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Prospect League – How it all began…

In the summer of 2007, the idea of forming a baseball league that would be a better fit for the communities who had found Independent Professional baseball growing out of their markets began to be discussed.  This idea became the Prospect League, which was officially formed in mid-summer 2008.  The core of the new league was formulated to include current and former Frontier League teams in Chillicothe, Ohio, Richmond, Indiana and Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.  During the development process, we found ourselves in conversation with the team owners and the Commissioner of the Central Illinois Collegiate League, which brought a rich 45-year summer collegiate league history to the table, as well as six teams within the footprint the Prospect League were looking to develop.  A quick and solid alliance was formed and through continuous talks and negotiations during the fall of 2008, the eleven-team Prospect League was formed.

The league entered its inaugural season under the Prospect League moniker, but it brings with it plenty of tradition and a long list of former players and coaches who have made it to clubs at the MLB level. The Prospect League is the merger of the startup effort described above, along with the former Central Illinois Collegiate League (CICL), one of the original and most recognized summer baseball leagues in the country. The CICL was formed in 1963 as a charter member of NCAA certified summer baseball. The league maintained certification for the entire 41 years of oversight by the NCAA, which ended its certification program in 2005.

In the winter of 2008 the six teams of the CICL voted to join the five expansion teams to form the new 11-team Prospect League. Coming from the CICL in the Prospect League’s inaugural season were the Dubois County Bombers, Danville Dans, Springfield Sliders, Dupage Dragons, Quincy Gems, and Hannibal Cavemen. Joining them for the 2009 season were the Chillicothe Paints, North Coast Knights, Butler BlueSox, Slippery Rock Sliders, and the Richmond RiverRats.

The winter of 2009 saw growth for the 2010 Prospect League season, with the addition of the DeKalb County Liners in northern Illinois, the West Virginia Miners in their brand new facility in Beckley, WV, the Terre Haute Rex playing at Indiana State University and the Nashville Outlaws who will host their home games at Vanderbilt University.  “Our goal was to make the Prospect League the best summer collegiate baseball league in the country and the success of the 2009 season along with the quality growth for the 2010 season takes us a long way towards that goal” said Bryan Wickline, President of The Prospect League.    The 2010 season saw the league’s new Commissioner come on board.  Dave Chase brings a rich history of his own to the table, including several years as General Manager of the AAA Memphis Redbirds.  Commissioner Chase joins us in our goal to make this the best summer collegiate program in the nation.

During 2011, the league saw some realignment and operated with 14 teams.  Dupage closed its operation and the league took over operation of the Nashville team, playing at Lipsomb University for the 2011 season, which saw DeKalb County announce they were not playing in 2012.  The league went into 2012 with a much stronger lineup of twelve teams.  The new ownership in Springfield, Illinois brought new life into one of the premier markets in the league.  A move that was in the works for over a year did not materialize and the Dubois County Bombers left the league in late 2012.

The 2013 season brings a complete revamp of the Prospect League documents.  For the first time, all player information submissions, player contracts, dispositions and reports will be electronic.  The new electronic documentation system, as well as the renewal of our stratigic partnership with Pointstreak.com, positions the Prospect League for growth.
Prior to the 2014 season, the Slippery Rock Sliders relocated to Springfield, Ohio and became the Champion City Kings. The Prospect League continued through the season with 11 teams and an eye on expansion to bring the League to an even number of teams for future seasons, helping with scheduling and travel.
Bryan Wickline, who has served as President since the first season in 2009, was named the League’s second Commissioner heading into the 2015 season with the continuing goal of making the Prospect League the best summer college baseball league in the country and adding teams within the already established league footprint. The Lorain County Ironmen relocated to Jamestown, NY and will play as the Jamestown Jammers (replacing the departed Jammers of MiLB at Russell Diethrick Park). Also, an expansion franchise in Kokomo, Ind., will begin play at a brand-new downtown ballpark as the Kokomo Jackrabbits in the League’s West Division, bringing the League to 12 teams. The schedule will feature minimum crossover games between East and West Division teams and nearly all Mondays will be league-wide off days.
The 2016 season saw the addition of the Lafayette (Indiana) Aviators, who replaced the Jamestown Jammers. The Aviators make their home at Loeb Stadium, which opened in 1940 and sits adjacent to the Columbian Park Zoo. During the 2016 season, it was announced that Loeb stadium would be demolished and replaced by a new stadium, similar to the new ballaprk in Kokomo.
After a two-year stint as the commissioner, Bryan Wickline elected to not pursue a new contract with the league so that he could focus on operating the Chillicothe Paints, of which he had recently become the managing partner. The Prospect League elected longtime baseball executive Dennis Bastien as its third Commissioner. Bastien takes over as Commissioner with an eye on league-wide corporate partnerships and expansion within the already established footprint of the Prospect League. Lisa Bastien was named the league’s first Deputy Commissioner and charged with helping the league operate smoothly day-to-day. 10 teams make up the league in 2017, as the Hannibal Cavemen and DuPage Drones both elected to suspend operations following the prior season. Both franshises are expected to resume playing in the league in 2018 in cities to be determined.

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