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 and six from North Carolina. Historically, however, as many as 12 teams in a given year have competed in the Carolina League. Today, the league consists of 10 teams in a region stretching from Delaware to South Carolina, and is divided into a Northern Division and a Southern Division.
Carolina League logo
|No. of teams||10|
|Buies Creek Astros (2018)|
|Most titles||Winston-Salem Dash (11)|
|TV partner(s)||CSN Mid-Atlantic|
Fox Sports Carolinas
The league was officially announced on October 29, 1944 after an organizational meeting at Durham, North Carolina. The league was a successor to the Bi-State League that existed before World War II. The league began play in 1945 with eight teams based in Burlington, Durham, Greensboro, Leaksville, Raleigh, Winston-Salem (all from North Carolina), along with Danville and Martinsville from Virginia.
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), Zack Greinke (Wilmington, 2003), 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.
On August 22, 2016, it was announced that the Carolina League would add two expansion teams for the 2017 season to fill two vacant spots at the High-A level previously occupied by the California League's Bakersfield Blaze and High Desert Mavericks franchises, which ceased operations at the end of the 2016 season. The Down East Wood Ducks play in Kinston, North Carolina, as an affiliate of the Texas Rangers. The Buies Creek Astros played in Buies Creek, North Carolina, in 2017 and 2018, and are tentatively scheduled to open 2019 at their new permanent home in nearby Fayetteville as the Fayetteville Woodpeckers.
|Northern||Frederick Keys||Baltimore Orioles (since 1982)||Frederick, Maryland||Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium||5,400|
|Lynchburg Hillcats||Cleveland Indians (since 2015)||Lynchburg, Virginia||Calvin Falwell Field||4,281|
|Potomac Nationals||Washington Nationals (since 2005)||Woodbridge, Virginia||Northwest Federal Field at Pfitzner Stadium||6,000|
|Salem Red Sox||Boston Red Sox (since 2009)||Salem, Virginia||Haley Toyota Field at Salem Memorial Ballpark||6,300|
|Wilmington Blue Rocks||Kansas City Royals (since 2007)||Wilmington, Delaware||Daniel S. Frawley Stadium||6,404|
|Southern||Carolina Mudcats||Milwaukee Brewers (since 2017)||Zebulon, North Carolina||Five County Stadium||6,500|
|Down East Wood Ducks||Texas Rangers (since 2017)||Kinston, North Carolina||Grainger Stadium||4,100|
|Fayetteville Woodpeckers||Houston Astros (since 2017)||Fayetteville, North Carolina||Segra Stadium||4,786|
|Myrtle Beach Pelicans||Chicago Cubs (since 2015)||Myrtle Beach, South Carolina||TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark||6,599|
|Winston-Salem Dash||Chicago White Sox (since 1997)||Winston-Salem, North Carolina||BB&T Ballpark||5,500|
All teams that have competed in the Carolina League from its founding in 1945. Teams in bold are currently active.
The Burlington Royals are a minor league baseball team in Burlington, North Carolina, United States. They are a Rookie-level team in the Appalachian League and have been a farm team of the Kansas City Royals since September 1, 2006. For the previous 21 years, the team had been affiliated with the Cleveland Indians as the Burlington Indians. The Royals play home games at Burlington Athletic Stadium. Opened in 1960, Burlington Athletic Stadium seats 3,500 fans.Staff:
Pitching Coach: Carlos Martinez.
Hitting Coach: Jesus Azuaje.
Strength and Conditioning Coach: Jon Ervin.
Athletic Trainer: Saburo Hagihara.
Bench Coach: Kevin Kuntz.
Major League Baseball alumni of note are featured on the wall inside the men's restroom at the Burlington Athletic Stadium in the form of painted jerseys: Manny Ramirez (#22), Jim Thome (#25), Bartolo Colón (#40) and CC Sabathia (#52).Carolina Mudcats
The Carolina Mudcats are a Minor League Baseball team based in Zebulon, North Carolina. They are members of the Carolina League and are the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. They play their home games at Five County Stadium.
The franchise originated in 1978 as the Kinston Eagles of Kinston, North Carolina. In 2012 they relocated to Zebulon amid a series of purchases and moves, and took up the name of the previous Carolina Mudcats team.Down East Wood Ducks
The Down East Wood Ducks are a Minor League Baseball team of the Carolina League and the owned-and-operated Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Texas Rangers. They are located in Kinston, North Carolina. Established in 2017, the team plays its home games at Grainger Stadium, which opened in 1949 and holds 4,100 fans. The Rangers signed a 12-year contract with the city of Kinston to provide a team to play at Grainger Stadium which began in the 2017 season.Kinston has hosted farm clubs for eleven different major league franchises and one minor league club in its history. Professional baseball in Kinston dates back to a 1908 squad in the Eastern Carolina League.Durham Bulls
The Durham Bulls are a professional minor league baseball team that currently plays in the International League. The Bulls play their home games at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in the downtown area of Durham, North Carolina. Durham Bulls Athletic Park is often called the "DBAP" or "D-Bap". The Bulls are the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. Established in 1902 as the Durham Tobacconists and disbanded many times over the years, the Bulls became internationally famous following the release of the 1988 movie Bull Durham starring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon.
