseball
is USA Baseball, which continues to skim off the cream of the crop of
the available college talent for its annual national-team program.
This year’s club will congregate at USA Baseball’s
national-training facility in Cary, N.C., on June 21 and play an
assortment of exhibition games against local summer leagues before
renewing its long-standing series on the road against Japan, before
returning home to play an international series against Cuba’s
Baseball’s college-national team has played an abbreviated,
more-scaled back version of a summer schedule in recent years—a
stark contrast to 1988, when a U.S. team of college all-stars, led by
future major leaguers like Jim Abbott and Robin Ventura, won gold at
the Seoul Olympics—when baseball was an Olympic sport.
the summer-baseball landscape has changed over the last 25 years—the
Cape Cod League not withstanding.
Game Plans Extensive Summer Coverage
keeping with its extensive coverage of the summer college league
ranks in recent years, Perfect Game plans on providing significant
coverage again this summer—and not just about its own 10-team
league based in upstate New York.
in the week of June 17, we’ll resume our weekly ranking of the
nation’s top 30 summer-league teams, and we’ll close out the 2013
season by ranking the top professional prospects in some 25 leagues.
We also plan to unveil summer-league notebooks, compiled by our cast
of college- and summer-league experts, though those details have yet
to be finalized.
final 2012 summer-league team rankings, along with comprehensive scouting reports on the top prospects in numerous leagues,
are available for review.
available is a lengthy story on Perfect Game’s No. 1-ranked team
from a year ago, the Newport Gulls of the
New England Collegiate League. Appropriately PG’s Allan Simpson,
author of the story, will be in Newport Thursday for the Gulls’
2013 season opener, to formally present the championship trophy to