The American Association was at 13 teams last season, with a schedule rounded out with interleague play with the Can-Am League. The interleague play will go away in 2016, and the scheduling issue will be addressed with the AirHogs/Thunderheads joint venture. The team will play 25 home games at QuikTrip Park in Grand Prairie, and 25 at Potter County Memorial Stadium in Amarillo. All 11 other league members will return in their same markets.
“With 13 clubs and no interleague play, a schedule with an odd number of teams became unbalanced and difficult,” said league commissioner Miles Wolff. “We appreciate that Southern Independent Baseball, owner of the Amarillo and Grand Prairie clubs, agreed to the league’s request to operate its two teams as one in 2016. We fully expect that both teams will return in 2017 as individual entities with a full schedule in their respective markets.”
Aside from the creation of the Texas team, league divisions will otherwise remain the same as in 2015. The three division winners and one wild-card club will advance to the postseason. As in previous seasons, both the semifinals and finals will be best-of-five series.
North Division: Fargo-Moorhead (N.D.-Minn.) RedHawks, St. Paul (Minn.) Saints, Sioux Falls (S.D.) Canaries, Winnipeg (Manitoba) Goldeyes.
Central Division: Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats, Kansas City (Kan.) T-Bones, Lincoln (Neb.) Saltdogs, Sioux City (Iowa) Explorers.
South Division: Joplin (Mo.) Blasters, Laredo (Texas) Lemurs, Texas (nickname TBA – Amarillo/Grand Prairie), Wichita (Kan.) Wingnuts.
After a one-year hiatus, the American Association All-Star Game will return on August 2, 2016, taking place at St. Paul’s CHS Field. In 2015, their first year at CHS Field, the Saints shattered the league attendance record with 404,528 spectators, an average of 8,091 per game. Can-Am League players will participate in the American Association All-Star Game as well.
Speaking of the Cam-Am League: all six teams are returning in 2016 and interleague travel will be eliminated.
The playoff structure remains the same as in 2015, with the top four clubs reaching the postseason, and two best-of-five series determining the league champion. For the first time since 2011, teams will not play interleague games against American Association opponents. However,
Included in the regular-season schedule will be matchups against Cuba’s national team, as well as the all-star team from Japan’s Shikoku Island League. In 2016, the two foreign squads will each play one three- or four-game series between June 9 and June 30 against every Can-Am League club.
Cuba’s national team has historically been a powerhouse on the international baseball scene, winning Olympic gold medals three times, the Pan American Games championship 12 times, and the IBAF Baseball World Cup championship 25 times. In addition, Cuba finished second at the 2006 World Baseball Classic. The team was available to play Can-Am League opponents in 2016 as there are no international tournaments which conflict with its schedule this year.
The Shikoku Island League is Japan’s top independent baseball league, playing an 80-game schedule during its regular season. In 2015, its all-star team played 16 games against Can-Am League opponents, and was competitive with a 6-10 overall record.
“We are thrilled to be able to showcase two great international teams,” Wolff said. “The fact that both teams will be part of our regular season schedule is unique. We are honored that the Cuban national team respects the Can-Am League and will send their best team. In addition, the Shikoku Island League so enjoyed last year’s season series that they are returning to continue the competition.”