The Northern League name is back, as the Midwest Collegiate League is rebranding with the name of the former MiLB and indy-league circuit for the 2022 season and expanding its mission.
The Midwest Collegiate League had been a pure summer-collegiate circuit, but the Northern League will field teams as an unaffiliated pre-professional baseball league.
“With so many changes occurring in organized baseball during the past 12 months, we feel it is time to shed our collegiate name classification and broaden our identity,” Commissioner Don Popravak said via press release. “The 21st Century Northern League will continue as an unaffiliated pre-professional baseball league. Additionally, we will expand our talent pool by attracting players who have a wider level of playing experience in the game.
“At the end of the day, all unaffiliated leagues are ‘Draft Leagues’ of Major League Baseball,” he added. “That is why we will be expanding playing opportunities to these players to continue with their skill development. The Northern League will be looking to recruit the best collegiate, post-collegiate and limited-service players available.”
The original Northern League launched as an independent league in 1902 with teams in Manitoba, Minnesota and North Dakota. A few teams from that circuit–Winnipeg and Duluth–ended up in the Class D Northern-Copper League in 1906 and another Class D League in 1908, which lasted one season. The longest-lasting Northern League ran from 1933 to 1971 with a break due to World War II, first a Class D league and then reclassified as a Class A circuit. Then, after a 22-year hiatus, it reemerged in 1993 as an Independent baseball league revived by Miles Wolff with six franchises in the Upper Midwest. That version of the Northern League ceased operations in 2010, with several teams splitting off to form the American Association and the remainder forming the North American League.
“We intend for the core of the Northern League’s footprint to emanate from Northern Indiana outward to Illinois and Michigan,” Popravak said. “The key to our success is to minimize expenses for our owners while developing affordable family fun experiences at our ballparks for the enjoyment of fans. Long and arduous summer travel is an unnecessary expense for our clubs at this level of play. We can keep the footprint tight and create natural rivalries that are close so fans can travel to see their teams play in cities and towns that are in close proximity to each other.”
Currently in the Northern League: NWI Oilmen, Crestwood Panthers, Chicago American Giants, Joliet Generals, Southland Vikings and MCL Minutemen.