The Carolina League is a minor league baseball affiliation which operates in the South Atlantic region of the United States. Before 2002, it was classified as a "High A" league, indicating its status as a Class A league with the highest level of competition within that classification, and the fifth step between Rookie ball and the major leagues. Although Minor League Baseball, the umbrella organization for minor leagues that are affiliated with Major League Baseball, has eliminated the distinction between High-A and other full-season A leagues, most major-league teams still use such leagues as a standard promotion step. A few draftees, generally those taken in the early rounds of the draft and those with significant college experience, will be assigned to a High-A team upon signing a professional contract, but most players do not reach the High-A level until their third or fourth year of professional play.
The organization that later became the Carolina League formed in 1945, just as World War II was ending, and consisted of only two teams based in southern Virginia. Historically, however, as many as 12 teams in a given year have competed for the Carolina League pennant, and most of the league's teams have represented towns and cities in North Carolina. Today, the league consists of eight teams in a region stretching from Delaware to South Carolina, and is divided into a Northern Division and a Southern Division. The division champions from the first half and second half of each season compete in a best-of-five divisional playoff, with the winners advancing to the best-of-five league championship, the winner of which receives the Mills Cup.
A few of the many Carolina League players who have gone on to star in the Major Leagues are: Johnny Bench (Peninsula, 1966), Wade Boggs (Winston-Salem, 1977), Barry Bonds (Prince William, 1985), Rod Carew (Wilson, 1966), Dock Ellis (Kinston, 1965), Dwight Evans (Winston-Salem, 1971), Dwight Gooden (Lynchburg, 1983), Andruw Jones (Durham, 1996), Chipper Jones (Durham, 1992), Willie McCovey (Danville, 1956), Joe Morgan (Durham, 1963), Dave Parker (Salem, 1972), Tony Pérez (Rocky Mount, 1962), Andy Pettitte (Prince William, 1993), Jorge Posada (Prince William, 1993), Darryl Strawberry (Lynchburg, 1981), Bernie Williams (Prince William, 1988), and Carl Yastrzemski (Raleigh, 1959).
Director and screenwriter Ron Shelton's 1988 film “Bull Durham,” starring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon, depicted a fictionalized account of the Durham Bulls, at that time a Carolina League team (they have since become a Class AAA team in the International League). Before he began making films, Shelton had a five-year minor league career in the Baltimore Orioles' organization, which included a stint in the Carolina League.
The California League's Bakersfield Blaze have announced that the franchise will be moved to the Carolina League for 2010 Another California League franchise would have to move to the Carolina League, although the second team's identity has not been determined, in order to keep both leagues at an even number of teams for scheduling purposes.
|Northern||Frederick Keys||Baltimore Orioles||Frederick, Maryland||Harry Grove Stadium||5,400|
|Lynchburg Hillcats||Pittsburgh Pirates||Lynchburg, Virginia||Calvin Falwell Field||2,000|
|Potomac Nationals||Washington Nationals||Woodbridge, Virginia||G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium||6,000|
|Wilmington Blue Rocks||Kansas City Royals||Wilmington, Delaware||Daniel S. Frawley Stadium||6,532|
|Southern||Kinston Indians||Cleveland Indians||Kinston, North Carolina||Grainger Stadium||4,100|
|Myrtle Beach Pelicans||Atlanta Braves||Myrtle Beach, South Carolina||BB&T Coastal Field||4,875|
|Salem Avalanche||Boston Red Sox||Salem, Virginia||Salem Memorial Baseball Stadium||6,300|
|Winston-Salem Warthogs2||Chicago White Sox||Winston-Salem, North Carolina||Ernie Shore Field3||6,000|
(1) Series tied 2-2 when canceled because of Hurricane Floyd. Teams declared co-champions.
|Wilmington Blue Rocks||14||1070||879||.549||4|
|Myrtle Beach Pelicans||8||590||524||.530||2|