Insiders tell us there are two scenarios for the potential realignment of the Frontier League, Northern League and American Association. Under both, the current Northern League would cease to exist — but could come back in name only in the second.
Things are coming to a head in the potential independent-baseball realignment, first reported here in late August. The Frontier League has already discussed potential changes in league meetings, while the Northern League meets over the weekend and the American Association meets next week.
Under the first, which has the benefit of being the simplest, the Northern League splits, with the Chicagoland teams — Lake County, Rockford, Joliet and Schaumburg — going to the Frontier League. The remaining teams — Winnipeg, Fargo-Moorhead, Gary-SouthShore and Kansas City — would go to the American Association.
Under the second, the four Chicagoland teams go to the Frontier League, where they’ll join with other Frontier League teams, including Gateway, Southern Illinois, River City and potentially more. (One variation of this has the four teams remaining as the Northern League and playing an inter-league schedule against the Frontier League without formally joining that circuit.) Potentially this could be called the new Northern League, though there’s also talk of selling naming rights to the circuit. That would make for a very compact little league, to be sure, while also trimming the Frontier League footprint.
The situation, we’re told, is incredibly fluid. That it’s gotten to this point is good news for baseball fans and for team owners: a lot of personal squabbles has prevented a much-needed indy realignment to go forward, but it sounds like plenty of axes are being buried across the whole spectrum.
It’s also good news if you’re a fan of the original Northern League. If you’re a Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks fan, you have the return of rivalries with St. Paul and Sioux Falls. If you’re a St. Paul Saints fan, you have the return of the Goldeyes and the RedHawks. If you’re a Wichita fan, you have the T-Bones right up the road. And you have the chance to realign the American Association to cut down on some of the more ridiculous road trips on previous schedules.
Of course, this all could fall apart after league meetings. But given how much chatter there is from people high up in the league food chains, it would be surprising if some sort of realignment didn’t happen for 2011.
Ed.–this story has been edited since it was first published. The original story had the Windy City ThunderBolts potentially going dark. Frontier League officials tell us this is not the case. We regret the error and look forward to attending a ThunderBolts game in 2011.
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