Williamsport, State College teams to be founding members of MLB pre-draft baseball league

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The Williamsport Crosscutters and State College Spikes will continue to affiliate with Major League Baseball as founding members of the MLB Draft League, it was announced Monday.

Those teams, which lost their Major League affiliation in September under a consolidation of MLB’s minor-league system, will instead become part of a league that will showcase top prospects prior to the MLB draft in July.

Other founding members of the MLB Draft League will be the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and West Virginia Black Bears, which like State College and Williamsport, were formerly of the New York-Penn League, a Class A short-season league.

Trenton Thunder, formerly of the Eastern League, is the fifth founding member, with a sixth expected to be announced shortly.

The new league affirms its commitment to the region and assures these mid-Atlantic communities will continue to host high-caliber baseball and future Major Leaguers for years to come, according to a statement issued by MLB.

The State College Spikes had been affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Crosscutters were previously a Philadelphia Phillies farm team. Under the Draft League, they will be affiliated with MLB itself, rather than individual MLB clubs.

The league will feature a 68-game regular season that will run from late May to mid-August with a break around the Major League all-star game and draft in July.

Prep Baseball Report, an independent scouting service, will provide support for the league’s staffing, player and coach recruitment, on-field operations and administrative functions.

“This was our best and only option,” said Peter Freund who heads the Crosscutters ownership group. Joining an independent league was not economically viable, he said.

“Our goal was to remain viable in the MLB pipeline,” he said. “In the end it’s saving an important community access.”

He speculated the caliber of play by the prospects will be improved, because it will be a venue for players to showcase their skills for scouts before the draft.

“It’s a new chapter in the long and storied history of baseball in Williamsport,” Crosscutters spokesman Gabe Sinicropi Jr. said.

The Crosscutters have scheduled through its Facebook page a live event at 7 p.m. on Dec. 8 during which participants will have the opportunity to ask questions about the league and upcoming season.

Ticket prices will remain the same, Sinicropi said. The players, since they have not be drafted, will not be paid, he said.


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