Since 1991, the team has been owned by the Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting Company. The Durham Bulls are operated by the operating entity Durham Bulls Baseball Club, Inc. which is also owned by the Capitol Broadcasting Company.Fayetteville Woodpeckers
The Fayetteville Woodpeckers are a Minor League Baseball team of the Carolina League and the Class A affiliate of the Houston Astros. They are located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and will play their home games at Segra Stadium which is scheduled to open in 2019. From 2017 to 2018, the team was known as the Buies Creek Astros and played at Jim Perry Stadium on the campus of Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina.Frederick Keys
The Frederick Keys minor league baseball team is the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. The Keys are based in Frederick, Maryland. The franchise is named for Star Spangled Banner poet Francis Scott Key, a native of Frederick County. A new team mascot "Frank Key", short for Francis Scott Key, joined the current mascot, a coyote named Keyote, at the beginning of the 2011 baseball season. The team is currently owned by Maryland Baseball Holding LLC, after being purchased in 2006 from Comcast Spectacor. Home games are played at Harry Grove Stadium.Gus Zernial
Gus Edward Zernial (June 27, 1923 – January 20, 2011) was a professional baseball outfielder. A right-handed batter, he played eleven seasons in Major League Baseball for the Chicago White Sox (1949–51), Philadelphia Athletics (1951–54), Kansas City Athletics (1955–57) and Detroit Tigers (1958–59), primarily as a left fielder. He was billed as the "New Joe DiMaggio."Nicknamed "Ozark Ike" after the popular comic strip character, Zernial was one of the most feared sluggers in the 1950s, joining hall of famers Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Larry Doby in the American League for most home runs in the decade.Hagerstown Suns
The Hagerstown Suns are a Minor League Baseball team of the South Atlantic League and the Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. They are located in Hagerstown, Maryland, and play their home games at Municipal Stadium which was opened in 1930 and seats 4,600 people. The team mascot is Woolie, a giant Woolly Bear Caterpillar.League of the South
The League of the South is a white nationalist, Neo-Confederate, white supremacist organization, headquartered in Killen, Alabama, which states that its ultimate goal is "a free and independent Southern republic". The group defines the Southern United States as the states that made up the former Confederacy. It claims to be also a religious and social movement, advocating a return to a more traditionally conservative, Christian-oriented Southern culture.The movement and its members are allied with the alt-right. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated it as a hate group.Lynchburg Hillcats
The Lynchburg Hillcats are a Minor League Baseball team in Lynchburg, Virginia. They are a Class A-Advanced team in the Carolina League, and currently are a farm team of the Cleveland Indians. They had been a farm team of the Atlanta Braves from 2011 to 2014, the Cincinnati Reds in 2010, and the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1995 to 2009. The Hillcats play home games at Calvin Falwell Field; refurbished and renamed in 2004, the stadium seats 4,291 fans.
