A summer league near you

All that remains of the college baseball season is a few more games as the College World Series winds to a close. But for many of the best NCAA players, it’s hardly the end of their year. They’ve relocated, swapped aluminum for wood, and will play through August.

Most of the time, if you hear about college summer wood-bat leagues, you’re hearing about the Cape Cod League. And rightfully so—it’s the best of the best, and you can hardly grocery shop on the Cape without bumping into a future draft pick.

All over the country, there’s much, much more. There are college summer leagues in more than 40 of the 50 states, meaning that you may well be a short drive away from seeing some of the second-tier prospects who will show up on next year’s draft board.

The atmosphere at these games varies wildly—some teams, like the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League, pack the house and put on a show similar to a Mike Veeck-run indie league franchise, while others use the field at a local college and play for whichever parents show up that day. On either end of the spectrum, you’re in for some entertaining (and cheap!) baseball.

Where the prospects are

After the Cape, the two most prestigious summer leagues are probably the Alaska Baseball League and the Northwoods League. The ABL is off the beaten path, but the Northwoods League has franchises all over Wisconsin and Minnesota, along with one team each in Michigan, Iowa and Ontario, Canada. The quantity and quality is nothing like the Cape, but in either place, you’re likely to see a guy who will get picked in the first 10 rounds of the ’11 or ’12 draft.

Beyond that, it’s tough to rank leagues. The Texas Collegiate League probably comes in fourth, but many players stick in their parts of the country, giving each game a distinctly regional flavor. In, say, the Coastal Plain League (in the Carolinas) or the New York Collegiate Baseball League, you’re likely to see players from nearby schools, meaning you can cheer on your favorites next spring, as well.

Ready to find a college summer league game near you? If you’re anywhere in the Midwest, the Great Lakes region or the Atlantic seaboard, you probably have several teams to choose from. Here’s a map with the franchises of every summer league I tracked down:

View Summer collegiate baseball in a larger map

Go to one game, and you gain a better appreciation of the system in place to prepare college players for the professional ranks. Go to a couple dozen games, and you’ll be ready to second-guess the scouts next June.

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  1. ralf said...

    The Northwoods League is great.  A lot of the teams play in older, in-town parks rather than sterile fields out behind the Wal-Mart.  The quality of play is surprisingly high for 19-20 year old low-level prospects adjusting to wood bats.
    Madison Mallards games are a lot of fun for kids and casual fans.  There’s a circus atmosphere that gets a little annoying for serious baseball nuts but keeps things interesting for everyone else.  They bring in the crowds, too- how often does a player from the University of Northern Iowa get to play in front of 3,500 fans?

  2. Millsy said...

    Don’t forget about the Clark Griffith League.  While some of its teams (along with the old Eddie Brooks League) got sucked up by the Cal Ripken League, Eddie Brooks has alumni like Mark Teixeira, Jon Papelbon, Shawn Camp, Cla Meredith, Joe Saunders and John Maine.


  3. Millsy said...

    For some reason I said “Eddie Brooks has alumni” when I meant “Clark Griffith has alumni like…”

  4. Brian Cartwright said...

    Clark Griffith backed out of the AAABA tourney last August with a week’s notice, forcing Johnstown to send a 2nd team. They were set to start the 2010 season, but suspended operations late in May. It’s my opinion that the Cal Ripken league has really cut into their territory. When I did stats for the Griffith league in the 80’s they had teams in all of metro DC. It’s a shame, they are one of the original AAABA leagues, going back to 1946.

  5. Jim C said...

    There is also a league near you if you still want to play yourself. The Men’s Senior Baseball League, and the National Adult Baseball Association have leagues in virtually all medium to large cities, with age-specific leagues for players into their 60’s. I played for 15 years and it was more fun than I ever expected. As the motto of the MSBL says, don’t go soft, play hardball.

  6. Dave L said...

    I’m watching a program on the Northwoods League right now. They mentioned that the Northwoods League is now considered the most prestigious of the summer wooden bat leagues. I don’t know if that’s true or not. What I do know is that I hate the “ping” of a baseball being hit by an aluminum bat.

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