The State College Spikes will maintain their affiliation with Major League Baseball in a new format beginning in 2021, MLB announced on Monday.
State College is one of the founding members of the new MLB Draft League, which will be focused on top prospects eligible to be selected by major league clubs in the summer draft.
‘With the 2021 MLB Draft moved back to July and being held as part of All-Star Week, draft-eligible players will have a unique opportunity to showcase their abilities and gain exposure to MLB Clubs and fans next summer,’ an MLB statement said. ‘The new format affirms MLB’s commitment to the region and assures that communities of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New Jersey will continue to host high-caliber baseball and future Major Leaguers for years to come.’
The Spikes are one of five founding members of the new league announced on Monday, joining fellow New York-Penn League teams Mahoning Valley Scrappers, West Virginia Black Bears, and Williamsport Crosscutters. The Trenton Thunder, formerly of the Class AA Eastern League, also join the league. A sixth team may be announced in the coming weeks, according to MLB.
Formation of the league is part of MLB’s sweeping consolidation of its minor league system. A year ago the Spikes and most of the 81-yea-oldNew York-Penn League were among 42 minor league clubs that would lose their affiliations with major league teams in an MLB proposal.
The proposal sparked a ‘Save Our Spikes‘ campaign aimed at keeping minor league baseball in State College, though as with the rest of the minor league teams the Spikes were unable to play in 2020 because of the pandemic.
The Spikes and their Draft League counterparts will no longer have a direct affiliation with a specific big league club, but rather with MLB itself. The Spikes had been the short-season A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals for nine of their 15 years since the team settled in State College in 2006. State College won NYPL championships in 2014 and 2016.
Spikes General Manager Scott Walker told Town&Gown in July that he was confident professional baseball would be returning to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park in 2021.
“Yeah, it might not quite look the same as it has in the past, but we’re confident there will be professional baseball here in the future – next year and beyond,’ he said at the time.
Plans for the new league include teams playing a 68-game regular season starting in late May with an annual All-Star break centered on the MLB Draft. The season will conclude around mid-August.
‘MLB Draft League participants will receive unprecedented visibility to MLB Club scouts through both in-person observation and state-of-the-art scouting technology, and educational programming designed to prepare them for careers as professional athletes,’ an MLB statement said.