In May 2016, the franchise announced that they would rebrand after the season. When put to a fan vote for a new moniker with "Derechos," "Doves," "Lamb Chops," "Love Apples," and "River Runners" as options, a majority of fans voted to retain the Hillcats name. They did, however, unveil new logos and a different color scheme, consisting of seven hills green, Blue Ridge blue, and midnight blue, for the 2017 season.Minor League Baseball rosters
As with nearly all North American professional team sports, the size of Minor League Baseball teams is limited by rosters. These size limits vary by each classification. All MLB-affiliated Triple-A and Double-A teams are limited to 25-man active rosters. Unaffiliated Mexican League teams have 35-man rosters, but are limited to 30 active players per game. Class A-Advanced and Class A teams are limited to 25 active players with a total of 35 players under control with additional limitations in regard to prior minor league experience. Teams at lower levels have 35-man active rosters with limitations on minor league service time. A team's reserve roster consists of injured players on the disabled list, those who are restricted or suspended, or who are otherwise temporarily inactive. Major league players on rehabilitation assignments do not count against active roster limits.Myrtle Beach Pelicans
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans are a Minor League Baseball team in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. The Pelicans are members of the Carolina League and most recently won the league's championship in 2016. Home games are played at TicketReturn.com Field, which opened in 1999 and seats up to 6,599 fans. From their inaugural season through 2010, the Pelicans were affiliated with the Atlanta Braves, before spending four seasons as a Texas Rangers affiliate from 2011 to 2014. The team's affiliation with the Chicago Cubs began in 2015 and is currently in place through 2022.Norfolk Tides
The Norfolk Tides are a professional minor league baseball team in the Triple-A International League. They play at Harbor Park in Norfolk, Virginia. Since 2007 they have been a farm team of the Baltimore Orioles; prior to that, they had a 38-year affiliation with the New York Mets.North Carolina State League
The North Carolina State League was a "Class D" league in Minor League Baseball. The original version of the league existed from 1913–1917 as the successor to the Carolina Association. The second version of the league was established in 1937 in part in order to compete with the Piedmont-region independent league, the Carolina League, and ran through 1953 when it combined with the Western Carolina League to form the Tar Heel League.Potomac Nationals
The Potomac Nationals are a Minor League Baseball team of the Carolina League and the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Washington Nationals. They are located in Woodbridge, Virginia, and play their home games at Northwest Federal Field at Pfitzner Stadium which opened in 1984 and holds 6,000 people.Salem Red Sox
The Salem Red Sox are a Minor League Baseball team in Salem, Virginia, an independent city adjacent to Roanoke, Virginia. It is a team in the Class A-Advanced Carolina League and a farm team of the Boston Red Sox. The team, known from 1995 through 2008 as the Salem Avalanche, was previously affiliated with the Houston Astros from 2003 to 2008 and the Colorado Rockies from 1995 to 2002. Prior to 1995, the franchise played under several different names and affiliations. The Red Sox play home games at Haley Toyota Field at Salem Memorial Ballpark, a 6,300 seat facility opened in 1995 that hosted the Carolina/California League All Star Game in 2006.
The franchise was owned from 1986 until 2006 by Kelvin Bowles, a local resident and major league baseball scout. Bowles (who, coincidentally, scouted for the Boston Red Sox from 2002–05) bought the team when it was in danger of moving from Salem. In 2006, the team was sold to a pair of businessmen from Atlanta who also owned the Fort Wayne Wizards. In December 2007, this group sold the team to Fenway Sports Group, a subsidiary of the Boston Red Sox ownership group, preparing the team for an affiliation change after its Player Development Contract with the Astros ended in 2008. As such, the Red Sox are owned by the same parent company that manages the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool F.C..Western Carolinas League
The Western Carolinas League was a Class D (1948–52; 1960–62) and a low Class A (1963–79) full-season league in American minor league baseball. The WCL changed its name prior to the 1980 season and has been known since as the South Atlantic League, a highly successful low Class A circuit with teams up the Eastern Seaboard from Georgia to New Jersey.
Originally called the "Western Carolina League", the 1948–52 WCL was composed exclusively of teams located in the Piedmont and Blue Ridge sections of western North Carolina. It merged with the North Carolina State League to form the short-lived Class D Tar Heel League, which lasted only 1½ seasons (1953–54) before folding.
In 1960, the WCL was revived as a Class D circuit intended to house farm teams of the member clubs of a planned third major league, the Continental League. It featured teams in eight North Carolina locales: Gastonia, Hickory, Lexington, Newton–Conover, Rutherford County, Salisbury, Shelby and Statesville, but soon expanded to sites in South Carolina.
When the Continental League was torpedoed by the Major League Baseball expansion in 1961 and 1962, the member teams of the Western Carolinas League became affiliates of American and National League clubs. It was upgraded to Class A in the 1963 reorganization of the minor leagues. The first professional baseball team based in Monroe, North Carolina came into being when the Statesville Indians moved into town on June 20, 1969 and finished the year as the Monroe Indians. The team lasted just one season before being replaced by the Sumter Indians.
For nearly 60 years, 1948 through 2007, the WCL/SAL's dominant figure was league founder and president John Henry Moss, who started the WCL as a young man in 1948, refounded it in 1960 and then led it into the new century. Moss, also the longtime mayor of Kings Mountain, North Carolina, retired at the close of the 2007 Sally League season and died, at age 90, on July 1, 2009.Wilmington Blue Rocks
The Wilmington Blue Rocks are a Minor League Baseball team located in Wilmington, Delaware. The Blue Rocks play in the Northern Division of the Carolina League.Winston-Salem Dash
The Winston-Salem Dash are a minor league baseball team in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They are a Class A-Advanced team in the Carolina League and have been a farm team of the Chicago White Sox since 1997. The Dash began playing their home games at the new BB&T Ballpark beginning in 2010 after having Ernie Shore Field (now known as Gene Hooks Field at Wake Forest Baseball Park) as their home from 1956 to 2009.