Independent and Overseas Baseball: Does it compare to the MLB?

Josh Calloni, Reporter

Baseball is played everywhere around the world, and is not only limited to the MLB.

Here in St. Charles County, any baseball fan has the opportunity to watch a local team, part of the independent Frontier League, the River City Rascals play. However, the Frontier League is hardly the only independent league in the United States. In fact, it joins the Atlantic League and the American Association as the three North American independent leagues.

These leagues give opportunities to players of all kinds, from undrafted free agents, minor leaguers looking to find more playing time or occasionally, former big leaguers working to find their way back.

The Rascals alone have had three major leaguers, the most recent being now retired reliever Brandon Cunniff, who was with the Rascals in 2014 after being released by the Braves. Even Cardinals outfielder Jose Martinez spent time in the Frontier League before signing on with St. Louis.

The biggest independent league, the Atlantic League, is actually getting some looks by MLB scouts other personnel, including Rob Manfred, in 2019. The MLB struck a deal with them to start attempting potential rule changes for the MLB in the Atlantic League to see how they worked. This season, the Atlantic League will see its mounds moved back two feet, and the base sizes increased. On top of this, umpires will not be used, as electronic strike zones will be tested, as well as a three batter faced minimum for pitchers coming out of the bullpen. The Atlantic League gives a lot of former major leaguers, including some like James Loney and Eric Gagne the chance to come back to the big leagues, potentially making a harder road for players like this.

“I think baseball around the world other than the majors is very fascinating. Independent leagues are really cool baseball stories, like the Rascals here in O’Fallon. So many different baseball backgrounds can play on one field, its really cool to follow,” senior Quinton Waters said.

Not only is baseball played independently in America, but in Korea and Japan too. Each offseason, a good percentage of player that can not get MLB deals will leave to sign in either Japan or Korea, both having their own, smaller version of the major leagues, which is very popular over there, which can be seen during MLB and Japan series each year. Big names such as Eric Thames and Miles Mikolas have come out of these countries and became household in the big leagues. This season, the MLB will even open up its season in Tokyo, when the Oakland Athletics play the Seattle Mariners there on March 23rd.

“Baseball is really cool over in Japan and Korea. They really love it over there, you can tell when they televise those games. People go crazy over that stuff,” freshman Cooper Benne said.”

While baseball is always played in the MLB, it can not be overlooked that baseball, is truly played professionally almost everywhere.