As Major League Baseball continues to evolve, the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, an independent baseball league that is not affiliated with MLB, has proven to be a useful testing ground for the game of baseball.
Several of the changes that have come to MLB in recent years were first tested in the Atlantic League, including some of the changes that MLB announced last week.
MLB and the Atlantic League reached an agreement in 2019 to test a number of rule changes. The following rules were tested in the Atlantic League and are now finding their way into the big leagues:
• The three-batter minimum rule, which requires a pitcher to face three batters before exiting a game.
• Increasing the size of bases from 15 inches to 18 inches, for first base, second base and third base.
• Restrictions on infield shifts: Two infielders must be positioned on each side of second base and all infielders must have their feet on the infield dirt before a ball is pitched.
The Atlantic League has also experimented with other rules including:
• Moving back the pitcher’s mound 24 inches, a rule that has since been reverted.
• The use of electronic strike zones, also known as “robo-umps”. This was also removed from Atlantic League games in 2022. The electronic strike zone has been used in Triple-A this season, however.
• Allowing batters to “steal first”, where a batter can attempt to run to first base, as if it were a dropped-third-strike on any passed ball.
• A “double-hook” rule where a team loses its designated hitter spot when their starting pitcher does not complete five innings.
In addition to these rules, MLB’s intentional walk modification that came in 2017, where pitcher’s no longer throw four pitches to walk a hitter intentionally, also came from the Atlantic League.
The Atlantic League has been a useful way for baseball to try new things. Not everything has stuck, as some rules have since been reverted, but the league has been instrumental to some of the biggest evolutions in the sport in recent years, a trend that will likely continue moving forward.
Brittany Baldi, host and emcee for the High Point Rockers, a member of the Atlantic League, recently spoke on the Jack Vita Show about how some of these rules have functioned in the Atlantic League. She also discussed what she enjoys most about independent league baseball and what other changes could soon be coming to MLB from the Atlantic League.
The Atlantic League talk begins around the 1:08:40-marker.
In addition to working as the Rockers emcee, Baldi is the fiancée of Major League Baseball pitcher Ryan Dull. She competed on two different reality television shows on MTV, and hosts her own sports lifestyle podcast, ‘The BosBabes.’
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